Written by Fumo Verde
Available exclusively at The History Channel Store, The 300 Ultimate Collectors Set contains 300 (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) and The History Channel's feature-length documentary Last Stand of the 300.
Seeing 300 on the big screen when it came out was amazing. Being able to sit in my living room and watch it on my new plasma flat screen is even more incredible than the movie house. Like Frank Miller’s comic book, the movie is dressed in beautiful artwork via blue screen, green screen, and CGI. To see this in HD would really blow you away, but even in its standard form, the DVD is still awe inspiring, and so is The Last Stand of the 300 brought to us by The History Channel (my favorite channel). An hour and a half of who, what, and how the tiny Spartan force held up the mighty Persian army, and why this story still resonates today.
My feelings about 300 have not changed since I first saw it, and I still believe that this was one of the best movies to come around in a long time. Sure it was over the top, gushing testosterone at every level, but who do you think comic books and graphic novels are made for, 96-year-old women? The vision director Zack Snyder had was to bring to life the images and ideas Miller gave us in panels and to do so took a lot of time and talent of which the cast and crew of this movie gave heartily. The picturesque landscapes and the gruesome, bloody battles brings us back to a time where heroes gave us hope and courage meant standing up for something that you felt was right. This movie affected me so much that even now while surfing when I take off on really big waves I yell out, “THIS IS SPARTA!!!” in hope that if I die at least I had the courage to charge it. Though this story has been told a million times over, Snyder’s interpretation of Miller’s take on the story portrays it in a way that King Leonidas would have been proud to watch.
Disc 1 of 300 has the movie along with a few other extras that includes director commentary, which is always interesting. Disc 2 has the making of the movie from beginning to end with interviews with Snyder, Miller, and even some of Miller’s comic book mentors. The disc also includes a five-minute collage, which, if you watch carefully, you can see them make the whole movie from the first shot to the final wrap. I thought this was cool because you see how much work truly goes into making a movie.
For anyone interested as to what happened and why it still affects our world today, The History Channel’s The Last Stand of the 300 gives great insight. Loving history as I do, I will now shamelessly promote this DVD because I think we all need to understand history. Last Stand takes some of the premier scholars of Greek history and lets them tell us the story while deconstructing the movie 300. By doing this, we get a great historical lesson that is interweaved with an exciting and energetic film. Though some film myths are disposed such as Leonidas killing a wolf to become king and Ephialtes being deformed, most of the professors agree that Miller’s description was the way they would have told it, embellishments and all.
We also learn that to be such great warriors as the Spartans were, the men had to dedicate their full time to being warriors. This meant that slaves had to be used to maintain the farms and to make weapons and slaughter the animals. Freedom is the ever present theme of not only the movie but the story itself, so how can a slave state as Sparta consider itself a free state? Though Spartans had slaves, their slaves were considered equal in partnership with the state. You could call Sparta the first communist experiment where all shared in the wealth. Honor and pain were the themes of Sparta as we come to understand that only two types of people were allowed to have headstones at their graves: men who died in battle and women who died in childbirth for both acts were not for themselves but for the state.
A very brutal way of life but one that had a great honor to it was the life of a Spartan and as the scholars teach us this, we come to understand why these people were glad to lay down their lives for what they believed in. Spartans were the professional soldiers of their day but they weren’t only taught to fight. They learned math, poetry, music and dance, and were a very ultra-religious people who would only fight when the gods approved. They were smart and were taught to have a quick wit about them. The other city states of Athens and Thebes thought the Spartans crazy. Greece was not a country at the time and the city-states of Sparta and Athens hated each other, yet they hated the Persians more, and the Spartans were ready to die for their way of life. How many of us would do that today? Spartans had honor and pride, not fear and hatred.
One would think 300 Spartans and around 1500 other Greeks would be crazy to try and fight 300,000 Persians but they tried, and though it was a military failure, the moral victory sent a shockwave through the city-states, bringing them together to finally defeat the Persians. Leonidas wasn’t a hero. He was a practical king who was bred to die on the battlefield for his state. He knew he wasn’t coming back to Sparta but he did know that if he gave his allies some time, Sparta and all Greece might be saved.
The reason this story stays with us is because here we have a man who knowingly has sealed his own fate, because it is the right thing to do. In this day and age who would do that, who would lose their job or house or life to do the right thing? The Last Stand explains who the Spartans were and why they felt that following a righteous and just path is far better than living in comfort.