[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B000VE2NQ4][/pullquote] Graphic novels have become a staple of the Hollywood diet in recent years. After the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, studio executives began buying up the distribution rights of almost every successful comic book franchise and graphic novel. After the success both commercially and critically of Sin City, another Frank Miller penned graphic novel 300 was adapted into a film. Directed by Zack Snyder, 300 used similar overly-stylized graphical presentation as Sin City and was a huge box office success, taking over $450m from a budget of $60m.
Frank Miller’s 300 is loosely based on the true historical battle of Thermopylae, where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta took 300 of his greatest warriors into conflict with the Persian army that had been conquering around 480 BC. After antagonising the messenger of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) Leonidas takes his force North from Sparta to the pass of Hot Gates to stop the marauding army.
300, while a suitably graphic and stylised portrayal of the graphic novel never quite reached the standard set by Sin City. The cast is good, with notable members of the 300 being the narrator Dillios (David Wenham), Stelios (Michael Fassbender) and Captain Artemis (Vincent Regan). However it is Butler’s King Leonidas that is the stoic, manly, muscle-bound ball of rage that centres the film. As loud and defiant as he is noble and respected, Butler imbues the Spartan king with so much testosterone and machismo that it’s difficult not to be impressed.
In fact the condition of the Spartan 300 is one of the most memorable aspects of the film. Each one with more muscles than a Mr. Universe competition, the cast were forced by Snyder to prove their worth be engaging in a rigorous training regime leading up to filming. The results were frankly staggering and have given the film, along with films like Top Gun, the tag of one brimming with homo-eroticism.
The film caused controversy on an international scale when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced the film for its portrayal of the Persians as androgynous, barbaric and demonic. There have also been complaints about the lack of historical accuracy, although to expect that from a film based on a graphic novel, based on actual events with little record available seems a bit too much. It should be noted that the lines “Come back with your shield, or on it,” “Then we shall fight in the shade” and “Persian, come and get it” are all actual recorded comments from the Spartans at the time.
300 is a film loaded with style and atmosphere, if light on subtlety and character development. It fails to reach the standards of Sin City and has been panned by various critics foo its portrayal of Persians, men and spiritualism, however it never makes apology for what it is trying to achieve and pushes the boundaries of visual gore and over-the-top action.