Monday, March 12, 2007

The Movie '300'

Saw 300 last night - the story is loosely based around the Battle of Thermopylae fought in 480 BC. The movie was adapted from the Frank Miller (of Sin City fame) graphic novel of the same name.

While I partook with zest in the movie's escapism I couldn't help but notice the numerous historical inaccuracies and oversights.

Here are a few:

1. In the film the Spartans are shown fighting without armour. They certainly were brave but not reckless. Armour was critical to the Spartan success.

2. Xerxes is portrayed as a loin clothed narcisist who would be more comfortable in a gay pride parade than anything else. This does not agree with the historical Xerxes who although imbued with power was very much a conventional Persian ruler.

3. King Leonidas injures Xerxes with his well thrust spear. A great touch (no pun) but more again for the imagination.

4. The Spartans are depicted as the principal Greek combatants at the battle. Not true. While the 300 Spartans were the elite force amongst the Greeks. They were joined by over 6000 other Greek forces who are believed to have fought valiantly as well. (See Herodotus the Histories as well as Pausanius 10,20,2).

5. Ephialtes the betrayer is shown as a hunchback. Great for the special effects crew but again more historical creativity than fact.

6. The bus load of ogres and monsters attacking the Spartans - Another metaphor personified.

7. The Spartans are shown abhoring homosexuallity and charging the Athenians with such behaviour. This runs contrary to historical records where the Spartans were renowned for their love and tolerance of male-on-male sexuality.

This is what should have been added to the movie

1. A bit more on the Persian Wars - how did it begin? The rebellion of the Ionian Greeks. The Athenian victory at Marathon etc.

2. The significance of Thermopylae - it bought the Greeks (mainly Athens) valuable time to assemble a fleet that defeated the Persians at Salamis (the real turning point in the war)

3. The fact that only a small fraction of Spartan society was free. I have read of estimates that 90% of those living in Sparta were helots. So representing Sparta as a symbol freedom (as the movie did) was another stretch.

Nevertheless Thermopylae represents one of the great battles of the Ancient War and Miller's attempt at describing the events should be commended. I thoroughly enjoyed the sound track and the battle scenes (which seemed to contain an unusual amount of decapitations) were first rate.

Overall Ranking: 7.5/10

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