300 is a 2006 American epic war film based on the 1998 comic series 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Both are fictionalized retellings of the Battle of Thermopylae within the Persian Wars. The film was directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant. It was filmed mostly with a super-imposition chroma key technique, to help replicate the imagery of the original comic book.
The plot revolves around King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who leads 300 Spartans into battle against the Persian "god-King" Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his invading army of more than 300,000 soldiers. As the battle rages, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support in Sparta for her husband. The story is framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham). Through this narrative technique, various fantastical creatures are introduced, placing 300 within the genre of historical fantasy. The events are revealed to be a story told by Dilios, the only one of the 300 Spartans to survive the battle.
300 was released for the first time in Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon on December 9, 2006, later released in Berlin International Film Festival on February 14, 2007, and finally released in both conventional and IMAX theaters in the United States on March 9, 2007, and on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD on July 31, 2007. The film received mixed reviews, receiving acclaim for its original visuals and style, but criticism for favoring visuals over characterization and its depiction of the ancient Persians in Iran, a characterization which some had deemed racist; however, the film was a box office success, grossing over $450 million, with the film's opening being the 24th-largest in box office history at the time. A sequel, entitled Rise of an Empire, which is based on Miller's unpublished graphic novel prequel Xerxes, was released on March 7, 2014.
In 479 BC, one year after the Battle of Thermopylae, Dilios, a hoplite in the Spartan army, begins his story by depicting the life of Leonidas I from childhood to kingship via Spartan doctrine. Dilios's story continues and a Persian herald arrives at the gates of Sparta demanding "earth and water" as a token of submission to King Xerxes—the Spartans reply by throwing the envoy and his escort into a deep well. Leonidas then visits the Ephors, proposing a strategy to drive back the numerically superior Persians through the Hot Gates. His plan involves building a wall in order to funnel the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea: negating the Persian advantage in numbers, and giving Greeks heavy infantry the advantage over the vast waves of Persian light infantry. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta will not go to war during the Carneia. As Leonidas angrily departs, an agent from Xerxes appears, rewarding the Ephors for their covert support.
Although the Ephors have denied him permission to mobilize Sparta's army, Leonidas gathers three hundred of his best soldiers in the guise of his personal bodyguard. They are joined along the way by Arcadians. At Thermopylae, they construct the wall made up of stones and slain Persian scouts as mortar, angering a Persian emissary. Stelios, an elite Spartan soldier, orders the former to go back to the Persian lines and warn Xerxes, after cutting off his whipping arm.
Meanwhile, Leonidas encounters Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan whose parents fled Sparta to spare him certain infanticide. Ephialtes asks to redeem his father's name by joining Leonidas' army, warning him of a secret path the Persians could use to outflank and surround the Spartans. Though sympathetic, Leonidas rejects him since his deformity physically prevents him from holding his shield high enough, potentially compromising the phalanx formation, and Ephialtes is enraged.
The battle begins soon after the Spartans' refusal to lay down their weapons. Using the Hot Gates to their advantage, as well as their superior fighting skills, the Spartans repel wave after wave of the advancing Persian army. During a lull in the battle, Xerxes personally approaches Leonidas to persuade him to surrender, offering him wealth and power in exchange for his allegiance. Leonidas declines and mocks Xerxes for the inferior quality of his fanatical warriors. In response, Xerxes sends in his elite guard, the Immortals, later that night. The Spartans nonetheless manage to defeat the Immortals with few losses, with slight help from the Arcadians.
On the second day, Xerxes sends in new waves of armies from Asia and other Persian subject states, including war elephants, to crush the Spartans once and for all, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Ephialtes defects to Xerxes to whom he reveals the secret path in exchange for wealth, luxury, women, and a Persian uniform. The Arcadians retreat upon learning of Ephialtes' betrayal, but the Spartans stay. Leonidas orders an injured but reluctant Dilios to return to Sparta and tell them of what has happened: a "tale of victory".
