Monday, March 10

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Directed by Noam Murro.

Oh. My. God. – That was awful. I actually kind of like the original 300.  For all its absurdity I think it captures at least something of the spirit of one of the most storied and significant clashes of civilizations ever, that between the Greeks and the Persians, which in some ways inspired the sudden flowering of Classical Greece.*  But it is ridiculously cartoonish. 

This sequel, however, makes the original look like a sober documentary. Here we have much more of a jumbled, inchoate, incomprehensible mess. Part of the problem is, I guess, that the first movie benefited from being about a single incident, the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). But this goes far beyond that in purporting to tell the stories of Marathon (490 BC), Artimesion, and Salamis (480 BC), cast as a completely unhistorical vendetta story with Artemesia and Xerxes brought to Greece seeking revenge for Themistocles' killing Darius in battle at Marathon. Historian Paul Cartledge has a good online article outlining a mere five gross historical errors [link]. There are many more. Suffice it to say that beyond the broadest of strokes (that those battles happened, and that Themistocles and Artemesia played roles in at least the latter), there is no history whatsoever in this movie, not in the depiction of the events, nor the personalities, not even the overall portrayal of the respective cultures.  None. What. So. Ever. There is nothing recognizable here. And even considering this movie as a movie, not for its “history,” it falls prey to the all-too-common failing of a sequel, which is to take the worst aspects of the first movie and accentuate them to the point of caricature in the second. Here, the cartoonishly overstylized violence becomes even more over-the-top overwhelming, an unrelenting barrage of jerky fast- slow- fast-motion action that filled the screen with blood, guts, and severed limbs and heads. Thank God I didn't go see it in 3D! I'd've left the theatre a gibbering idiot. But that's apparently what the audience here was looking for – they were whooping and hollering with delight – and especially the gratuitously violent and raw sex scene between Themistocles and Artemesia that was itself cartoonishly overstylized and had ... I hesitate to call them "my fellow audience members" and thus lump myself in with them ... the audience in ecstasy.  It was horrific.

While I do periodically pull out the original 300 and watch it, I don't see myself ever subjecting myself to this experience again. The main thing I can say now is, that when I savage it in class I can say I that I did indeed see it.  

Thanks for reading!
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* Although I would not go so far as to call it a "spiritual experience that elevates the soul into the levels of the empyrean".... [link]

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