If you haven't seen this yet and don't want to be spoiled skip this review. Yes, it's a historical movie and we all know how it ends but a lot of the stuff I'm going to talk about isn't historical so if you want to go in with an unprejudiced mind, don't read this. Elayne, this is exactly the sort of review you don't like so you may want to move on too.
Now, going in I wasn't expecting a historical documentary. If nothing else, it was based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, and Miller is known for not being able to resist a bit of retcon if canon gets in the way of his message or his need to show off his grim 'n' gritty pulp fiction influences. I figured it would be pretty much what it is so I'm not taking points off for it being too comic book. I could spend several pages pointing out how it diverges from historical fact but I'll mostly leave that to history_spork if they decide to cover it except for a few instances where it weakened the story. For instance, when it made me laugh, because I laughed altogether too much in the wrong places.
When Leonides is giving his big pre-slaughter pep talk and was going on about freedom all I could think of was the girls at History Spork and their rant about sticking speeches about freedom into historical movies where they wouldn't understand the concept the way we would and how they always reference back to Mel's Freedom speech in Braveheart.
I also got the giggles and nearly damaged something keeping quiet when the giant rhino went down and I nearly called out "Light!" Which is a deep SCA in reference that shouldn't distract saner people. However, when the Orc and the Oliphant appeared I lost all respect for the director and gave up even trying to suspend disbelief.
There were just too many OTT things and in references to other stuff. It kept pulling me out of the emotional reality of the film. I didn't need a Dark Knight reference, I already know the original story was by Miller. I haven't read the comic so I don't know if Miller based any panels on famous paintings but it was a conceit that was overused in the movie. It became a game of spot the art reference. I couldn't name the painting or the artist for most of the ones I recognized but the Dore' stuff in particular was pretty obvious.
Every time they sprouted some cliche from our current war on terror I winced. The line “Freedom isn't free” comes to mind right now. Too topical and a bit ironic for a culture that had slaves. There was an obvious attempt to set the Spartans up as us or should I say U.S. and the Persians as them. You know them? Those swarthy middle eastern types, which, since Persia is now Iran kinda works or would if they hadn't made them even darker since you know, dark = evil so lets make them black instead of semitic.
I wonder how much of this rhetoric was in the original work since the comics were published in 1998. I'm pretty sure the whole the-king-broke-the-law-to-fight-the-enem
And while I've slipped into historical accuracy mode what is the deal with Leonides being all disdainful and calling the Athenians boy lovers when the Spartans themselves had institutionalized pederasty beyond anything Athens practiced? Or with wanting to fight tyranny when at the time “tyrant”, a concept the Greeks invented, simply meant a leader who was not a king who ruled with the support of the common people?
So, a friend treated me and I wasn't out any money, and it mostly didn't drag, and it was very pretty and exciting in a video game sort of way. The sequence with the oracle writhing in mid-air was nice. I wonder if she is a current or former Weeki Wachee mermaid or if they had one consult. It was obviously done using their underwater techniques, you can even catch her about to have to breathe out toward the end of a couple of cuts.
What else? I cheered when the queen finally offed traitor guy, and the beefcake wasn't bad even with the silly make up to accentuate the six pack area, but I can't help but think that it's a shame such a great show of bravery and sacrifice has been reduced to empty spectacle for a mediocre Friday evening's entertainment.