I don't want to use my blog to review movies, as that is what at least half the bloggers on the internet seem to do, and I somehow want to be at least a little different from the herd. I also do not know what to say about the movie I just saw, namely the gore and bombast fest titled The 300. Dylan warned us not to criticize what we don't understand, and I have to say I did not understand this movie. I merely do not understand the big themes (assuming there are some) in the film, I also do not get the small things. I wonder why, to cite one example, the Spartans in the movie prance about in red loin cloths rather than in the hundred pounds of brass armor ancient Greek warriors usually wore. Were they trying to seduce the Persians before they fought them? Would the Persians have been that desperate for sex after the long march over the Hellespont? (The Xerxes of this film certainly looks like he would have gone for some hirsuit Spartan flesh.) Why, I also wonder, did everyone during that historic era converse in ear-splitting screams articulated at the rear of the mouth rather than on the lips and tongue? ("Our arrows will block out the sun" becomes "Er ERRors il buk o th soon.") For that matter, why are the Spartans of all people yammering on about freedom? (In the real Sparta most of the people were slaves, and those who weren't were, if they were men, members of a rigid warrior cult; the women were of course chattel property of the warriors.) Where did the Spartan women get their sexy clothes twenty-four centuries before the first Victoria Secrets store opened in the first mega-mall? How did the Spartan women get those same strapless, backless, and nearly frontless clothes to stay on so many generations before the first invisible adhesives? What were the Persians feeding their ten-story elephants and their five-story rhinos to make them get so big? And why are so many of Xerxes' soldiers either black or Chinese? (And why would so many black and Chinese actors take such demeaning roles?)
At the real battle of Thermopylae a force of some three hundred Spartans under their King Leonidas and eight thousand other Greeks made a stand on a narrow strip of land bounded on one side by the mountains and on the other by the ocean and there held off a Persian force of some three hundred thousand soldiers, who were marching toward Attica to burn Athens and force the surrender of all the Greek city-states. The Persians and their King Xerxes already ruled everything from modern day Turkey to what is now Pakistan, as well as all the lands from Egypt to Afganistan. For two days the Greeks stopped the superior Persian force, inflicting some twenty thousand casualites on their giant army. On the third day, a detachment of Persians appeared at the rear of the Greek force, for a traitor had showed them a passage through the mountains. Leonidas ordered most of the Greeks to retreat south, but he and his Spartans, along with seven hundred Thespians and three hundred Thebians, remained in the narrow pass and fought to the death on the third day of the battle. By holding off the Persians for another day, they allowed the Athenians to abandon their city and flee to their ships and safety. Those same Athenians would defeat the Persian fleet at Salamis. Without control of the sea, Xerxes could not feed his huge army, most of which he had to pull back to Asia. The force that remained behind was beaten the next rear by a combined Greek force at Plataea. Greece was thus freed of Asian rule, and we in the western world live in a civilization shaped by the Greeks and Romans rather than by Middle Eastern despots. Which brings me to my last and largest question about the movie: why would such a story need to be inflated by imagination when it is already as heroic as any that men could tell?