STUDIO: A&E Home Video
MSRP: $19.95
RUNNING TIME: 91 Minutes

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The Pitch

"So wait, they didn’t actually slay a giant Cyclops in slow motion?"

The Humans

A slew of experts and able-bodied reenacters.

The Nutshell

300 (Nick’s DVD review) was a surprise success for all those involved, so who better than the History Channel to give us a little perspective on the Battle of Thermopylae, contextualizing the event in a broader historical and social sense while at the same time allowing for an explanation of the battle in exhaustive detail that has no place in a narrative film.

Overshadowed by the more glamorous Achilles’ Heel, many forget its contemporary, Theocritus’ Larynx.

The Lowdown

When I saw Zach Snyder’s 300 in theaters I thought it was a visceral, but ultimately flawed film with questionable politics and beautiful imagery. There’s something to an underdog story, however, especially one with historical and legendary status such as this one, that is completely enthralling to a viewer, and it’s for this reason that I found the History Channel’s handling of this documentary to be so delightful. If you’ve seen the Synder film, you already know the majority of what is going to be broached by the filmmakers here, and what they do is broaden your knowledge of the situation beyond what the narrative film was able to give you. They debunk some myths, expand on situations shown in the film, and then give some extra information not hinted at in the feature, and sum it all up with an examination of the bigger historical and social ramifications of the stand at Thermopylae.

My favorite bit of new information was that regarding the naval Battle of Artemesium that happened simultaneously with the clash at Thermopylae pass, where in the early-going naval officer Themistocles used strategy and luck to overcome the decidedly larger Persian navy. The doc goes into great lengths to describe the battle strategies of all of the warring factions, constantly keeping the viewer abreast of the geography of the battle, demonstrating how the battle unfolded one day at a time. I also appreciated the historical analysis of the situation which displayed how unprecedented the Greek city-states working together towards a common cause was, showing how this battle only emboldened an united Greek front to continue fighting against the Persian empire, eventually turning it away completely. The argument is made that this last stand in a small pass at Thermopylae is responsible for Western Civilization as we know it. Good stuff.

Though a world-renowned expert on Persian history, Professor Thewes was most passionate in describing the ‘divine symmetry’ of Gerard Butler’s nipples.

There are a few little nitpicks to be had with the overall presentation. It didn’t really need to have a similar aesthetic to the movie 300, but I understand the compulsion considering the audience they’re trying to court. Even so, I could’ve done with more still images or things of that ilk for visual reference than the constant recycling of certain imagery. And the constant recaps following the spots where commercial breaks used to be make you feel as thought he film is calling you retarded at a certain point, but are an understandable necessity when displayed on television. Overall, this is a fascinating examination of a moment in history that’s experiencing a renewed interest due to its fictionalization in movie form. Reccommended for fans of 300 looking for a little more info or fans of history in general.

Greece’d Lightning.

The Package

cover art does its closest approximation of the font blood (Hellvetica?
Remember to tip the waitress, folks) that was used for the 300
flick in order to entice viewers, although I think the material is good
enough to be watched even by those unimpressed by Snyder’s film. The
disc looks and sounds good, but there’s nothing in the way of extras.
Not a huge gripe, though, considering this material is the type of
thing that would generally be an extra on other DVD’s and is exhaustive
enough to not need anything extraneous to back it up.

7.0 out of 10