In Sparta, Queen Gorgo tries to persuade the Spartan Council to send reinforcements to aid the 300. Theron, a corrupt politician, claims that he "owns" the Council and threatens the Queen, who reluctantly submits to his sexual demands in return for his help. When Theron disgraces her in front of the Council, Gorgo kills him out of rage, revealing within his robe a bag of Xerxes' gold. Marking his betrayal, the Council unanimously agrees to send reinforcements. On the third day, the Persians, led by Ephialtes, traverse the secret path, encircling the Spartans. Xerxes' general again demands their surrender. Leonidas seemingly kneels in submission, allowing Stelios to leap over him and kill the general. A furious Xerxes orders his troops to attack. Leonidas rises and throws his spear at Xerxes; barely missing him, the spear cuts across and wounds his face, proving the God-King's mortality. Leonidas and the remaining Spartans fight to the last man until they finally succumb to an arrow barrage.
Dilios, now back in Sparta, concludes his tale before the Council. Inspired by Leonidas' sacrifice, the Greeks mobilize. One year later, the Persians face an army of 30,000 free Greeks led by a vanguard of 10,000 Spartans. After one final speech commemorating the 300, Dilios, now head of the Spartan Army, leads them to war, against the Persians across the fields of Plataea.
- Gerard Butler as Leonidas
- Tyler Neitzel as young Leonidas.
- David Wenham as Dilios
- Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo
- Giovanni Cimmino as Pleistarchus
- Dominic West as Theron
- Vincent Regan as Captain
- Tom Wisdom as Astinos
- Andrew Pleavin as Daxos
- Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes
- Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes
- Stephen McHattie as the Loyalist
- Michael Fassbender as Stelios
- Peter Mensah as a Persian messenger
- Kelly Craig as Pythia
- Robert Maillet as Über Immortal (giant)
- Patrick Sabongui as the Persian General
- Leon Laderach as Executioner
- Tyrone Benskin as the whip-wielding Persian Emissary
Producer Gianni Nunnari was not the only person planning a film about the Battle of Thermopylae; director Michael Mann already planned a film of the battle based on the book Gates of Fire. Nunnari discovered Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, which impressed him enough to acquire the film rights. 300 was jointly produced by Nunnari and Mark Canton, and Michael B. Gordon wrote the script. Director Zack Snyder was hired in June 2004 as he had attempted to make a film based on Miller's novel before making his debut with the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Snyder then had screenwriter Kurt Johnstad rewrite Gordon's script for production and Frank Miller was retained as consultant and executive producer. Frank Miller's original graphic novel 300 was inspired by the film The 300 Spartans, which Miller first saw at age 6.
The film is a shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic book, similar to the film adaptation of Sin City. Snyder photocopied panels from the comic book, from which he planned the preceding and succeeding shots. "It was a fun process for me… to have a frame as a goal to get to," he said. Like the comic book, the adaptation also used the character Dilios as a narrator. Snyder used this narrative technique to show the audience that the surreal "Frank Miller world" of 300 was told from a subjective perspective. By using Dilios' gift of storytelling, he was able to introduce fantasy elements into the film, explaining that "Dilios is a guy who knows how not to wreck a good story with truth." Snyder also added the subplot in which Queen Gorgo attempts to rally support for her husband.
Two months of pre-production were required to create hundreds of shields, spears, and swords, some of which were recycled from Troy and Alexander. Creatures were designed by Jordu Schell, and an animatronic wolf and thirteen animatronic horses were created. The actors trained alongside the stuntmen, and even Snyder joined in. Upwards of 600 costumes were created for the film, as well as extensive prosthetics for various characters and the corpses of Persian soldiers. Shaun Smith and Mark Rappaport worked hand in hand with Snyder in pre-production to design the look of the individual characters, and to produce the prosthetic makeup effects, props, weapons and dummy bodies required for the production.
300 entered active production on October 17, 2005, in Montreal, and was shot over the course of sixty days in chronological order with a budget of $60 million. Employing the digital backlot technique, Snyder shot at the now-defunct Icestorm Studios in Montreal using bluescreens. Butler said that while he did not feel constrained by Snyder's direction, fidelity to the comic imposed certain limitations on his performance. Wenham said there were times when Snyder wanted to precisely capture iconic moments from the comic book, and other times when he gave actors freedom "to explore within the world and the confines that had been set." Headey said of her experience with the bluescreens, "It's very odd, and emotionally, there's nothing to connect to apart from another actor." Only one scene, in which horses travel across the countryside, was shot outdoors. The film was an intensely physical production, and Butler pulled an arm tendon and developed foot drop.
