March 16, 2014

Movie Review: 300 - Rise of an Empire

Seven years ago Zack Snyder brought Frank Miller's graphic novel, 300, to the big screen dripping int style and intensity. It was a movie that shows how myths and legends begin, how war stories can be turned into propaganda and blown up into gigantic proportions. It was a massive, testosterone driven tale of macho posturing, fighting, with the purpose of defending a way of life, sticking without you believe in and opposing tyranny. It was also a silly slice of overwrought fighting on a digital back lot. Now we are faced with a sort of sequel/prequel hybrid that tells of what was going on in the rest of Greece as Xerxes was marching his men on Greece.

300: Rise of an Empire tells the story of Theomistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he attempts to unite Greece and repel the oncoming naval advances of Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) Navy, led by Artemesia (Eva Green). Frankly, there is really not all that much to it. It's goal seems to be to recapture what made 300 work so well, however, it seems to have turned the macho posturing and myth building into overwrought melodrama on a digital back lot. It is sillier than 300 was, less focused, more nonsensical, but still a bit of fun.

This is not a movie that strives for any type of historical accuracy, it is all about the posturing, the blood shed and the hyper-stylized fighting. It falls a little on the posturing front as Sullivan Stapleton does not have nearly the line spitting, scene chewing, charismatic screen presence that Gerard Butler had. What it does have is a ton of sword swinging action. If all you want is stylized action, this delivers in spades.

The further in the movie got, the more I realized I did not care about any intricacies of the plot. It is not that there was much of that anyway, but I just did not care about the story, I was just there for action. There was a performance that was fun, Eva Green's Artemesia almost makes up for the lack of a Butler-styled Leonidas. She is a nasty, mean, and determined character, and she is even a touch sympathetic. It is interesting sto see how shy is sympathetic but how those parts are pushed to the back of what she allows people to see. She is also involved in one of the angriest sex scenes I have seen in a theater.

300: Rise of an Empire continues that digitally processed look of the first film with its very similar look and feel. It also throws the most pixels at digital blood I have ever seen. Plus, it is all black. There is digital blood thrown all over the place, if only it was actually there on the set, that would have been fun. It is a shame that it is all black blood, for all the talk of red blood in the water and the like in the dialogue, it would have been nice to show that. I can only guess that it was a concession for rating. Sure, it is an unrealistic looking movie, but red blood adds some real world back in, dampen that and you can retain the fantasy. I could be wrong and black was always what they wanted, but I would have liked to see the red spatter around a bit.

This is not a movie I feel the need to spend a lot of time with. It is one of those movies that does not disguise its purpose and you should be readily be able to gauge your own level of interest. A friend described it, based on the trailer, as a movie of fast food quality. That is pretty accurate assessment. It is fun, but ultimately hollow. Sure, that can be leveled at its predecessor as well, but that movie was much more focused on the posturing and the myth building, this one not so much. It has some good moments and an overall entertaining feel, but you will be left wanting shortly after it is over.

Mildly Recommended.

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