Joshua's Want To See List is empty.
Joshua doesn't have any friends yet.
300: Rise of an Empire (2013)I have always been a fan of Frank Miller's 300. In fact I own a copy,… More I have always been a fan of Frank Miller's 300. In fact I own a copy, which is a large, odd sized graphic novel resplendent with over saturated visuals and a deep narrative, rivaling Miller's best work (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, etc.). Of course, without the success of the 2006 cult hit movie 300, I would not be revealing this seemingly extraneous information or reviewing its sequel. That is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed, even if Zack Snyder took massive efforts to strip the original narrative of some of the stranger facets of Spartan culture and add supernatural elements which simply were not there originally. It, like this sequel, takes a hyper-stylized approach to the story of the Second Persian War full of limbs flying through the air, memorable one liners and battle speeches, homoeroticism, and liberal changes to the historical narrative. Now most of you are probably aware by now that I tend to side with the critical consensus when it comes to appraising the quality of a film. Keeping that in mind, I am going to disagree with the critical trend here and say that 300: Rise of an Empire is on par with the original. It is not superior however, as a minority of internet critics are saying. There are numerous pacing problems particularly halfway through and too many minor characters amount to precisely shit. Say what you will about Frank Miller today, but in his prime he could write a tightly crafted narrative and that showed in 300. And despite some of my criticisms of Zack Snyder, he can direct the hell out of an action scene - something that this director (Noam Murro) seems to have a bit more difficulty accomplishing. Where this movie picks up the slack is in our two main characters - Themistocles and Artemisia (played by Eva Green). They are, thematically, the complete opposite of Leonidas and Queen Gorgo from the previous entry. As where those two characters were idealized and nearly perfect, these two are far more flawed and human. Leonidas was the perfect leader and Spartan man - both physically and tactically on the battlefield. Self-sacrificing and bold, he is exactly as Greco propaganda of the time would have presented him post-Thermopylae. And his queen (who returns here for three scenes) was the perfect Spartan wife. Noble, loyal, and strong, Gorgo is willing to sacrifice her life, sexual dignity, and even her husband for the polis. In contrast, Themistocles is a crafty, stoic Athenian populist who frustrates Persian invasion efforts at sea through a small but well-oiled navy. He actually is quite enjoyable to watch (he's usually the smartest character on screen) and I feel as if he will be overlooked by most general audiences, probably dismissing him as too bland or unnotable. And yes, what you heard about Eva Green's Artemisia is true. Manipulative, controlling, intelligent, vicious, alluring, and downright primal this movie really is her show to own. It is important to note that not only is Eva Green probably one of the most beautiful and intriguing people currently on this planet, she is one hell of an actress. (See The Dreamers, Casino Royale, and Kingdom of Heaven: Directors Cut.) And it shows here. In fact, Xerxes and other returning characters largely take a backseat in favor of the Batman/Joker dynamic between Themistocles and Artemisia. The action was a bit refreshing as well. It's not everyday some Hollywood studio commits serious resources to depicting ancient naval warfare. We see the naval skirmish at Artemisium (concurrent with the more famous Battle of Thermopylae) and the decisive Midway-esque Battle of Salamis. Sleek Athenian triremes slam into overdesigned, monstrous Persian galleys. Themistocles and brave citizen-soldier hoplites board said galleys and murder hapless Persian "stormtroopers" en masse. Artemisia and her special crew of SS Totenkopf eviscerate Greek "red shirts" vertically. We see Eva Green and Stephen Stapleton in a wild and violent sex scene. What's there not to love? Well, much like its predecessor, Rise of an Empire plays fast and loose with historical fact. The flashback scene in which Themistocles (leading the Athenians at Marathon for some reason) snipes Darius I with a bow with Xerxes five feet away officially broke the stupid meter. There are enough of these inaccuracies to make Herodotus choke on his stylus. (Trust me, that old son-of-a-bitch knew how to embellish the truth. I personally recommend Thucydides. He actually cited his sources.) Of course, the freelance historian in me was thrilled to see these events finally portrayed in a major motion picture in the hope that it will spark some intellectual curiosity in Greco-Roman history like Gladiator briefly did. I'm not holding my breath.
32 days ago via Flixster