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300: Rise of an Empire movie poster


300: Rise of an Empire

"You fight harder than you f--k."
(yeah they said that)

(7 March 2014)  Director:  Noam Murro


Sometimes Action Movies are so bad, they're good; really good. NOT here. I really wanted to like this. It had a female villain, epic sea battles, men in leather bikinis, gnarly kills, and amazing CGI landscapes, so what happened? Well, let's see. When the movie screen commanded me to "Put on your 3-D glasses now", I replied "Beefcake me!" (not out loud, of course) and we were off . . .

Then, my first thought was "Who chose that guy as the lead?"  This is a 300 movie?!  They must have left the word "muscles" off the casting call. Don't get me wrong, Sullivan Stapleton's a good looking guy, but he's just average build, and scruffy is just not a good look for him. Plus, none of the actors were what I expected. They're just average guys.

Jack O'Connell in 300: Rise of an Empire

Jack O'Connell looks like he belongs in a boy band. Scrawny arms, slouching posture . . . he's not even soldier material, let alone Super Soldier, and neither was anyone else except the bald bearded messenger with the weird floppy nipples who rode up on a horse, and Xerxes ('King Strut').

I soon realized Sullivan Stapleton has messed up teeth and this affects his speaking voice, especially when he's acting angry. For me, it was Christian Bale's lisping Batman all over again. What's he saying? So much dialogue!  It became hard not to stare at his most prominent bottom tooth (even with his mouth barely open, there it is saying hello . . . ).

Sullivan Stapleton in 300: Rise of an EmpireSet in 300 B.D.C. (Before Dental Care), Stapleton isn't the only actor who's dentally challenged. I couldn't understand David Wenham either. One of the casting requirements seems to have been too many teeth, cause the actors slur and spit their way through the passages of dialogue.  It's not so much conversation as exposition. (Get on with it! This is supposed to be an Action Movie.)

The movie answered the question: What if you could make a big CGI movie with thousands of extras, costumes, and props, but cast your mates from the local pub in the lead roles? Then get some actress whose boobs you've always wanted to see, and use a script by . . . I heard "Avast!" in there somewhere . . . Who wrote this? Zack Snyder. Okay. He wrote/directed 300, no complaints, but this . . . He really shouldn't be allowed to write for women. He seems to be a woman hater but he thinks he's getting it right (like in Sucker Punch).

A woman who watched her mother get raped and killed, and is then used as a fuck doll is never going to allow an enemy inside her. Never going to use her sexuality as power and would rather die than have sex with them. This would defeat all the power she has gained and everything she lived through. It's incredible to me that a movie could depict the bad treatment of women (rape and murder), and then think it's okay to have the heroine live through that only to have bare breasted sex on screen. If the first thing is wrong, certainly the second is. Objectifying women in this way (the fact that she's a leader is canceled out by sexualizing her) is what leads to the rape and killing of women. But enough about that. The movie speaks for itself (badly). [Some of you might argue that it looks this way because it's inspired by the artwork of Frank Frazetta but that only enforces my observations. I became a fan of his work through the Molly Hatchet album covers but his women are just pretty meat.]

300: Rise of an Empire Artemisia with brass boobs plateWhen the enemies Artemisia and Themistokles face off for the final time they don't say things like "You bastard, I'm going to kill you" or "You evil bitch", they go on about concepts: "You offered freedom without consequences or responsibility . . ." I wanted Artemisia to win just to finally shut Themistokles up. Really, who is willing to fight to the death only to stop and have an argument? I guess they were a couple, after having/not having sex once. What the hell was that? Just an excuse to show Eva Green's  boobs I guess. [Here they are in brass removing any doubt this is a man's movie.] And sadly, boobs plus blood seems to be enough for most male film critics. What do they care about the plight of women? They just want something to whack off to.

I expected there to be more boobs in the movie until I saw the sex scene between Artemisia and Themistocles, and then I wondered if they held back some because of that. It was a little ridiculous—my audience laughed. Had Green insisted on not being exploited and topless, and if there was no sex scene, it might have been a worthy contribution to the role of women in Action Movies, but for me it's just another exploitation that sets us back and keeps us 'in our place' in the perceived 'man's world'. If, instead of Eva, someone with true physical strength was chosen, this would have been a very different movie indeed. But that's my fantasy (strong women in Action Movies), and clearly this was Zack Snyder's.

Between that and the tacky rape scenes, it was just dull. Maybe it was exciting for men who hate women, but it had none of the glory and nobility of the first underdog story, and none of epic, almost balletic violence. This was crude hacks and chops and just a series of various kill angles with 2 cups of CGI blood thrown in for every hit.  Any kill or cut seemed to produce the same amount of blood. Thankfully, the movie consisted mainly of multiple sea battles, and that is where the Action truly shines.

The first and best epic moment is when we see the masts of the Persian fleet rise over the swell. Goosebumps. They did a great job of hyping that, and then . . . fear!  I doubt the Greeks' smaller boats could hold their circular position in a sea that rough, but . . . suspension of disbelief. The tactical decision to strike the larger Persian ships from either side was great theater.  There was a lot going on in the sea battles: pitch and flaming arrows, and even turtle-like suicide bombers. On top of all that the boarding and sword fighting, etc. All fine, until the end when THEY HAD TO ADD A HORSE! wtf?  They barbequed it, then doused it. It really was the last thing you expected, to have Themistokles riding from crashed ship to crashed ship. Where did the horse even come from?

300: Rise of an Empire Persian ship broadsided by two Greek ships

The other epicly breathtaking moment was the giant moon over the bay with all the stars we can't see because we live in cities.  I thought it was ridiculous that a few seconds of fog could crash so many ships into the cove, but it was just an excuse for fighting in a different location (like levels in a video game).  I really also loved the underwater shots and the sea serpents. Just atmosphere, but in a movie with so much exposition, visuals were a welcome escape like going underwater, below the din.

300: Rise of an Empire full moon over the sea

As 'evil queens' go, Artemisia commanded respect for her sword fighting skills. Young Artemisia's training was interesting. Kudos to the skills of Jade Chynoweth. They had to use someone else to show what a fierce warrior she is.  When adult Artemisia beheads a man, then French kisses the head, I knew it would be all downhill from there. As strong and smart as her character was, Eva Green seems to have very weak arms. She looks unused to work, let along swinging a sword (which to me, she noticeably struggled with).  In so many ways she was just exactly what I didn't want to see in a female heroine. I loved her in Casino Royale but this was just too male-fantasy oriented for me. Her back story was compelling, and seeing her in charge was great, but my lasting impression is the rape scene with the young girl crying. So tacky.  So gratuitous.  So harmful to women.



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