It was always my plan to review all 3 of the notable 300 Spartans films at the appropriate milestones (at 300, 600, and 900 reviews). At long last, I have reached my 900th review which brings me to ‘The 300 Spartans’ which was released all the way back in 1962, about 44 years before Snyder debuted ‘300’. And while ‘The 300 Spartans’ isn’t quite as cinematic and masterful as Snyder’s work, it is still a great film.
Compared to Snyder’s work, ‘The 300 Spartans’ is far less fantastical and much more historically based. Conceptually, I think that the idea of the 300 Spartans resonates with a lot of people: vastly outnumbered, these 300 Spartans stand up against tyranny and fight for freedom even if it means death. They stand for Greece so that, while the Spartans may lose this battle, Greece will eventually win the war. This idea is represented quite well in ‘The 300 Spartans’ as the Spartans are portrayed as courageous men with an unbreakable fighting spirit.
The action is a bit lousy compared to Snyder’s more comic-book-oriented approach, but ‘The 300 Spartans’ also does a decent job in portraying the Spartan soldiers as being superior in tactics and fighting than their enemies. The sound design is kept to a minimum throughout most of the film as the sounds of clashing swords and grunting soldiers is prioritized over something like an obnoxious score as is often the case with a lot of modern action films. As far as the cinematography is concerned, it is nothing spectacular. Things are shot as is, in a plain and simple way. If anything, the cinematography sometimes feels like it is limiting the scope of the battle at hand, but perhaps they just didn’t have a lot of extras to work with and so the shots had to be kept smaller than desired.
Throughout this review, I have drawn comparisons between ‘The 300 Spartans’ and ‘300’. Obviously, both are ultimately adaptations of the same historical event. However, ‘The 300 Spartans’ should be taken on its own terms. It was easy for me to draw comparisons to Snyder’s work because it made it easier for me to criticize the short-comings of ‘The 300 Spartans’. But ‘The 300 Spartans’ isn’t trying to be a fantastic action film. It is trying to be a historical film with a powerful message and I think that it ultimately achieves that goal.
‘The 300 Spartans’ is great.