Frank Miller??™s Movie: Fact or Fiction
Survey of World Civilization I
November 8, 2010
When a person decides to create a movie that is based on a historical event, he or she should try to stay as accurate to the story??™s history as humanly possible. It seems that some movie makers can accomplish this feat while others are highly unsuccessful. Then there is the occasional movie based on history that walks a thin line in which accuracy is mixed with stretching the truth and major errors. This is one opinion on Frank Miller??™s movie, ???300???. This movie is based on the battle between the Spartans and Persians at the pass to Thermopylae. This movie was accurate as well as inaccurate. Even though some of the physical characteristics, battle attire, and actual battle elements depicted in Miller??™s ???300??? are accurate to history, the way some of these things are portrayed are painstakingly false.
Some of the inaccuracies in this movie are due to the physical appearance of some characters. The Spartans looked like physically powerful men ready for battle. This is very believable since Spartan boys were sent away at age seven to train extensively for combat.1 The Ephors did preside over the council of elders pertaining to matters such as taxes and the military training of young men, but they were not inbred men as they are shown in the movie.1 The humpback man who betrayed the Spartans by revealing the passage behind them was Ephialtes. However, he was not disfigured and humpback like it showed in the movie.1 The physical appearance of the Persian leader shows the most inaccuracy. The Persian leader, Xerxes, is shown as a deliberately oversized drama queen. He is wearing a gold pair of thong-like underwear along with a cape and boots. He has chains hanging all over his face, chest, and body along with numerous piercings on his face, nose, and ears. He has absolutely no hair on his face and is bald. He seems to be wearing some heavy makeup too. In reality, Xerxes looked nothing like how he was characterized in the movie. He would have been an average height with a long thick beard and long flowing royal garments. An article by The World Time News Report states, ???Their king, Xerxes, was bearded and sat on a throne high above the battle; he wasnt, as in the movie, bald and sexually ambiguous, and he didnt prance around the killing field.???1 This is definitely a departure from how he was shown in the movie.
The movie has the Spartans fighting with almost no clothing on. They only have knee length boots, underwear, and a cape. The real Spartan fighters would have been dressed in thick bronze armor from head to toe. They more than likely would have taken off their capes before fighting. In an interview with Steve Daly, Miller said, “I took those chest plates and leather skirts off of them for a reason. I wanted these guys to move and I wanted em to look good. I knocked their helmets off a fair amount, partly so you can recognize who the characters are???.2 There is also a discrepancy with the plumes on the head gear. Miller also addressed this by saying, ?????¦they all had plumes, but I only gave a plume to Leonidas, to make him stand out and identify him as a king.???3 The weapons and armor of the Spartans were more accurate than the clothing used. The way the Persian fighters look was also inaccurate. They are wearing evil Ninja masks with rags covering their heads. The real immortals did not look like this. Historical philosopher Ahreeman X says, ???Now here are a group of Real Immortals. As you can see, they do not wear Ninja uniforms, Scary Japanese masks, white or black rags on their heads and they do not have fangs! They wear purple uniforms (official immortal color) and gold head coverings to protect them from desert sandstorms???.4 Many Persians are shown as being hideous and beast-like. This aspect is simply a departure from reality.
Although the movie accurately states that the Spartans numbered only 300, they also had as many as 7,000 volunteers from other parts of Greece. This is something in the movie that is not really mentioned. Eugene N. Borza states in his article ?????¦it is ludicrous to suggest that a great Spartan general like Leonidas would believe that 300 men could thwart the advance of tens–perhaps hundreds–of thousands of Asian troops. The battle itself was not fought exclusively by the 300 Spartans.???5 This statement also shows that the number of Persians fighters was also exaggerated. It was much smaller than a million. The number used in the movie was used strictly for a more dramatic effect. That being said, 300 Spartans did stand up against Xerxes massive Persian Army in the last day because the pass was compromised. This is a remarkable achievement for the Spartans. The Spartans that fought alone probably did not last very long. The Spartans did manage to make to fend off the Persians longer than expected. This allowed them to inflict a considerable amount of casualties on the Persians before they were totally wiped out.
As far as the actual battle in the movie, there were some outrageous inaccuracies. Some things were so outrageous that they bordered more on a fantasy movie than a historical movie. A rhino, some elephants, and even a giant beast like man are sent to defeat the Spartans. The movie shows a giant rhinoceros that charges toward the Spartan army. So throws a single spear at the monster and hits it in the head. As the camera takes an angle behind him, the rhino falls and slides to his feet. After the Persians sent a giant rhino, they sent some enormous elephants that end up falling off the cliffs. When these things fail, a colossal sized man with a hump in his chest, fang-like teeth, and beastly looks it let off of several chains being held by the Persians to fight the Spartans. An article by Barbarossa on the online history community states, ???The movie deviates from actual history when it puts cavalry, giants, rhinos, and elephants all attacking the Spartans.???6 These outlandish tactics end as failed attempts by the Persians to take control of the battle. Unfortunately, these very scenes are a big reason for discrediting the accuracy of the movie.
The movie should still receive a little respect for getting some things right. After all, it was a movie made for entertainment purposes and not an academic history book. In the end, it really does not matter how accurate this movie was. Miller??™s goal as a vivid writer and a film-maker is not intended to be realistic, but a stylistic depiction of events to stir up an emotional response in movie goers. We should appreciate his movie as a work of art, not a historic retelling of the battle at Thermopylae. If someone wants to make a strictly accurate movie based on a historical event with no added extras, I will show you a movie that flops at the box office.
1. Staff, “The Movie, 300, Historically Accurate” World Time News Report. March 26, 2007. http://www.tnrradio.com/story.phpstory=153
2. Steve Daly, ???The Q&A Millers Tales.??? Entertainment Weekly Online. March 13, 2007. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20014175,00.html
3. Steve Daly, ???The Q&A Millers Tales.??? Entertainment Weekly Online. March 13, 2007. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20014175,00.html
4. Ahreeman X, ???300 Spartans, The Real Story! A Historically Accurate Review on 300, The Movie (2007).??? March 9, 2007. http://iranpoliticsclub.net/history/300/
5. Eugene N. Borza, ???Spartans Overwhelmed at Thermopylae, Again.??? Archaeology Institute of America March 22, 2007 http://www.archaeology.org/online/reviews/300.html
6. Emperor Barbarossa, ???300.??? All Empires Online History Community. March 20, 2007. http://www.allempires.com/article/index.phpq=300
Barbarossa, Emperor. ???300.??? All Empires Online History Community. March 20, 2007. http://www.allempires.com/article/index.phpq=300
Borza, Eugene N. ???Spartans Overwhelmed at Thermopylae, Again.??? Archaeology Institute of America March 22, 2007 http://www.archaeology.org/online/reviews/300.html
Daly, Steve. ???The Q&A Millers Tales.??? Entertainment Weekly Online. March 13, 2007. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20014175,00.html
Staff. “The Movie, 300, Historically Accurate” World Time News Report. March 26, 2007. http://www.tnrradio.com/story.phpstory=153
X, Ahreeman. ???300 Spartans, The Real Story! A Historically Accurate Review on 300, The Movie (2007).??? March 9, 2007. http://iranpoliticsclub.net/history/300/