Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, March 17, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire...Meh

I have a love hate relationship with Frank Miller's work.  I liked 300 and the Dark Knight Returns, as graphic novels.  While I have never read Sin City, I liked the movie and know that there is plenty of source material for its coming sequel, but where I have a falling out with his work is he just doesn't seem to put his heart into it when he does a sequel that he probably didn't plan on doing.  The Dark Knight Strikes Again is an example and so is 300: Rise of an Empire.  I must admit that I have not read the graphic book that the movie is based on, Frank Miller's Xerxes.  Since the movie makers of 300 sought to be faithful to the source, I am making the leap that the same is true for the sequel.  I would also point out that Frank Miller is not the only author who does badly when put in the position of writing a sequel he never intended to write.  You need look no further than Michael Crichton and the Jurassic Park sequels or Dan Brown being pushed to come out with a sequel to Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. The result was The Lost Symbol which was no where near the quality of its two predecessors.

fThe problem for 300: Rise of an Empire is there is nothing new here, or as a friend put it, "There is blood, battle and boobs" better know as gratuitous violence and nudity. There is nothing really memorable to see.  I still remember to this day as I left 300 a couple of guys in front of us discussing if there would be a sequel.  I found the statement a bit humorous.  Even though Hollywood frequently doesn't get it, there are some movies that just should not have sequels. I give you as a prime example now 300: Rise of an Empire.  There just isn't that much to work with.  Even the antagonist, the commander of Xerxes' armada, Artemisia played by Eva Green doesn't really seem all that threatening to the leader of the Greeks, Themistocles, played by Sulivan Stapleton.  The story is basically the story of the sea battle between the Persians and Greek forces while the 300 were dying at the Gates of Fire.

The first twenty or so minutes of the movie is back-story.  For those of you who saw 300, do you remember the "storyteller" or the sole survivor of the 300?  Forget that part.  You can also forget the battle charge at the end of the first movie. It too is basically ignored. While the storyteller is in the movie, he is not telling us the story.  In fact, the story is being told by Queen Gorgo, the wife Leonidas leader of the Spartans who died.  She isn't in the sea battle until the end, but somehow she knows all the stuff that is going on in the battle of the sea lead by Themistocles from Athens.  Got all that? I didn't think so.

Historically, there really was a brilliant Greek tactician name Themistocles whose delay and tactics against the Persian army gave the Greeks time to rally and defend against the much larger forces. He also  used the much smaller and faster Greek ships to tremendous advantage against the heavier, troupe laden Persian ships. In the end, unable to move his forces deep enough into Greece and having consumed all the food stuffs nearby, Xerxes' massive army, which he had left under the command of one of his generals while Xerxes returned home, collapsed because it simply did not have the supply lines he needed to keep up the attack. He finally gave up on the Greeks. Yes, his fleet was partially commanded by a woman named Artemisia although she was under the command of Xerxes' admiral and brother Ariamenes. It is also believed she may have been fleeing the battle towards its end. She survived the battle and was later sent with great honor to take care of Xerxes' illegitimate children. Here ends the history lesson.

The issue with the movie is not the history.  We know that 300 is not much more accurate either.  It is simply not fresh.  The effects that were cool in 300 are the same for its sequel, and since we've seen the same effects used to one degree of another in The Immortals and Spartacus, the TV series. The audience is not as enthralled.  In fact, at a few points, the slowly pouring blood spatter becomes  mundane, even silly like that Monty Python sketch where people keep getting body parts hacked off while on a picnic. Remembering this skit,  I even found myself guffawing a bit at the end of the final battle scene. It is basically the same story except the Greeks win.  Its story-line is  weak, and while the magic of the Oracle in the first was fascinating, the story of Xerxes becoming the God-King is not so much. If you want a movie that is basically something to not thing about at all and more visual than anything else, 300: Rise of an Empire is just the ticket.  It truly is a movie of blood, battle, and boobs.