Taking its cue from Frank Miller’s comic-book version of Greek history rather than the 1962 vintage swords-and-sandals epic ‘The 300 Spartans’, the latest Hollywood take on the heroics of Thermopylae brings us Gerard Butler’s hammy Scots-accented Spartan king Leonidas in an all-encompassing wash of computer-tooled blood-letting. In principle, it’s a great tale of derring-do, as vastly out-numbered Spartan warriors defend a mountain pass against the mighty Persian army, but Zack Snyder’s movie in no way does justice to it. What should be a thrilling saga of triumph over the odds becomes a yawn-inducing cavalcade of carnage as wave after wave – after wave, after wave – of the enemy lines up to be slashed, gashed, chopped, spiked, speared and generally mushed. Ho bloody hum.
Any ideological connotations to the fact we’re supposed to be cheering on the white guys as they scythe their way through turban-wearing Persian hordes? Hard to credit the picture with that much relevance, though it’ll doubtless be huge in US Army camps. And speaking of camp… Since it’s positively tumescent with macho posturing and somewhat bereft of humour, the film’s an absolute riot of ambiguous sexual signage. The buffed-up Spartans, for instance, go into battle wearing leather posing-pouches and little else, as they try to lure their foes into a narrow passage called the ‘Gates of Hell’, while Rodrigo Santoro’s Persian leader Xerxes delivers a queeny strop-fest pitched somewhere between RuPaul and Ming the Merciless. It might have been one of the great all-time mad, bad movies but for one thing – it’s just sooo boring.