Thursday, 12 June 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Yep so here we are with this sequel/prequel/present day/aftermath errrr...sequel, to the original and far superior movie. Yep I've let the cat out of the bag right away. This time the plot centres on the real events of the Battle of Salamis but in that hyper glossy Zack Snyder way we now all know and kinda love? Oh and if you're easily confused, Spartans have red cloaks and Athenians have blue cloaks...just in case its confusing for you.

So I thought this was an outright sequel but as it turns out its not, in fact the film is virtually an entire flashback of the adventures from the last film and character origins. OK so I'm exaggerating a bit but seriously there are big chunks of flashbacks and origins in here! Its actually part of the plot (as in not sub-plots), the whole tale is told in part by narration by Queen Gorgo (Leonidas's other half from the first film) who tells of how Xerxes came to power with the help of that's the first origins flashback. It seems Xerxes becomes a God King simply by submerging himself in some gold liquid?? and hey presto! he completely changes completely from head to toe, from a regular bloke into a huge muscle bound brute covered in shit he clearly nicked off Mr T.

From here we jump back n forth as Xerxes approaches Thermopylae, the start of the original film, and we discover how Artemisia came to serve the Persians. This once again involves origin flashbacks that also manage to crowbar in another character from the first film played by Peter Mensah (guy kicked down a well by Leo). It seems he found the young Artemisia after her family was killed by Greeks and she was used as a sex slave, he trains her to be badass...for some reason. This just felt completely unnecessary to me, bringing this character back.

The story eventually circles around the events of Thermopylae and Leonidas (bringing back various characters from the first film like the Hunchback) and continues on after that with the Greeks facing off against Xerxes forces at sea, its basically the first film at sea. So the film starts off as a prequel and eventually ends as a sequel, but covering the events of the first film in between kinda feels like filler to me. I know its important to the overall scheme of things but it just makes me feel that this whole project didn't really need to be made, why make a film which consists of bits and pieces around the original films plot? Typically for Hollywood they get both ends of the deal with both a prequel and sequel at the same time for an established franchise! bet they were wetting themselves with glee.

On the whole the film isn't a bad one, its actually good fun and of course offers lots more of what we all liked about the first film. Within the first five minutes we see there is extreme amounts of blood n gore this time round and extreme amounts of slow motion...oh boy is that a trend right now. Yep so you've got the two best things about the franchise boosted up big time for this new film...not loving it though. My reason? well the blood is all CGI and it looks hokey as hell, I mean just looks like fake CGI blood, poor show. The slow motion is fine but again half the time you're thinking why??? you don't really need it this much!!!

The other thing I noticed was the slick highly stylised effects didn't look quite as good as me. Most of it looked lush for sure with some lovely visuals sequences but then there were some that really stood out with bad greenscreen and obvious CGI. The fact its deliberately meant to look like a graphic novel lets its off the hook somewhat of course but the original still wins on visuals for me. The whole ocean ablaze sequence didn't look very good, the entire horseback riding sequence at the finale was an absolute joke and really let the film down in more ways than one, and finally most of the ships looked pretty hokey to me too, just way too obvious.

The film also tended to go down the stereotypical rehash route with the baddies being led by the obligatory uber bitch who goes around killing her men for failure or no real you would. The Immortals seems like faceless stormtroopers now that seem to have dreadlocks coming from the back of their helmets? plus how can they lose a fight with all that superb tough looking armour they have on! In a horrendously daft sequence we must endure Artemisia and Themistocles having hard rough sex as both try to dominate the other with their sexual positions...anal anyone? What really made me laugh was both of them could of killed the other at any time and ended the conflict, but no they just go their separate ways, as if!! Anyone else would have killed the bitch and legged it...after screwing her of course.

The film doesn't quite have the same va va voom that the first film did, its lacking punch. The first film really grabbed you by the balls and made you care about Leo and his men, plus the last man standing angle is always a great subject matter, the stuff of legends. This plot just felt very muddled and jumbled, lots of things going on, too many flashbacks, you aren't drawn to the characters and overall it just felt like a bloated action flick, Die Hard in around 480 BC. An example of this would be the sequence where suicide bombers loaded with tar are sent to attack the Greek warships. The Greeks kill virtually all of them accept for one guy who Artemisia magically manages to spot amidst all the chaos and hits with a flaming arrow. The final showdown between Artemisia and Themistocles is also completely stereotypical crapola. Themistocles can cut down hordes of heavily armoured Persian stormtroopers with ease but finds it hard to beat a skinny female? come on.

The film really tries to recapture the emotion of the first film but it just can't do it. There are a few strong rousing speeches before battles but none really convey anything much, they don't get you all pumped up with adrenaline or weepy eyed, they feel flat and strained. The main lead Stapleton doesn't really help I'm afraid, he can't hold the film up on his shoulders like Butler did. The ending is totally predictable, you can literately see it coming from the first moment Themis walks into Sparta. Yeah it all looks good and I like the artistic license taken with history plus the fact its actually based on real history, always interesting. But overall its just a silly action flick with swords and sandals, the pseudo 3D animation in the final credits actually looks better than the feature film! I'd like to see a film made in that style please.