So it turns out that watching historical fiction films when you don't know anything about the actual history and you have the TV on mute can be very confusing. I was going to write a review of last night's movie, 300, but then I realized that not only was the volume mainly off but that I had only caught certain scenes in the background, so in lieu of my usual reviews, here's a synopsis instead. Warning: this may or may not contain spoilers, depending on how accurate my interpretation of things is (which, in all likelihood, is not very).
If the Battle of Thermopylae is anything like what 300 director Zach Snyder tells me it was, it involved some really buff men slathered in body oil wearing Speedos and red capes fighting millions of assumedly equally buff but more covered men led by an extremely hairless dude wearing way too many necklaces.
The first scene I caught involved some kid (turns out this is a young Leonidas, who will spend the next few years of his life developing copious muscle mass) fighting a wolf, who looked pretty mean but I couldn't actually determine what the wolf had ever done [to Leonidas] to warrant such a fight. I'm not sure how this battle turned out, but I'd venture a guess that the wolf lost, or else the kid wouldn't have gone on to become Gerard Butler and save the President or anything.
The next time I switched back to the movie, some Persians - men, not cats - arrive in Sparta and say something (the TV was still on mute at this point) that pisses off the Spartans so these guys get thrown into a seemingly bottomless well, which is conveniently located in the middle of their town square.
I'm not sure from where this well appeared, perhaps it was the result of a meteorite crash eons ago and the Spartans just built their village around it. Or perhaps they dug it themselves, which I suppose is a more plausible explanation, and would also explain why all these men are so damn ripped, since they just dug the world's deepest hole.
A bunch of plot development must have unfolded, but I missed all of it, and next thing I knew, everyone was fighting. The Spartans get attacked [by the Persians] and about a billion arrows rain down on them but somehow they still get up, even though it shows the arrows pinning their capes to the ground. I guess they never watched The Incredibles, or else they would have foregone the capes, although I suppose their necks and backs must get chilly since they're wearing nothing but underwear the entire time, even when it's snowing (I'm pretty sure there was a scene with snow at some point). Maybe coats of body oil are more insulating than one would think.
Next, the leader of the Persian army, King Xerxes, who clearly did not take Coco Chanel's “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory” advice to heart, shows up on a ridiculous man-carried stage, and looks really pissed. Granted, I'd be upset too, if I went to get my ear pierced and instead they pierced my right cheek. Leonidas isn't having any of it.
A triceratops soon shows up, but it's actually just a rhinoceros who's been accessorized by Xerxes, but sadly, he doesn't make it very far. Then a bunch of elephants stomp on over, but they too meet an unfortunate end, which was quite possibly the hardest part of the film to watch.
Now we have Ephialtes, who missed the Let's Go to The Gym / Dig a Really Big Hole memo, and he's quite bitter because a physical birth deformity - and, presumably, his lack of a 12-pack - has prevented him from being chosen as a Spartan soldier, so he instead goes to hang out with ole King X and his ladies, some of whom were apparently shipped over from the nearby Lesbos.
During a battle, one Spartan with lots of hair is really upset when his son is brutally murdered right in front of him, which is understandably traumatic and all, but he probably shouldn't have been all that surprised. The good news for the Spartans, however, is that now this father is even more motivated to fight and basically single-handedly kills the remaining Persians in that scene.
The Queen of Sparta gives a speech and some angry dude yells at her and falsely accuses her of sleeping around, but then he's killed and we learn that he's betrayed the Spartans when a bunch of coins fall out of his robe (I guess they do have clothes in Sparta after all) that have an emblem of Xerxes' head on them. This itself is surprising, since it's a wonder that any metal exists in all of Persia that Xerxes isn't wearing.
Finally, we see that the moral of this story is "No Matter Many Crunches and Planks You Do, Don't Be Mean to Others Cause It'll Bite You in the Ass" when the scorned Ephialtes leads the Persian army to the Spartans via a secret overpass path. To make a long story short, Xerxes loses his cheek piercings and all the Spartans are killed.