It isn’t exactly a bad movie, but it is a remarkable exercise in not trusting your story or your audience. Just as less is sometimes more, sometimes more is crap. We were in a theater packed full of people who were staying up past their (well, my) bedtimes to see the movie on opening day, and I was far from the only person giggling at inappropriate times.
I wanted to see this movie, and I really wanted to like it. I mean, come on, the Battle of Thermopylae! How cool is that? Not cool enough, I guess.
Apparently one of history’s great examples of tactics and self-sacrifice just wasn’t interesting enough for the filmmakers. The precision and cooperation of the phalanx wasn’t as showy as a Spartan soldier standing alone swinging his sword at the Persians who were kind enough to approach one at a time. The odds weren’t bad enough without half the Persian army being supernatural creatures and the Greek soldiers failing to fight. It wasn’t bad enough that Ephialtes was a traitor; he also had to be a hunchback with elephantiasis. The priests weren’t villainous enough unless they had albinism and leprosy. Xerxes couldn’t just be a power-mad tyrant; he had to be a seven-foot-tall pincushion and talk like a Goa’uld. The Spartans weren’t brave enough unless they went into battle in Speedos and flowing choke-me capes instead of their armor (yes, the guys in the red capes died). We called them the March of the Abs.
Then there were the guitar licks out of left field.
Oh, and to look at the few women in the movie, it was apparently filmed during Mardi Gras.
Did the movie have an up-side? Of course. They kept the historians’ good lines. It’s visually arresting, straddling the line between blood porn and still art. Not even the director could make David Wenham declaim all his lines. There are some nice hints of politics wedged in between the historically ridiculous fight scenes.
As I said before, it isn’t exactly a bad movie. I just wanted more. And I’d have been happier with so much less.