Insert saber till it spurts
If a boner could become a movie, it would be 300: Rise of an Empire.
The prequel-sequel-sametimequel (is there a better word for that last one?) to the zeitgeist-defining cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller’s homoerotic ragefest has more arcing blood-splatters than the last, more carnage, more battles, more abs, more gaps in logic, just more, more, MORE…in 3D Imax. Mind you, I never said this was a bad thing. This is Sparta, and tonight you dine on money-shots.
A colleague of mine who I’m sure would prefer to remain nameless described the movie as a Game of Thrones fanfic – he’s right about the last part of that, at least. The only thing that makes it Game of Thrones-like is Lena Headey – no, this is more of a 300 fanfic. And since what fanfics generally do is take the original property and amp it up with extreme acts of sex and violence of the sort imagined by an adolescent boy growing his first pubes, and the property you’re dealing with – 300 – reads like a fanfic already, I suggest you do the (exponential) math. It is a great coincidence of history that the hero of the actual history this movie is based on is named Themistocles, which is only a few letters removed from “testicles” – but it also may be the closest thing we have as proof that God, or Zeus, has a healthy sense of humor.
Both words refer to a penis. This should be clear.
Picking up where 300 left off, this pre-se-whateverquel then flashes back to the battle of Marathon, where Athenian hero Themistocles kills the Persian king Darius, creating a huge-ass grudge with his feckless son Xerxes, who just looks like a normal dude at this point. Prompted by Darius’ better-loved honorary daughter Artemisia (Eva Green), a captured Greek now loyal to Persia, Xerxes follows the path of The Rock in that first Mummy sequel, and wanders into the desert to gain magic powers from a pool that makes you 9 feet tall, androgynous, pierced, and clad in a gold Speedo. These things happen.
Historically speaking, Vladimir Putin is an amateur
And then, having established Xerxes, the movie basically ignores him for most of the running time, as it focuses on Artemisia launching a naval attack against Greece, and Themistocles trying to persuade Queen Gorgo (Headey) and the Spartans to join in. She says no, which makes you wonder exactly what battle that was supposed to be at the end of the first 300, if Sparta is no longer fighting the Persians.
Themistocles and his group are distinct from Spartans in that they wear blue rather than red, but other than that, “distinct” is not the best word to use. Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton doesn’t make anywhere near the same impression Gerard Butler did the first go-around, but then he doesn’t have any lines as cool as “Tonight we dine in hell.” Aside from him, there’s a dude who has a kid, and then there’s a best friend with perfectly trimmed shoulder-length hair, but aside from the fact that the kid paints a skull on his face near the end, they’re fairly interchangeable (you never know, though – the “fight in the shade” guy in part one was generic until he became Michael Fassbender, award-nominated guy). Artemisia is the standout, not just because she’s Eva Green but also because she delivers the best acting job in the film. Notably, she turns a sublimely silly “fight or fuck” centerpiece scene into something genuinely hot, saving her nude reveal for the last possible moment to really up the ante.
As for the naval battles, if you’re the sort of guy like my pal Broos who’d be all, “Yeah, I know my naval history, I’ve studied it well, written nautical adventures, and can’t wait to see such things accurately reproduced onscreen,” then…no. Just no. You’ll be mad at me if I tell you to see this. These are naval battles for people like me who do not want to think about how the real-life circumstances affect the physics or whatnot; the ones where horses can suddenly show up and just jump from ship to ship -in the sea, mind you – busting shit up. Naval battles of ancient Greece in which giant mutants operate flamethrowers. Those kinds of naval battles. Also, there are sea monsters.
If it sounds like I’m insulting this movie, you are reading my tone wrong. I understand that all these things I say would, in the hands of some imaginary tut-tutting urban cinephile, be considered demerits; they are all positives and plusses in the topsy turvy world of 300. I would have liked a more coherent plot with Xerxes more active, it’s true; and the lack of a clear device, as in the first one, to tell you “this is storytelling, and not necessarily the way it happened” is an unnecessary slip-up (Gorgo narrates most of the movie in flashback, but not all of it).
The battle was fought over a long period
But given the right mood, I do not tire of head-crushings, 3-D arc-shaped ejaculations of blood, water and arrows thrown in my face and plenty of Eva Green. If you don’t go for the 3-D Imax version, you’re cheating yourself – the only point of this movie is to take everything over the top, and that should include the viewing experience (if they could figure out a way to throw water on you in a theater, it too would be appropriate). I can’t decide if it’s more homoerotic or more homophobic than its predecessor – it will surely be read both ways. And it’s the closest thing to a GWAR concert you’re likely to see in a major theater chain.
Part 3, if it happens, can only top this by featuring an all-out orgy scene. I look forward to that.