300: Rise of an Empire

By on March 8, 2014
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Some movies just know what they want to be and what they are. “300: Rise of an Empire” is such a film. I remember going to review one of the “Twilight” films and bursting out into hysterical laughter when, in a matter of minutes, a hunky guy quite literally ripped off his shirt and ran into the woods, as the girls in the audience giggled for entirely different reasons. Mission accomplished, audience satisfied, and in minutes flat. Well played, “Twilight.”

“300: Rise of an Empire” opens with- what else? – a gory battle, complete with blood splattering off the screen in glorious, garishly-colored 3D as man after man is torn to pieces. As the icing on the cake, there’s also some random, completely gratuitous nudity, as a woman bares her breasts in a struggle, her (real, but of course) boobs jiggling like two balloons in a hurricane, likewise in exquisitely-rendered three dimensions. Mission accomplished, and in mere minutes, you know if you’re in or you’re out. There’s something to be said for that, you know?

The latest “300” film is nothing if not formulaic. You could practically write this thing “Mad Libs”-style.  Battle, exposition, a rallying speech, and more battles. Insert a few bits of sex and/or nudity to spice things up- which, mind you, are staged every bit as much as a battle as the battles themselves- and you’re good to go. In a very real way, of course, the original “300” kicked off a new breed of this sort of film, not seen since the glory days of the 80s, with the likes of the original “Conan the Barbarian” and other sword-and-sorcery type barn burners like “Excalibur,” which first established the formula at hand.

“300” updated the formula with flashier graphics, many of them CGI-heavy, and enough homoerotic shenanigans to make the original version of “Spartacus” blush. Indeed, between that film and this one, there’s more washboard abs on display here than you’d see in several decades of Madonna concerts. No wonder these things have strong gay and female followings.

“300” also launched several cable staples, including the new version of “Spartacus,” “Game of Thrones” and stuff like “Camelot” and “Vikings,” which give old-school history a new-school makeover with excessive violence and sex. It’s only right that several people known for such things would crop up here- why wouldn’t you want the viewer to feel right at home?

There’s Lena Headey, who also cropped up in the original “300” and is currently antagonizing “Game of Thrones” fans, albeit as a blonde, and decidedly less sympathetic figure. Eva Green, former Bond girl and the witchy women from “Camelot” and “Dark Shadows,” also turns up as the fierce warrior Artemisia. Peter Mensah, of “Spartacus” and the original “300,” and Igal Naor, of “Sinbad,” are also on hand, and there’s no doubt plenty more where those came from. If the gladiator shoes fit, you wear them.

Needless to say, there’s also a host of crazy names like Themistokles, Scyllias, and Calisto- the stuff of John Travolta’s mispronunciation nightmares, to be sure. There’s also plenty of double-dealing, scheming, and back-stabbing. Plus, front stabbing. Hell, there’s just a lot of stabbing, period. And bludgeoning. And throat slashing. And decapitation. Clearly, this is not a movie for the faint of heart, or weak of stomach.

But then, I can’t image those people would be there in the first place. As with the recent “Robocop” remake, this sucker was a straight-up sausage fest, audience-wise, which is pretty hilarious when you consider how homoerotic these things are. Actually, I guess that would be about right, if you think about it, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. I mean, “300” isn’t exactly date night movie material, you know?

So, there you go. It is what it is, and what it is, is just fine.  Nothing spectacular, nothing you haven’t seen before- save perhaps the 3D factor, which is admittedly impressive, so if you want to see this, see it that way, to be sure. Green gives the closest thing to an impressive performance here, clearly reveling in the chance to go ballistic on, well, an entire army of dudes, and a damn sight more than 300 this time around. She’s dynamite, and sexy as all get out.

The rest simply do what they were hired to do: speechify and/or kick ass. Mission accomplished. This “300” rises to the occasion, and then some. I give it a sold B+. It’s nothing that’s going to change your life, but it might just quicken your pulse a bit, and that’s about as much as you could hope for in a movie like this.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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