I also recently saw a very will done History channel special on The Battle of Thermopylae which kinda ruined things for me. Little historical details that were changed for the movie were painfully apparent and of course, bothersome (ed. note - if you're planning on seeing "300" see the movie before you read up on the history). However, I must point out that the movie and by extension the graphic novel are actually very true to history (despite a handful of exaggerations), unlike most of the other films in this genre (Alexander, anyone?)
Anyway, one of the other things that kind of ruined the movie for me was the amount of controversy that's been brewing around it since its' release. After hearing so much about it, I couldn't help but focus on it, rather than just sit back and enjoy the movie.
If you haven't heard what all the hubub is about, here's a recap:
First up, "300" outrages the entire nation of Iran (scroll down to the bottom), which purports that the movie is a "'deliberate distortion' of ancient Persia... part of Western efforts to demonize Iran."
And then, Savage Love Warning Adult Language (scroll down to the bottom) - Dan Savage rips "300" a new one for being homophobic, xenophobic and some kind of pro-war allegory.
Having seen the movie, I think both the entire nation of Iran and Dan Savage are way off.
Let me preface my opinion by saying that film interpretation is always subjective. In my view of the film, I did not consider it to be an allegory of the United States' war on Islamic terrorists. In fact, quite the opposite.
*SPOILERS BE HERE*
The Spartans were basically facists. They talk a lot about freedom but so do most facists (and conservative republicans). Freedom is also extremely subjective so don't let that fool you into thinking the Spartans are meant to represent or evoke feelings of sympathy from Americans. Spartans weren't free. They didn't have the freedoms that most United States citizens take for granted.
In fact, of the two groups in this film, the Persians best represent the United States. A vast empire that stretches its' influence across half the globe and counts multitudes of people among its ranks including those of different religions, races, and even crazy beastie freak people. America is a melting pot of religions, races and we definitely have our fair share of what Isalmic fundamentalists would consider beastie freak people.
The Spartans don't accept dissent, they are defiant to outside influence, determined for self preservation and devout in their beliefs. These same descriptors could also be used to describe most Islamic fundamentalists (like the Taliban or Al Qaeda).
In real life (but not in the film), the Persians hoped to conquer Greece, but not to burn it. They simply wanted Greece to bow before Persia's might. Sparta's resources would go to Xerxes and Persia, but the Spartans themselves would be left unharmed so long as they followed the rules set out by the Persians. (Sounds kind of like The United States, moving into the Middle East, not 'conquering' but simply changing the order of things and taking resources for their own in the meantime). However, this is true of many of the lands that were "conquered" by Persia and would have been true of Greece if not for the revolt at Marathon.
The Spartans viewed this as a blasphemous act of aggression. They feel that the Persians will certainly enslave the citizens of Sparta. Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East have similar views of Americans. Of course, after the revolt at Marathon, Xerxes vowed revenge and the film reflects more of the destructive desires that Xerxes harbored for Greece. As Dan Savage points out: "The Persian army is an armed gay pride parade, a threat to all things decent and, er, Greek." He's 100% right, but the United States is the gay pride parade in this allegory.
Ultimately, I have a feeling the movie ended the way the conflict in Iraq will eventually end. The United States with its seemingly infinite resources will eventually overwhelm their enemy, but not before they give our god complex a bloody mouth.
Make no mistake, I'm not defending "300" and trying to say that it was an excellent film with a subversive political commentary. The movie is what it is, and as far as quality goes, it was decent with neat, stylistic action. However, I feel that people are unfairly prescribing an agenda to the movie that isn't there unless they want it to be there. "300" isn't homophobic unless you want it to be homophobic. It isn't pro-war unless you want it to be pro-war. I went to the theater and had a vastly different experience than pretty much everyone else.
Also, I don't care what anyone says, I thought Xerxes was bad-ass. If you want a drag-queen villian watch Stargate and compare.