Saturated with stirring speeches, fantastic imagery, and incredible battle sequences, Zack Snyder’s “300” is the very definition of “epic.” Based on Frank Miller’s eponymous graphic novel, the movie follows the warpath of 300 Spartan soldiers led by the main character, King Leonidas. The Spartans set out on a journey to defend their city-state from the massive, though unorganized and unskilled armies of the Persian Empire. The absurdly exaggerated Spartan virility fuels the entire film. This hyper-machismo defines the Spartan ethos, and despite its inapplicability to solving problems in the real world, serves the film well. Upon their arrival at the pass of Thermopylae, the Spartans are pitted against a vast expanse of enemy forces, including everything from giant elephants and rhinoceri to grenade-wielding “magicians.” All of the enemy forces are depicted in slow-motion, CGI-laden sequences. Simultaneously, Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo, attempts to rally diplomatic support for the 300 in the city council. Spurned for her gender, she wages her own battle against belligerent and corrupt officials. Nonetheless, the movie’s primary focus is not the bureaucracy of the Spartan legislature, but the compelling military endeavors of Leonidas. The themes of courage and steadfastness are omnipresent; the Spartan motto “never retreat, never surrender” is raised on multiple occasions, and Leonidas attributes his army’s military strength to its psychological endurance. Although the meagerness of their numbers in comparison to those of the Persian hordes terrifies the Spartans’ Arcadian allies, it leaves the Spartans themselves undeterred. As proposed by Leonidas, the Spartans fight in a narrow corridor where their aptitude with weaponry compensates for their diminutive troop count. Their unwavering formations of shields and spears and machine-like precision as a group seem to reflect their impersonal nature; at times they seem more like killing machines than people. While not the most emotionally sympathetic of characters, the Spartans do command attention and are undeniably the film’s protagonists. True to its comic-book heritage, the film is visually rich: every sequence boasts spectacular scenery, and the movie is dominated by sharp color contrasts. Dozens of stunning slow-motion sequences define the battle scenes, and although many of the visual effects are apparent as computer simulations, this slight and edgy lack of realism complements the film’s fantastic nature. Snyder does an excellent job of presenting epic speeches and charges, and manages to retain interest throughout 90 minutes of battle sequences nearly devoid of plot development. The fight scenes are depicted through a very graphic-novel lens. The countless montages of one Spartan decimating ten opponents at once, the fearsome trolls and ten-story-tall piles of human corpses are all far from credible, and undoubtedly conflict with historical details of the actual Battle of Thermopylae, but the special effects effectively suspend disbelief. Almost every sequence includes stray flecks of blood floating across the camera lens, and the film is full of similar graphic stylization and exaggeration. The Persian forces are portrayed as unimaginably large. The slave armies cover an entire coast with their tents, and the overhead shots of the assembled armies are awe-inspiring. “300” represents the ultimate extension of the skill versus numbers conflict that has defined dramatic renditions of war from “Henry V” to “Star Wars” to “The Lord of the Rings.” Even the fabled battle scene that concludes Peter Jackson’s “The Return of the King” pales in comparison to the sheer magnitude of the clashes in “300.” “300” does not, admittedly, sport any characters as sympathetic as Frodo or Prince Hal or Luke Skywalker; almost all of the Spartans could in fact be the same person. There is no character development, and no time for personal growth between battle charges and sword swinging. This is not, however, a failure to execute a vision, but seemingly a directorial decision to focus on little other than fighting. Ultimately, “300” is exactly what it promised to be. Both gritty and glorious, it is interested in nothing other than a visual fantasy of battle removed from any considerations of moral reason or human suffering, and it presents this fantasy superbly, with Spartan valor. Those expecting a profound insight into human nature should look elsewhere, but for those who enjoy a good epic battle movie, this is the perfect film.