On balance, I liked 300.
I decline utterly to interpret it as a political allegory for the war in Iraq, or whatever Procrustean bed of pseudosymbolism some commentators are trying to fit it to. It just doesn’t seem like it’s trying to make that sort of point.
The filmakers went so far over the top that one forget where the top had been–I might mention the flute-playing goat-man, here, or the Orc-ninja Immortals, or a number of things, but I don’t cite them as a criticism of the movie, just to give you a sense of what it was like. It is ultraviolent enough to appeal to Alex and his droogs, but, given that it’s about a battle in which virtually all of the protagonists are killed, that’s to be expected. The arty portrayal of some of the violence (e.g. the corpse-tree made by an incursion of Persians, or the corpse-wall made of Persians), that was repellent to me, but it’s one way to make the horror of war strike home.
Things I liked about the movie: the fact that Leonidas did not shout his every word of dialogue (contrary to the impression one got from the trailer, the actors did beautiful nuanced work); the relationship between Leonidas and Gorgo; the political problem back at Sparta (though completely fictional, it was not hokey or in any way an idiot-plot); the Ninja-quick moves of the Spartan warriors and the fight-scenes generally. The digital images were superbly blended with the live actors, as well or better than in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (my previous gold standard for this sort of thing). I loved the bits of the source material woven carefully into the woof of the film (“then we will fight in the shade”; “we dine this evening in Hell”; “Tell the Spartans…” etc.).
In spite of the arty ultraviolence and the overthetoppitude, I think 300 may become one of my favorite sword-and-sandal movies. But now I want a companion piece about the Athenian victories at Marathon and Salamis (just to make it clear the Spartans weren’t solely responsible for the Greeks defeating the Persian invasion).
Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.