Thursday, 20 March 2014

300: Rise of an Empire - The scoop and digest

Since bursting onto our screens with the ballsy remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder is a director with ambition.

The comic book adaptation of Watchmen was incredibly drab, Man of Steel visually impressed but struggled with similar tedium and Sucker Punch was a video game missing a joypad.

So, a mixed assortment from a limited bag but 300 was undoubtedly his breakthrough.

This smash may have been the result of Frank Miller’s novel but decades before, 1962 film The 300 Spartans was basically the inspiration behind his etchings.

Richard Egan, Anna Synodinou and David Farrar played King Leonidas, Queen Gorgo and Xerxes respectively.

Anyway, now relegated to part producer; Noam Muno wears the sandals.

Based on Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes, this serves as both a prequel and sequel.

SNK’s flawed Samurai Shodown III was subbed Blades of Blood.  Expect a similar substance to drip from more traditional pointy sticks...

Plot details and/or spoilers will be brought in the heat of battle.

Causing much death and destruction on the Aegean Sea include:

Sullivan Stapleton – Themistocles
Eva Green – Artemisia
Lena Heady – Queen Gorgo
Rodrigo Santoro – King Xerxes

Our Queen Gorgo tells a good story as during the Battle of Marathon, the good King Darius is the subject of a very good Robin Hood impression by Athenian General Themistocles.

The legendary Ralph Richardson was first to portray the titular char.

Xerxes mourns his father’s death and Naval Commander Artemisia hands the challenge of him taking a leisurely walk in the desert where he stumbles upon a hermits’ cave.

After bathing in a golden liquid, he emerges invigorated as the so-called God-King and declares war on Greece.

Themistocles uses political persuasion to arrange a fleet of ships so he can attack the Persians at sea.

We learn that Artemisia had an unhappy childhood and the reason behind her ruthlessness.

Although born Greek, she effectively became Persian when witnessing the rape and murder of her family by hoplites as a child.  She was subsequently used as a discardable sex object and left for dead on the streets of Persia.

Pitied and trained by Persia’s finest warriors, she later rose to prominence by murdering the many enemies of King Darius.

The battle for Greece begins at sea and using ships as a makeshift battering ram on opposing vessels ups the Persian casualties.

Excited by Themistocles’ impressive combat strategy, he accepts Artemisia’s invitation and is escorted by masked guards.

Unsheathing his sword, he takes her ‘roughly’ from behind and satisfies insatiable lust.

Despite this very personal embrace, he snubs a merger and she swears vengeance.

Humph!  That’s gratitude for you.

The tsunami of battle continues and when tar is spilled, the situation becomes explosive when suicide bombers are introduced.

By now or at some point, Leonidas and his loyal 300 have been killed by Xerxes.

The traitorous Ephialtes (who remains one hell of a catch), is spared by Themistocles so he can alert Xerxes of his forces congregating at Salamis.

Amidst the mayhem of Greek and Persian bloodshed, Themistocles and Artemisia face off.

“You fight harder than you fuck.”

She scoffs at the opportunity to surrender and pays the ultimate penalty...

Along with the help of Gorgo and her allied associates, they and Themistocles charge to presumably defeat the remainder of Artemisia’s army.

This was particularly entertaining and a worthy follow-up to the much lauded original.

Battles fall short of exuding genuine excitement but are spectacularly shot, with CGI looking entirely convincing.

Violence is still stylishly gratuitous and remains almost cartoon-like, comparable to video game MadWorld and appropriately; the hugely successful God of War.

Slow motion predictably drags its heels, but not to the point of watching sloths racing through quicksand.

Although the script is competent, ‘for tonight, we dine in hell’; is not replaced by a suitable equivalent.

When sex shakes the canvas, Artemisia’s guards look at one another with comical jealously.

For a blink and you'll miss it moment, this is better than anything brought by dreary spoof Meet the Spartans.

Stapleton's shoulders handle the pressures of primary interest reasonably well but Butler’s screen presence was undeniably more powerful.

Jack O’Connell does what he can with a minor role that offers little scope.

Providing historical inaccuracies are given a fantastical wide berth, there are worse reasons for a six pack to be displayed.

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