Plot: “300” is a fictionalized retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought against Xerxes and his massive Persian army.
Who’s it for: Do you crave violence? This should do the trick, same for anyone with a loin cloth fetish. Even though the battle took place in 480 B.C., it doesn’t feel like a period piece. Perhaps that’s because I was busy watching numerous spears piercing the skin of Persian warrior slaves. Did I mention it’s violent?
Expectations: If “Sin City” didn’t exist, I would have been hesitant going into “300.” But after that film floored me, I was excited to see anything based on another one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels. I was hoping for at least a B-.
Butler as King Leonidas: He’s got the look, which is the most important part of the role, and his booming deep voice finishes it off. There is also a good back story showing Leonidas as a 7-year-old. Grade: 8
Dominic West as Theron: For me, West was the most familiar face because of his work on “The Wire.” On that show, he plays a good guy who’s bad. Not the case here. I always get annoyed with the weasel out for his own good. But I guess that’s the point of his character. Grade: 7
Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes: Santoro is unrecognizable. Without the make-up, he’s the guy on “Lost” who just showed up this season … and I’m waiting for him to die. In “300” he is Xerxes and his character is where the film embraces the fictional side. He’s a giant and a demi-god, with a deep, hypnotizing voice. After seeming him, you can accept some of the other fictitious characters, such as a man with saws for arms. Grade: 7
Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes: This is the one part that truly didn’t work. The costume Tiernan has on looks like it was made from a Circus Peanut, and everyone knows that is the worst candy around. Plus, this storyline is crucial. Ephialtes is one of the main people to betray Leonidas, but his motives were just quickly buzzed over. Grade: 3
Talking: A narrator controls most of the story, which is perfect for a film like “300.” Director Zack Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) realizes if there is no narration, the story will slow down and detract from the true purpose of the film: the battles. But eventually, the dialogue while at Greece slows down the film and you just end up waiting to be taken back to the fight. Grade: 6
Sights and sounds: It’s fake. There wasn’t one scene that I could positively tell you if everything was real or not. But it works magnificently. Even the battle at night is illuminated so you can see everything. Most films use night as a way to get away with not showing you everything. The Spartans battle foot soldiers, archers, cavalry, rhinoceros, sorcerers and elephants and it never gets old. There was chanting choruses and a normal sweeping score, but on a couple occasions, a pounding electric guitar came in — yet it fit the tone perfectly. Grade: 8
Best Scene: The first time the Spartans engage in war with the Persian army you get the true sense of how much of a technical killing machine they are, and it makes you thirsty for more.
Ending: If you’ve studied the history books, you know how the Battle of Thermopylae turns out, and after that, just insert the ending to “Braveheart.”
Unanswered questions: It’s pretty straight forward. Personal greed leads people to disobey King Leonidas, which is the downfall of the 300 soldiers, that and the thousands of Persians.
Rewatchability: I look forward to watching this again on DVD, and if they have any sense at all, a feature will allow me to just watch all the battle sequences over and over again.
Hollywood is finally figuring out how to adapt graphic novels, especially those of Frank Miller. The look and feel of this historic battle is perfect for the virtual backgrounds and obscene violence. Again, trust me on the violence. Even when the Spartan soldiers are having a casual conversation, they are walking over dead bodies and nonchalantly stabbing anything that moves. The political stories might get a bit long, but the battle sequences should get your blood pumping.
Final Score: 7/10