Frank Miller & Lynn Varley used a graphic novel to retell the Battle of Thermopylae, that legendary tale of Strategy, Sacrifice & 300 Spartans in the most famous delaying action of military history. (It's sort of like the Alamo with Greeks in the fort and Persians knocking on the door . . . and everyone half-naked.) Flamboyantly visualized in DC Comic mode, the book was ready-made for easy video exploitation, but Zach Snyder’s film pumps it up even further, semi-historical Greek mythology as Arena Rock. It works, but it also works you over. Lots of blood-spilling Sacrifice; not so much cunning Strategy. We never do get a clear look at those Persian hordes being funneled into the Gates of Fire. And why not cut over to show the enemy’s flanking maneuver on that secret goat path? Hasn’t Snyder discovered parallel editing? Maybe he should have a look at D. W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE/’16.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: While never capturing the ‘otherness’ of ancient Greece as Mary Renault did in her mythological novels, THE KING MUST DIE and THE BULL FROM THE SEA, Steven Pressfield’s GATES OF FIRE brings a fine, realistic eye, and great pace, to the story of the 300.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Groucho Marx, talking about SAMSON AND DELILAH/’49, ‘No movie can hold my interest where the leading man’s tits are bigger than the leading lady’s.' Exactly.