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Daily Norseman Movie Review: 300

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As nothing of any real significance is happening on the Vikings' front again today, and you're probably tired of me finding ways to say that over and over, I'm going to take a page out of the book of the folks over at Bleed Cubbie Blue and offer up a movie review.

This afternoon, my wife and I went to the wonderful Imperial Palace Casino/Resort/Spa here in Biloxi and saw the movie 300, which I'm sure you've all seen a trailer for at some point in the relatively recent past.  While most of the talk is about the visual effects, the movie does have a basis in history.  Yours truly has always been a sucker for that sort of thing.

300 is based on the Battle of Thermopylae that took place back in 480 B.C. between the Persians and the Spartans.  300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (along with some help from the Arcadians, among others), battled the Persian Army, a force that numbered well into the tens of thousands.  (Basically, think the Alamo about 2000 years before the Alamo.)

(Oh, and if you don't want the movie "spoiled" for you, I have to advise against reading further.  Of course, since this IS all historically based, you can look up pretty much anything that's going to follow if you wish. . .I just don't want to get any complaints through the ol' inbox.  The review re-commences right. . .now.)

The beginning part of the movie gives us some background on Leonidas. . .his upbringing, touches on Spartan tradition (which, apparently, included just throwing your kid out into the wild when they got to the ripe old age of 7), things like that.  It does a decent job of fleshing out the main characters.  The action picks up when Xerxes, ruler of the Persian Empire, sends a messenger to Sparta and basically tells Leonidas that Sparta can either become part of the Persian Empire or be destroyed.  Leonidas, ever the diplomat, proceeds to kill the messenger and his entire party.  In the words of Bugs Bunny. . ."Of course you realize, this means war."

Leonidas leads his army, such as it is, to a place called the "Hot Gates," which is basically a "choke point," meaning that only so many people can come into the battlefield at one time, thereby rendering the numerical advantage of the Persians relatively meaningless.  As the battle starts out, the Spartans are making mincemeat of the Persians, and the bodies literally start piling up.  The gore in this movie is really something to behold. . .think Braveheart on steroids.

Eventually, a traitorus little whelp by the name of Ephialtes betrays the Greeks, and tells Xerxes of a path that allows the Persians to sneak behind the Spartan position.  Leonidas, knowing he's pretty much done at this point, sends the majority of his force back to Sparta, and has one last stand against the Persians.  Naturally, the Spartans get slaughtered, and the Persians win this particular battle.  Of course, not even 12 months later, Greece united and beat the snot out of the Persians, inspired largely by the bravery of Leonidas and his men.

As far as the movie itself, there aren't any big, recognizable names among the cast. . .but this certainly doesn't work against the movie, as everyone plays their roles very effectively.  The big selling point to this one, as I mentioned above, is the visual effects. . .and on that front, this movie delivers in spades.  Much like in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy when you first see the Uruk-Hai armies marching toward Helm's Deep and see just the sheer number of warriors advancing. . .well, it's just as impressive seeing tens of thousands of Persian soldiers camped below the cliffs that the Spartans have set themselves up on.

The battle scenes are also incredibly rendered.  Severed limbs, severed heads, blood, spears going through people, weapons flying through the air. . .like I said, it's like a much more violent, much more bloody version of the battle scenes from Braveheart.  Again, the comparison to Lord of the Rings needs to be drawn, although there's obviously nowhere near the blood in LotR that there is in 300.

All in all, 300 is a pretty damn fine movie.  It's not Shakespeare by any means, nor does it try to be.  What it is is a great "popcorn" movie that you can watch and just be awestricken by the special effects and get absorbed into the storyline.  Even though you (likely) already know how the story is going to end, you still find yourself cheering for the Spartans to pull out a victory.

Highly recommended viewing by yours truly. . .particularly if you like the films with a "historical" twist like I do.

Continue enjoying your weekend, folks!