300, the comic book by Frank Miller, is a powerful and beautiful retelling of The Battle of Thermopylae.
300, the movie by Zack Snyder, is a visually impressive and often moving dramatization of Miller's book, that somehow never manages to capture the same power or beauty.
I hate to be that "not as good as the book" guy, as that always strikes me as a banal way to come at a criticism. In this case, I think it's illustrative of what's missing from this generally exciting and well-crafted movie that keeps it from being great.
In the book, Leonidas was very intelligent man. He knew that his way of life was coming to an end and that what was coming was better. He knew that his sacrifice was necessary to preserve this evolution of mankind. But that the Spartan way would fade out, if this battle did not take place.
And, while this is clearly present in Gerard Butler's performance, it's almost completely missing from the text of the film. The book, and nearly any other telling of the story, also does much better at explaining the military genius of their strategy of holding a bottleneck. In fact, so does a brief interlude in Miller's The Big Fat Kill.
But here I stand griping about a movie that is, in fact, very, very good. The performances are generally excellent. The look is stunning. The battle sequences are exciting, if over-reliant on slow-motion. The feel for the characters and their place in the world is wonderful. The blood-thirst of the movie is also as unreserved as the characters motivations, which is refreshing in this age.
If you go into it, as Marc Savlov's review suggests, as "Greco-Roman movie-house mythmaking" in the vein of Hercules in the Haunted World, there's nothing at all to complain about. However, I suspect it can only disappoint those hoping for a movie "called 300 because that's how many stars it deserves," as Phil Villarreal's review concludes.
And while I do think Neill Cumpston is a raging closet case based on his moronic comments about "dude-ity", I am taken with the notion of how cool it would be to do something like this with Amazons. Then again, I hardly need to be distracted by new creative ideas.