300 -- a film (and a comic book, of course, but this is based solely on the film) about the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans famously held off an entire Persian army for days, armed only with their machismo. And big pointy sticks, of course.
Now, this is a film about a culture where a wife had to dress like a soldier on her wedding night, where sodomy was an institution of the state, and where naked men slathered in oil wrestled around. To build muscle, they said. Does this film live up to that (rather impressive, sez I) legacy?
Oh my yes. The entire film is based around 300 half-naked men, a narrow passage (and any speculation about precisely how narrow it was after 300 Spartans had been there is too low, even for me), and the penetration of lots of Persians with the big pointy sticks I mentioned before. The Persians themselves are ruled over by a 10-foot-tall S&M Dom with multiple piercings and a completely waxed body. Enough said.
Perhaps aware of just how homoerotic the film was, there's also some more gratuitous displays of breasts and a sex scene, and the Athenians are insulted at one point as being 'boylovers', despite the fact that the historical Spartans did far more of it. In short, it's a desperate attempt to make the film slightly less camp so teenage boys with an inadequate grasp of irony won't run screaming at the thought of something that wasn't entirely heterosexual. Does it succeed? Well, no, but it adds gratuituous female nudity as well as half-naked men, so I have absolutely no complaints. Well. Maybe one complaint. They had a 10-foot pierced god-king, a whole lot of half-naked Spartans, and several pairs of boobies, and the best they could do was King Leonidas and his wife in the missionary position in the dark. Somehow, I feel they missed a golden opportunity here, perhaps to call it '300 Spartans and an orgy' and put Hugh Grant in it somewhere (preferably with his clothes on).
Since a lot of the film's based around the battle scenes -- are they good? Oh yes. They're one of the few to actually get things like a clash of two shield walls right (having been in a couple, thanks to Dark Ages re-enactment, it can basically be described as a big rugby scrum with shields locked together, with people frantically bashing at each other from over the top), and there's enough blood and corpses to keep most gorehounds happy. In short, I'd recommend the film should you wish to switch off your higher brain functions for a few hours, watch the fighting, and admire examples of whichever gender (or both) takes your fancy.
Want something with more depth? Despite having studied Latin, Greek, and Classical Civilisation, I prefer to avoid delving into the historical veracity of the film, as it's quite plainly non-existent. The film should be taken as what it is -- a Hollywoodised and completely fictional depiction of a battle that had already accumulated centuries of myth around it. It merely happens to use a couple of historical names, places, and events. If it helps, think of it as saving a little money in the scriptwriting department.
After all, the real story - that the Persian Empire was in fact a fairly enlightened federalist system, preserving in large part the freedom of religion and autonomy of its satellite states, while Sparta and the Greek Cities were quite ferociously dogmatic, Sparta itself being unwilling to even allow non-Spartans into their city - wouldn't make such a gloriously uncomplicated film. Athens, frequently held up as a bastion of early democracy, had an unfortunate tendency to ostracise (send away for a period of 10 years) many of its most generals and statesmen whose only crime was telling the people what they didn't want to hear, and frequently elected demagogues and rabble-rousers whose only talent was to appease the mob, such as the Cleon so hated by Aristophanes and Dracon, a legislator so harsh that his name became the root of the word draconian. For those familiar with 2000AD, his comic book analogue would undoubtedly be Judge Death. The Martyrdom of Socrates as chronicled by Plato also demonstrates the Athenian capacity for brutality.
In short, the historical account contains moral complexity, as historical accounts tend to do. 300, on the other hand, has none at all. This doesn't, however, make it a bad film. As entertainment, it does a very solid job indeed. It just isn't a film that requires more than three neurons to fire at any one given moment.