I’m a sucker for movies about ancient history, but I didn’t like 300. When Gandalf the Gray stands on the bridge and thunders “You shall not… pass!” to the demonic Balrog, there is a profound hint of spiritual warfare (no doubt one lost on the filmmakers). In 300, when King Leonidas urges his warriors at Thermopylae to fight for freedom and reason and an end to mysticism and stuff, it just rings hollow. The king sounds and looks great, albeit like he spent a lot of time at the Gold’s Gym in downtown Sparta. The movie is beautifully and stylishly shot. The problem is that it’s all blood and guts and no heart. It’s not historically accurate, nor does it pretend to be, but there’s nothing very stirring or worthwhile about 300. (What’s the obsession with hideous makeup about anyway? I keep seeing a version of Robert the Bruce’s father from Braveheart in every film like this. You know, the old man with the deformed face and bad teeth, shown in closeup. It’s become, like the plaintive woman’s wail soundtrack, a cliche of the genre.)

I’ll give 300 one thing: it mostly avoided feminist anachronisms, which is an accomplishment of sorts in today’s Hollywood.

By the way, the Persian king Xerxes, portrayed absurdly in 300 as a bald, megalomaniacal goliath, is not known only from Herodotus and Plato, but also Scripture. He was the mercurial king Ahasuerus; his queen was Esther. The reigns of Xerxes and his son Artaxerxes form the backdrop of attempts by the Hebrew exiles to rebuild the temple (cf. the book of Ezra).

Why did the Lord choose this Persian king to be remembered for all time? Only He knows.