DVD - Image B+ Sound A Extras B
BD - Image A Sound A+ Extras B
starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West
screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller
directed by Zack Snyder
by Walter Chaw There's an idea in the ancient world about a "beautiful death," achievable for the warrior only in mortal, one-on-one wartime combat--an idea that may have contributed to the length of the Trojan siege, and an idea vocalized by one of the captains serving under Spartan King Leonides (Gerard Butler) in Zack Snyder's 300. Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, the film betrays a lot of the same macho aesthetic as Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Miller's Sin City--but rather than content itself with the literally bestial terms of glory in the masculine psyche, it makes a play for allegory and equivocal morality (of all things) in the valorization of Sparta and the romanticization of a crushing military defeat. It's not that Leonides is seen martyred in the end in a tableau explicitly meant to evoke the passion of St. Sebastian, but that he goes out pining for his wife like a lovesick hamster, thus completing 300's devolution from remorseless Spartan militarism into gushy democratic idealism and all manner of liberal maladies. There's little profit in establishing the rules of this universe as uncompromising and brutal (it opens on a field of infant skulls--victims of a Spartan culling ritual of its own kind) if its intentions split time between justifying, in non-chest-beating terms, the decision to pit three-hundred against thousands while denying the Spartans their individual moments of "beautiful death" in favour of some collective date with pyrrhic immortality. History suggests that the Spartans, having exhausted their arms, died scratching and clawing with their bare hands; 300 suggests they died calling for their mothers and wives.