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Case Number 11640: Small Claims Court

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Last Stand Of The 300

History Channel // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 5th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson returned on his shield.

Editor's Note

Our review of Last Stand of the 300 and other famous Greek battles, published March 15th, 2014, is also available.

The Charge

THIS…IS…THE…HISTORY CHANNEL!!!!WHERE…THE…PAST…COMES…ALIVE!!!

The Case

Fresh off the mad coin Zack Snyder and his CGI min-epic sucked down, The History Channel unsheathes its own stylized retelling of the Spartan stand against the Persian army at the gates of Thermopylae. Utilizing its own brand of computer animation—and even traces of an industrial metal soundtrack—The History Channel has recreated the Persian invasion of the Greek homeland, and spread its focus not just on the famous stand at the Hot Gates, but also on the pivotal naval battles.

Full disclosure: I'm a sucker for this particular slice of Western Civ history. Leonidas and the Greek resistance to the overwhelming Persian force is fascinating stuff, and yeah before you get all "What about the helots, pal?" I won't claim that the Spartan warrior cult was the be-all and end-all of how we should live our lives. But you have to admit, if the Greeks were trampled, the Western world that we know would have been on a serious delay at the very least. Anywho, I'm down with Leonidas and his bad-ass mofos and 300 rocked me like a hurricane and Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire was pretty awesome too, so I was looking forward to this release.

The result is a mixed bag. Let's pit the pros and cons against each other, and see who emerges victorious. (Just to preserve the mood, imagine a sweeping action score, perhaps from Gladiator or Braveheart and scream the rest of the review at your monitor.)

Pros

The Learning
You have to come out with big guns first, and for The History Channel, their main weapon is the sheer education of it all. Whatever production values accompany, you can at least count on the folks behind the scenes putting their library card to good use and squeezing out more info than you can shake a hoplite pike at. Tactics, weapons, famous names, geography, details on soldier formations, even the layouts of the Greek and Persian warships are all present and accounted for.

The Context
As I alluded to, the program hits up the whole breadth of conflict, setting the table with some background information on the relationship between Persia and Greece, talking about the battle at Marathon, the motivations of Xerxes and the activity beyond the Spartan stand at the Hot Gates. Grounding this pivotal face-off and expanding the focus does much to drive home the practical impact Thermopylae had on the burgeoning Western world.

A Couple of the Historians
As with most of the history documentaries, the producers have culled together some experts to chime in with their two cents. Headlined by Steven Pressfield, there are some highlights and they offer a few interesting notes.

Cons

A Couple of the Historians
I'm not going to mention names, but a few of these guys didn't add much to the discussion, proclaiming such penetrating observations like how it would not be good to be totally surrounded and one just may get oneself killed if that happened. Thanks!

The Obvious Aping of 300
Look, it's no big deal to capitalize on such a runaway smash hit, but The History Channel just doesn't have the budget to compete with a $60 million Hollywood spectacle. The producers went after the same kind of CGI look, but constraints on what they were able to accomplish make the visuals looks more corny that cool.

The Actors
These guys give it the old college try, but instead of coming across as Spartan killing machines, they look like weekend roleplaying warriors.

Who is the victor? It's close, but I'd still recommend this feature for fans of the period and the story behind the film. Where it lacks in production, it excels in imparting wisdom, and, really, isn't that all we should ask?

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
•  2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Documentary
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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