I remember that when I first saw the trailer for 300, I was floored, simply put. It was such a striking visual, something visually fresh and inventive, I simultaneously couldn't wait to see it and had no idea how they were going to market this to a mass audience. If I recall correctly, Warner Brothers was hoping for a box office gross in the neighborhood of Sin City, which made $74 million. The film ended up making nearly that much in its opening weekend on its way to a total tally north of $200 million. It deserves every penny. Now that it is on DVD, it is time for even more people to enter the beautifully violent stylized world of the Battle of Thermopylae.
300 is the next step in cinema style, the gorgeous union of live action and computer generated surroundings. It is not the first of this style, but it is the first one to be an unabashed popular success. Zack Snyder has delivered a visionary film that will grab you by the eye sockets and demand your full attention for two hours. Beyond the technique, the story is the stuff of myth and legend. It is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel which is not, nor was it meant to be, a historical document. If you go into this thinking that you will be seeing a true life historical epic, you are sure to be disappointed, and possibly even offended by the oft times cartoonish portrayals. There may be some elements of fact blended into the fiction, but it is not the other way around.
300 plays out a grand tragedy, a tale of heroism, fighting in the face of insurmountable odds for what you believe in. It never falters, it never wavers, it knows what it wants to do and it runs headlong into the breach. It was a fight to defend a way of life. This is the way legend begins, with exaggerated storytelling used for dramatic effect, both for the audience and for those who are listening to the story unfold within the film.
King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) was not about to let his people be taken into a life of slavery or worse under Persian rule, so he did the only thing he could. He took the bravest of his warriors and led them into a glorious battle, a valiant, yet futile, attempt to hold back King Xerxes' horde. A fight to the death, despite the ruling class's desire to surrender, and the oracle's denial of a battle order, Leonidas knew that he could not abide by their decision. He was the King of a proud people, and he knew that heading off to battle was the right thing to do.