Sunday, 16 March 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (ST)

It's all Greek to me

When thirteen year old boys are let loose on a film script the result looks something like this. 300: Rise of an Empire packs a whole lot of blood, biceps and boobies into its 102 minutes. While some elements are worth the exhibition, others should have been left to the lost realms of history – or the writers' juvenile minds.

Taking place at roughly the same time as King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans’ heroic last stand, Rise of an Empire records the Athenian naval campaign against the Persian invasion fleet. Leading his group of shirtless seamen across the Aegean Sea, Greek idealist Thermistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) hopes to unite the Hellenic city-states in order to destroy their eastern enemies once and for all. Commanding King Xerxes’ ships is the cut-throat femme fatale, Artemesia (Eva Green).
Beware Greeks bearing gifts. Or rather, beware Zack Synder’s adoration for graphic novels. Watchmen and 300 were both disappointing but his latest writing effort, directed by Noam Murro, is only a slight improvement.
Although visually unique (especially in 3D), this new computerised swords-and-sandals offering is a sloppy homoerotic mess. Like Centurion, a group of scantily clad lads are having fun until a vampish woman – clearly suffering from a painful case of penis envy – spoils their macho party.
The atrocious dialogue does very little to diminish this Freudian interpretation and tends to revel in its endowment-measuring insecurity. Whoever shamelessly scratched these vocal clangers onto paper ought to be deeply embarrassed.
Amongst the crowd of well-oiled torsos only the two female characters stand out as interesting. Even so, their roles are constructed in a shoddy, caricatured way. For instance, Artemesia is a figure riddled with contradictions and laboured stereotypes. How did she become a top admiral when throughout the film she makes zero effective tactical decisions? Moreover, she executes prisoners for no reason other than bloodlust and wears totally impractical costumes to battle.
The only reason I even see Artemesia’s villainy worth commenting on is because of Eva Green’s absorbing charisma. The ‘Bloody Mary’ role is a familiar one for the former Bond girl after similar parts in Dark Shadows and Camelot. But by Jove is she good at it! I reckon it has something to do with her weirdly husky voice. After such a prominent performance the French thespian now needs to worry about becoming typecast.
The 300 series is an obviously niche franchise. Whether you like it depends on very specialist tastes. Having the bravery to admit to such unfashionable preferences is an entirely different matter.


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