Sunday, March 9, 2014

300: Rise of the 6-Pack Abs

     I never got on the 300 train the first time around when the original blasted its way into theaters almost eight years ago in all of its brawny, bloody glory. Sure, it was a spectacle: but one can only put up with so much stylistic slo-mo before they get burnt out like a spent light bulb, sizzling away with a lack of substance. So I was a skeptic when the news of a parallel sorta-sequel was coming out. The trailers didn't do much for me (they looked like much more of the same). But--surprisingly--300: Rise of an Empire left me feeling (basically) entertained. Focusing more on naval battles between a new hero and a sexy and treacherous villain (portrayed with fervor by former Bond Girl Eva Green), the new 300 is a serviceable entry of super violence, sex and style that barely lets up steam during its short 100 minute run time.
     That's not to say that 300: Rise of an Empire is a great film or anything (not even close)--but in the doldrums of winter, you could do far worse than watching attractive and fit people creatively slaughter each other on various epic 3-D battlegrounds. And the 3-D is actually good too, worth the price of admission even, the blades and blood slicing across the screen seemingly right in front of your very eyes. It has its typical problems during the darker battle scenes, muddying the image and making it harder to decipher what exactly is going on. But the pros of its 3-D presentation outweigh the cons.
     Gerard Butler made his name with the original 300, and ever since his career trajectory has basically been on a downward spiral (except for maybe last year's fun Die Hard-in-the-White-House film Olympus Has Fallen). He's not in Rise of an Empire; we get a new hero, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), and though he doesn't share quite the same alpha-male machismo as Butler, he does a serviceable job as a man who needs to inspire confidence in his troops when they are severely outnumbered at sea. Themistokles (told through a flashback scene), killed the father of God King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who was in the first film, and now Xerxes needs to avenge the death of his dear old dad. He's got a secret weapon: the cunning and deadly Artemisia (Eva Green), who leads the Persian forces in the high-stakes sea battles against the Themistokles-led Greeks.
     She's the best part of this new incarnation in the 300 universe (I'm sure with their success that we'll see more in the future), eating every scene she's in with a fiery fierceness. In one scene, she decapitates an enemy and proceeds to tenderly kiss the bleeding head. In another, she is the focus of a violent sex scene that gives new meaning to the term "lover's quarrel". Sorry for the spoilers, but you're either going to see this movie or not--it probably won't take my convincing. Without her, the film would lack a necessary womanly touch that balances the brawn of the men. She's the funniest and most entertaining aspect. All of her antics lead up to a large-scale finale that is okay but doesn't leave you breathless. But really, who cares about any of the story here--no professor will show this in any History 101 classes.
      We're here to escape the real world for an hour and a half. Maybe it's because nothing of note has gotten a wide release so far this year, but while watching 300: Rise of an Empire, time flew by, blood squirted like it came out of a Super-Soaker's barrel, and limbs were hacked off to fly in every direction. I realize that may not be your cup of tea. But my cup was filled just enough to be considered worthwhile.     (B-)

No comments:

Post a Comment