Dulce et decorum est, the movie. A bunch of Spartans swear they’d rather die than surrender or retreat, and then they do just that. Like Sin City, the images of 300 have been heavily post-processed to closer resemble Frank Miller’s comic book, and when there isn’t a slow-motion battle going on, the camera lingers over tableaux of warriors on a mountainside, trees hung with corpses, a fleet tossed about in inclement weather, and sweaty nymphs doing double-duty as corrupt oracles.

It’s all about as exciting as a half hour of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, without the rest of The Lord of the Rings to support, y’know, the characters. Instead, there are lots of speeches, about how freedom isn’t free, about how the only glorious death for a soldier is on the battlefield, and about how, yes, Spartans never surrender. Which is too bad, because Sparta is under attack by the Persians, led by debauched and sexually ambiguous Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro.) In waves resembling nothing so much as the levels of a video game, the good Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) has to fight the turban-wearing villains while he is being stabbed in the back by treacherous politicians who refuse to support the troops and send reinforcements.

I saw 300 on an IMAX screen, and I’m still wobbly from the intense overdose of machismo and stupidity. The best thing I can say for the movie is that it steals liberally from John Boorman’s Excalibur. It looks interesting enough, but so does Triumph of the Will. In the world of 300, there is no room for art, negotiation, or weakness; there is only room for the strong. At the screening, outright murder brought great applause, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to find an Army recruiting station outside the theater. Huah!

300. Zack Snyder, 2006. *