By Alexzander Belzer
It’s been now scientifically proven: on the index of manliness, Spartans rate at ten; just above ninjas, pirates, Vikings, and lumberjacks, combined. Need some convincing? See 300, the latest in Frank Miller graphic-novel-to-film adaptations. The film is a stylish retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartan warriors fight to their death to save Greece from the grip of the Persian army. The men in 300 are the pinnacle of stereotypical masculinity: huge, threatening beards, ripped abs, and brutal blood-thirsty battle etiquette.
While the film is a celebration of this type of antiquated male behavior, the film’s heroes—the 300—aren’t killed because of their fight for freedom, but because of their adherence to the ultimate ideal of hyper-masculinity: glory through either victory or death. (How very typical Frank Miller) In another paradox of machoism, the film is currently a smash hit at the box office, getting millions of people everywhere pumped to watch 300 Calvin Klein underwear models in leather thongs. The movie-gods have a sense of irony indeed. Still, the film’s homoeroticism is brushed off by the Spartan king, Leonidus, who at one point refers to his Athenian rivals as “boy-lovers.” Yet worry not: the manly Spartans only make love to woman—in slow-motion soft-core porn sequences.
That’s not to say 300 isn’t a good time at the theater. The film easily sets a benchmark for computer-generated effects, crafting a beautiful sepia-toned world punctuated with flashes of crimson Spartan capes in classic Frank Miller fashion. And the battle scenes are dazzling, combining excessive slow-motion and flawless choreography with buckets and buckets of blood. Moreover, Gerard Butler’s performance as the ferocious King Leonidas is nothing short of captivating. If anything, 300 proves director Zack Snyder more than capable of making successful graphic-novel-to-film adaptations. And if 300’s box-office sales have anything to do with it, we’ll be seeing a lot more of these adaptations in years to come.