Totally Straight, Sweaty, Muscular, Dude Action: 300: Rise of An Empire in Review
I never fully understood the appeal of 300. Or most of Zach Snyder’s directed or produced films, frankly. Especially Sucker Punch, which a lot of people misguidedly consider some sort of feminism manifesto, even though it is created by a male manifestation of the song “Blurred Lines”. But that’s a discussion for another time. I understand these films have the trifecta of macho man stuff- blood, boobs, and brahs (and latent homosexual feelings). But why these historically inaccurate films seem to continue stimulating young men across the land continues to baffle.
Set during the same time King Leonidas is being massacred at Thermopylae, legendary general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is waging war against the Persians on the Aegean Sea. His fight is against Artemisia (Eva Green), A Naval Commander with a hatred for Greece. With a small fleet compared to Artemisias, Themistocles must prove his legendary status and unite the Greeks as one.
There really isn’t much more to this story. The rest is filled with what you expect from this sort of show. Graphic decapitations and delimbings with unrealistic spurts of muddy CGI “blood” abound. Scantily clad muscular dudes running in slow motion (but don’t worry bros, this usually happens as some maimed body part flies across the screen. Totally not homoerotic. I mean, Eva Green totally show her tits, yo). There are such witty dialogue such as “You’ve come a long way to stroke your cock while real men train” and “You fight much harder than you f**k”. And thinly veiled misogyny, to round out the substance over story structure.
Which, with all that stated above, technically makes this film a success in its own way. The first film, which is nothing more than a dumb lump of time during bong rips, is all show and no story. This is more or less the same. And like the first, can be fun while drifting between consciousness and wondering what the other recent Bond girls have been up to. And the primary crowd, guys wearing wrinkled Affliction shirts and backward hats stumbling out of frat houses, don’t expect any more out of a film anyways.
But where the first film was memorable, Rise really isn’t. It looks like 300. It is dumb and cheesy like 300. But it just doesn’t fully feel like 300. Imitation is flattering, so it is said, and I guess it’s not really difficult for director Noam Murro to imitate Snyder’s previous work. But as odd as it is to say, something just seems to be missing from this mass bloodletting. Maybe the slow-motion debauchery was not orchestrated well enough. Or maybe limbs just didn’t float across the screen with enough garish gusto.
I think the problem really lies with originality- in that there is none here. This is just a rehashing of a film that came out in 2006, and it feels exactly as if it has been sitting on a shelf for eight years. There is nothing memorable, except for the sex battle between Green and Stapleton. And you read that correctly- it is a “fight” between both parties while said parties are engaging in sex.
Casting is a plus, if you like films with unknown faces who are just as easily forgettable. The only stand out is Eva Green, but even that praise is just a reminder that she is better than this. I believe Sullivan Stapleton could be an effective actor (even lead) in the future, much in the same vein Sam Worthington or Gerard Butler. Maybe with time we could see.
When I go into a film that I intend to review, I try to remind myself that I have to go into it in the eyes of the target audience. And through the eyes of the people who would be willing to pay $12.50+ to see this film, I would recommend just waiting until this comes out on Redbox. While it has enough here to satisfy the blood lust of the American youth, it lacks the penache that made the original memorable and fun.
Verdict: Rent it!
*Rated R/UK: 15 for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity, and some language. 102 minutes. Directed by Noam Murro (Smart People).
**Thanks to Cody for seeing this with me.