Hollywood has recently released a popular film that, once again, reveals much about the film industry. While Hollywood is not monolithic institution – the same entity is capable of producing some noteworthy works from time to time – it is still composed of conglomerates occupied by a large number of artistically ignorant executives, careerist filmmakers and actors concerned only with profit and careers. Typically, the "blockbuster" film brings out the worst of the film establishment. These movies often operate on a visceral level and whether the creators do so consciously or not, endorse the status quo by upholding the establishment's outlook on society. The film reviewed here is an example of this.

300 is an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae between 300 Spartan warriors and one million soldiers of the Persian Empire. The film opens with narration that explains the Spartan lifestyle, which includes merciless training of male children and discarding deformed and diseased babies who would be unfit for combat. The story moves forward to King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his encounter with Persian messengers, who demand that Sparta submit to King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) or face extinction. Leonidas refuses and enlists his best 300 men to fight the impending invasion. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Spartans are able to hold the Persians off. Meanwhile, Leonidas's wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) tries to convince the Spartan council, reluctant for an all-out war with Persia, to send reinforcements to Leonidas. One councilman, Theron (Dominic West) agrees to do so, but coerces the queen into providing a sexual favor. Back on the battlefield, a disgruntled Spartan hunchback named Ephialtes, whom Leondias rejects because of his deformity, defects to the Persians, threatening the Spartans' resistance.

Much has been made about the visual elements of this box office hit. Director Zack Snyder reportedly adapted his shots, frame by frame, from Miller's graphic novel. It is never explained how this is significant. Nor is it explained how the artificial studio product, shot mostly in front of blue screens, is a step forward, as many establishment critics claim. But what are we to make of the slow motion shots of stabbings, decapitations, and all possible forms of bloodletting? Moralists may decry the on-screen violence, but this hardly registers as anything groundbreaking or "pushing the envelope" of film violence. What is presented here is militarist violence in all its glory. The film revels in the Spartan warrior mentality, its preoccupation with war over culture, its rather clichéd nobility of sacrifice, and submission to a military code.

300 has been taken to task for historical inaccuracies and racist, homophobic depictions of the Persian horde. California State-Fullerton historian Touraj Daryaee calls the Spartan society a military monarchy, far from being a free society. The Persian villains are mostly from African and Middle East origins, if they're not mythically, monstrous fabrications. The king, Xerxes, is a menacingly androgynous figure, compared to the ridiculously masculine heroes of Sparta (characterized by CGI embellished torsos). Some will argue that the Spartans were in resistance to an imperialistic force. This doesn't seem apparent since there is no genuine protest of such authoritarianism itself. Instead, there is an odious air of nationalism about this film in its loving ode to the Spartan defense of its militarist way of life against an "uncivilized" invading force. The director, Zack Snyder, known previously for his Dawn of the Dead remake, certainly has a visual flair. The Dead remake has its moments of tension and the benefit of a better cast. The performances of 300 are one-note, however. The constant barking of Leondias should hardly constitute a memorable, charismatic character for the more discerning viewer.

300 is the second adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel. The first was Sin City, another sensationalist fantasy that calls attention to itself, as well as its quasi-fascistic view of lower dregs of society. Snyder himself responds to the criticisms, in an interview with an online comic book website, by claiming that anyone who critiques "a graphic novel movie about a bunch of guys stomping the snot out of each other using words like ‘neocon,' ‘homophobic,' or ‘racist' are missing the point." Whether or not Snyder actually believes what he portrays, this is the usual, empty-headed reaction from an assembly-line filmmaker interested in his own career rather than the implications of his film.

To put this in proper perspective, one glowing review comes from the right-wing National Review, which hails 300 as "real all-American stuff," that portrays the heroes who fight "for God and country." No doubt this film appeals to a significant sector of a politically disoriented population, but this pretty much sums up the type this film would truly appeal to.