Fields of wheat. According to modern film, the topography of Greece was major cities and wheat. If you weren’t in Rome, you were in wheat. Think of “Gladiator,” where even Heaven had wheat in it.
In “300,” a film about the 300 men that held off the Persian army in Greece, it’s made very clear that this isn’t Rome — this is Sparta.
In Sparta, things are much prettier. Every man has the body of a God and every woman is a size zero, and boy does a city comprised of perfect humans like this make for some gorgeous, almost pornographic, filmmaking. Almost every shot is an artistic palette, set-up specifically for stylistic reasons over any serious logic of how people actually stand around.
This is especially easy to notice in Sparta, since most of Spartan life is in slow motion. In fact, if any actions involve quick movement or killing, you can bet it is slowed down.
In the areas of killing this works wonders, especially since director Zack Snyder focuses on one or two fighters but still allows the battle to unfold in the background. As the camera follows King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) slashing his way through soldiers, his men appear in the background, running spears through people's bodies or chopping off limbs — a lot of limbs. Sparta is also a very bloody place.
Sparta, by the way, is completely digital. Beautifully, beautifully digital. Colors are dulled to those dulcet tans and browns that dominated ancient Greece and reds (capes and blood) pop. Cameras pan and track in ways not possible in actual locations and men move and organize in ways only a digital world could allow them. Sparta looks cool, and looking cool makes the movie.
Although, in Sparta, life is a lot simpler than in Rome, as political intrigue is simplified into making a moving speech in front of grumpy old men and killing turns out to be the right choice 101 percent of the time. Graphic comic creator Frank Miller and Snyder have crafted a plot that — especially when it veers away from the battle — is blatantly lacking.
In Sparta, and this goes hand in hand with over simplification, all Persians are freaks. It’s so much simpler to tell the bad guys from the good guys when the good guys are ruggedly handsome and chiseled men who fight for freedom and honor and the bad guys are either deformed, wear masks or black.
Gerard Butler shouts his way through King Leonidas, which actually works well for a Spartan King while Dominic West is sufficiently creepy as the unneeded political traitor to the Spartans. David Wenham (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy) dons the cap of narrator, speaking in an awkward British accent that takes a while to get use to. But the most important thing is that all of these Spartans look good — real good — and looking good makes this movie good.
That, and the wheat. This might be Sparta, but it’s still Greece.