Bogs of War

‘THE 300'

Though The 300 was adapted from a Frank Miller graphic novel rather than from the histories of Herodotus or Plutarch, the Miller version (which I haven’t read) seems to include all the events of the heroic stand at Thermopylae in 480 bc that you would want to see on a movie screen. Here we have King Leonidas of Sparta and his elite troops facing the massive army of Xerxes at that narrow pass in northern Greece and heroically holding the Persians back long enough for the Greek allies in the south to get organized. And the time-honored inspirational meaning of the sacrifice has been maintained. As H. D. F. Kitto put it, the “Asiatic master compelled obedience by torture and the lash; the Greeks took their decisions by debating and persuading and then acted like one man; and they conquered.” So for those who believe that the worth of a movie is determined strictly by its events, and that the quality of its dialogue, acting, visuals, and tempo are all just so much window dressing, The 300 will be a rewarding experience. But for people like me who believe that dialogue, acting, visuals, and tempo constitute the real achievement of drama and film, that a scenario is only the intent, and that the intent must never be mistaken for the deed, The 300 is a pretty crummy movie.

As the historian Victor Davis Hanson points out in his introduction to a “booktrailer” (AKA advance advertising) published by Dark Horse Comics, “...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.