“Madness…? THIS! IS! SPARTA!”

A movie that is basically pure testosterone, as 300 Spartans lead a coalition of Greeks against the Persian God-King Xerxes, who seeks to overrun Greece. With all the gratuitous action and violence, it could only be a Frank Miller comic book… or a Zack Snyder movie. Oh, wait…

300 (2006)
Directed by Zack Snyder 
Written by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordan
Adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Snyder has definitely gotten a bad rap over the last few years with his missteps with the DC Comics movie universe, but all the things he did with MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN V SUPERMAN that drove people crazy are the things that made a movie like 300 such a great adaptation. Much like SIN CITY from the year before, 300 felt like a comic book come to life.

The movie is an adaptation of the Miller/Varley comic book, which itself is a work of historical fiction about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. While Miller did a lot of research into the battle and made it a fairly accurate retelling, he took some liberties when he wrote the graphic novel. Snyder took his own liberties with the story to make it more visually stunning. Neither man, though, was looking to do an historical narrative. They both just wanted to tell a good story in their respective media.

Not wanting Sparta to officially declare war with Persia, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) gathers 300 of his most formidable soldiers, all who have already sired heirs to carry on their family name, to confront the massive Persian army at Thermopylae, the Hot Gate, where the field of battle narrowed to limit the numbers advantage. Even with the military strategy, the battle is a suicide mission for the Greek coalition, but the Spartan army is determined to take as many Persians as they can down with them.

300 is intense, from the moment when Leonidas kicks a Persian emissary down an abyss after yelling the movie’s most famous phrase right to the end. The battle scenes are just filled with death and destruction, and if you’re unfamiliar with the source material, you may just assume that Leonidas and his army might very well succeed in their mission of destroying the Persian army. Alas, neither Snyder nor Miller decided to stray from the source material that much. And it makes the movie that much better. The hero died fighting for the right reasons, and in death, Leonidas inspired his fellow Spartans to take up arms against what remained of the Persians.

Hidden beneath the gore and violence and more than a little sex is a really great story that jumps off the screen the way a great comic book story does. Regardless of what Snyder ended up doing almost a decade later, 300 counts as a win for him.