300: Rise of an Empire (Noam Murro, 2014)
I gave up video games in college, because they were like crack to me (not that I’ve ever tried crack), and since I wanted to do other things with my life, I had to stop “using.” However, I’ve seen enough glimpses of the evolving aesthetics of the games over the past 20+ years to appreciate how they’ve changed since my day (conclusion: amazing designs, too much carnage). I’ve also read plenty of graphic novels – many by Frank Miller, author of the 300 series – some of which I like (Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s Watchmen), and some of which I don’t (Miller’s Sin City). But I am hardly a genre fanboy, so I doubt that I’m the target audience for the new 300 movie, which is a combination prequel/parallel story/sequel to the original 2006 film, and looks like what you’d expect if a violent comic book were adapted into a violent video game (perhaps from a company like Koei).
It’s all about the visceral experience of watching muscular bodies stab, slash and sever the limbs of other muscular bodies in an orgy of grotesque over-the-top mayhem. Since it’s in 3D, you have the added pleasure of watching those limbs – with attendant blood spurts – burst from the screen one after the other. If violence isn’t your thing, there are also (a few) boobs. And one sex scene (with boobs). It’s really about the violence, however. Don’t go for the sex. Wait for Lars von Trier’s upcoming Nymphomaniac.
Other than that, and a continuation of the annoying trend – in these kinds of films – to indulge in too much speed ramping, the only aspect of the experience that I found remotely interesting was the movie’s approach to chronology. For the first 30 minutes of the story, I wasn’t sure where I was in terms of the events of the first 300. The film opens with a shot of the slaughtered Spartans (the “300”), as the Persian God-King, Xerxes, rides his horse over the bodies. But then a female voice (Lena Headey, returning for another round of battles) begins what will become an interminable expositional voiceover, and the timeline shifts to events 10 years earlier, introducing a new character, Themistokles. It took me some effort to understand who was what and what was when, and while I worked out those details, I could ignore the dullness of the action sequences (how many slow-motion blood spurts can one man take?). Once the plot settled into a clear present, however, I found it increasingly difficult to engage with the movie, other than to note that, once again (like its predecessor), this is a film that pits evil dark-skinned hordes against more virtuous whites.
It’s not worth recounting what plot details I can remember. It’s all a blur of guts and gore. With a few boobs.