Friday, 28 March 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (J.A.)

What else did you expect? 
Discussing either 300 or its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire in standard terminology is sort of a lost cause. After all, you do see these films for their detailed, meaningful plot, or for troubled characters at war with their own hearts and souls. Instead, you watch them for their rather unique visual style, stupid costumes and other such matters that create something of a little ode to the joys of CGI blood and homoerotic violence. Yet, even under these terms, the question must still be asked: is it any good?

 Rise of an Empire tries to differentiate itself from its predecessor in two keys ways. Firstly, it is both prequel and sequel, providing back-story for the Persian emperor Xerxes and then detailing events that take place both simultaneously and after the original. That scores points for being a novel form of sequelizing, but proves problematic. Such a format relies upon a good memory of the original to try to fill in the blanks, and therefore feels far too self-referential and aggrandising as a result. The other major difference is that it follows the Athenians, at a bizarre and utterly historically inaccurate (what else did you expect) recreation of the naval battle of Salamis. So in other words, its 300 at sea; a concept that in fairness works pretty well, as it enables new and exciting combat possibilities for the imaginative spraying of blood. The designs and such are more than suitably imaginative and monstrous, to make it feel suitably stupid and silly so that it should never be approached with anything approaching cognitive reasoning.What else did you expect?

The film also boasts an improved villain in the form of Eva Green’s Artemisia who easily steals the show as the vengeful and strangely perverse admiral of the Persian fleet. She is a joy to watch, with a gloriously over the top contempt for everyone and everything, that proves to be highly entertaining and fitting for this kind of B movie. It is just a shame the film's hero and Gerard Butler-replacement Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is somewhat boring by comparison, and then there is that particularly uncomfortable, unnecessary and frankly rather disturbing sex scene. Then again, one has to repeat that little mantra: it is a 300 movie, what did you expect? 

In the end though, that is the trouble: the original transcended its flaws by being brilliantly ridiculous, bloody, and novel, and appealed to the connoisseurs tired of the somewhat tedious trend for action films to shy away from stupendous violence. But Rise of an Empire, despite being essentially more of the same only this time set at sea, struggles to pace itself, and towards the end and the inevitable gore soaked conclusion, it’s hard not to feel increasingly apathetic at the macho banter and blood spilling. Yes, it is a 300 flick, but, strange yelling about freedom aside, you kind of actually wish it had a heart - and no, we are talking about one ripped out during an action sequence, though that might be kind of cool.  

James Absolon 


No comments:

Post a Comment