Post-production was handled by Montreal's Meteor Studios and Hybride Technologies filled in the bluescreen footage with more than 1,500 visual effects shots. Visual effects supervisor Chris Watts and production designer Jim Bissell created a process dubbed "The Crush," which allowed the Meteor artists to manipulate the colors by increasing the contrast of light and dark. Certain sequences were desaturated and tinted to establish different moods. Ghislain St-Pierre, who led the team of artists, described the effect: "Everything looks realistic, but it has a kind of a gritty illustrative feel." Various computer programs, including Maya, RenderMan, and RealFlow, were used to create the "spraying blood." The post-production lasted for a year and was handled by a total of ten special effects companies.
- Main article: 300 (soundtrack)
In July 2005, composer Tyler Bates began work on the film, describing the score as having "beautiful themes on the top and large choir," but "tempered with some extreme heaviness." The composer had scored for a test scene that the director wanted to show to Warner Bros. to illustrate the path of the project. Bates said that the score had "a lot of weight and intensity in the low end of the percussion" that Snyder found agreeable to the film. The score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and features the vocals of Azam Ali. A standard edition and a special edition of the soundtrack containing 25 tracks was released on March 6, 2007, with the special edition containing a 16-page booklet and three two-sided trading cards.
The score has caused some controversy in the film composer community, garnering criticism for its striking similarity to several other recent soundtracks, including James Horner and Gabriel Yared's work for the film Troy. The heaviest borrowings are said to be from Elliot Goldenthal's 1999 score for Titus. "Remember Us," from 300, is identical in parts to the "Finale" from Titus, and "Returns a King" is similar to the cue "Victorius Titus." On August 3, 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures acknowledged in an official statement:
|“||… a number of the music cues for the score of 300 were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture Titus. Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter.||”|
Promotion and release
The official 300 website was launched by Warner Bros. in December 2005. The "conceptual art" and Zack Snyder's production blog were the initial attractions of the site. Later, the website added video journals describing production details, including comic-to-screen shots and the creatures of 300. In January 2007, the studio launched a MySpace page for the film. The Art Institutes created a micro-site to promote the film.
At Comic-Con International in July 2006, the 300 panel aired a promotional teaser of the film, which was positively received. Despite stringent security, the trailer was subsequently leaked on the Internet. Warner Bros. released the official trailer for 300 on October 4, 2006, and later on it made its debut on Apple.com where it received considerable exposure. The background music used in the trailers was "Just Like You Imagined" by Nine Inch Nails. A second 300 trailer, which was attached to Apocalypto, was released in theaters on December 8, 2006, and online the day before. On January 22, 2007, an exclusive trailer for the film was broadcast during prime time television. The trailers have been credited with igniting interest in the film and contributing to its box-office success.
In April 2006, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced its intention to make a PlayStation Portable game, 300: March to Glory, based on the film. Collision Studios worked with Warner Bros. to capture the style of the film in the video game, which was released simultaneously with the film in the United States. The National Entertainment Collectibles Association produced a series of action figures based on the film, as well as replicas of weapons and armor.
Warner Bros. promoted 300 by sponsoring the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, who made personal appearances and participated in other promotional activities. The studio also joined with the National Hockey League to produce a 30-second TV spot promoting the film in tandem with the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In August 2006, Warner Bros. announced 300's release date as March 16, 2007, but in October the release was moved forward to March 9, 2007. An unfinished cut of 300 was shown at Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival on December 9, 2006. 300 was released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD on July 31, 2007, in region 1 territories, in single-disc and two-disc editions. 300 was released in single-disc and steelcase two-disc editions on DVD, BD and HD DVD in region 2 territories beginning August 2007. On July 21, 2009, Warner Bros. released a new Blu-ray Disc entitled 300: The Complete Experience to coincide with the Blu-ray Disc release of Watchmen. This new Blu-ray Disc is encased in a 40-page Digibook and includes all the extras from the original release as well as some new ones. These features include a picture-in-picture feature entitled The Complete 300: A Comprehensive Immersion, which enables the viewer to view the film in three different perspectives. This release also includes a digital copy.
On July 9, 2007, American cable channel TNT bought the rights to broadcast the film from Warner Bros. TNT started airing the film in September 2009. Sources say that the network paid between $17 million and just under $20 million for the broadcasting rights. TNT agreed to a three-year deal instead of the more typical five-year deal.
In popular culture