Zack Snyder

BY James KeastPublished Jul 30, 2007

In adapting the story of 300 Spartan warriors who hold off the greatest Persian armies in a three-day clash that changes Greek history, director Zach Snyder has to choose his battles wisely, as it were: to hue as closely as possible to the historical record of Herodotus or to follow a more contemporary storyteller: artist Frank Miller (Sin City). Snyder’s fealty, in the end, is with the Book of Frank but luckily for those who’d pick apart his vision of the Battle of Thermopylae, Miller did his research. 300 isn’t the first telling of King Leonidas (Gerald Butler) and his royal guard, who fought at Greece’s "hot gates” against a thousands-strong invasion but it is the most graphically stylised. It’s, at times, so over-the-top as to be laughable, but Snyder nevertheless taps into a primal instinct at the core of male viewers; if we were to be fighters, we’d be Spartans (we fantasise as couch-bound comics readers) — if we were to die with honour on the battlefield it would be against insurmountable odds, against a seven-foot god king like Xerxes. You know, if we had to. This fairly stacked two-disc DVD (kudos on not hoarding the extras the first time out) balances Snyder’s challenges: history and Miller, accuracy and style, waxed chest and leather loincloth versus research. History comes out surprisingly well, according to a couple of professors, but it is Frank Miller who’s hailed as essentially a god. Fair enough — without his "spiritual” retelling, we’d be left with only a dry interpretation of these most remarkable true events, with nary a buff, glistening, waxed chest to help bring history alive. Extras cover the real Spartan life, the actors’ training, deleted scenes, creating the film, webisodes and a Snyder commentary.

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