Confession: I haven’t seen “300”. The only impression that movie made on me was that it looked stylistically cool from the posters (plus), it seemed to launch Gerard Butler into leading man territory (minus), and people started saying ‘for Sparta!’ which made me want to pump my fist in the air (plus).
Focusing on new characters since it seems everyone in the original film died (was it supposed to be an uplifting film?) the timeline, however, remains the same, as does the common enemy of Persian god-King, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, reprising his role). For any other newcomers like me, let me assuage your fears that you will be lost in the complex and layered storytelling. Good guys = white men with political status, blue capes and a distinct lack of shirts, bad guys = exotic looking men, distinct presence of shirts, and a King who dared put a woman in charge of his naval fleet. He. Must. Be. Stopped.
The hero this round is Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), an Athenian general with a dream of uniting Greece once and for all. Oh and it seems he was the one who killed Xerxes’ father in battle which was the catalyst for Xerxes losing his humanity and beginning this terrifying war on Greece. Ah well, everything still seems to come up Themistokles as his nemesis this time is not Xerxes, but said woman in charge of the naval fleet, Artemisia (Eva Green). She is not only stunningly beautiful, but is so impressed by his strategic manoeuvrings in battle that she tries to convince him to join her side by having sex with him. Typical woman in charge of a massive naval fleet behaviour.
If this film were to have a plus column (and I’m not saying it does), it would all be Artemisia. Based on the real historical figure in name only (there is a backstory for why Greek Artemisia sides with Persia that is in no way pleasant, and, I think, made up) Eva Green is a welcome presence in this testosterone fuelled display of man-love, and she throws herself into the role like a props person at a fake-blood warehouse sale. She knows what kind of film she is starring in, and doesn’t let any scene worth chewing pass her by.
The first film it seems was a surprise hit, standing out for its distinct flair from director Zack Snyder, gravitas performances from Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender, ripped bodies and hand to hand action scenes. The origin of superheroes can arguably be traced back to Hercules, and it is no surprise Snyder went to Metropolis from there. While still acting as producer, in his director’s chair is newcomer Noam Murro, seemingly chosen for his ability to replicate Snyder’s style. But the naval battles don’t seem to fare as well as the land battles, action scenes are choppy and hard to follow, and really, a horse? Jumping around burning ships? Why? And how? Crazy Greeks, it’s a wonder they won any battles at all.
Themistokles doesn’t suffer nearly the loss of his entire army as “300” did, so depending on how this film fares at the box office, he may return to see the concluding battles of the Persian-Greek Wars. And hey, maybe more people will take an interest in ancient history as a result? It’s really quite fascinating. Yeah okay. Maybe not. It’s really just another way to do superhero fight scenes in not much clothing in a socially acceptable way.
As a spin-off, the film doesn’t have anything you haven’t seen before, but if you’re missing some sword fighting and rousing speeches in your life, this is the one for you. For me, I’m waiting on a less campy, more historically accurate film focused entirely on Artemisia.