Sax von Stroheim writes:
I went to see 300: Rise of an Empire the other day, because it’s the only movie playing right now that seems important enough to get me out of the house. Everything else can wait for Netflix.
It has close to zero in the way of traditional movie values: pacing, rhythm, storytelling, and character development all thrown out the window in favor of a formal exercise in using CGI to wildly juxtapose incommensurate scales. Big Men and Tiny Ships, or Big Ships and Even Bigger Ships, or Crazy Giant Waves and Tiny Men on Tiny Ships.
In that sense, it felt much more animated – much more like a cartoon – than Zack Snyder’s original 300 movie. There, Snyder took Frank Miller’s 2D illustrations and gave them a sculpted, 3D feel; but the sequel, directed by Noam Murro, is much less tied to the idea of trying to represent 3D space and more about warping the image in any-and-every way possible for expressionistic effect.
It’s all grounded by a fierce performance by the great Eva Green. Lena Headey is also very good, but I kept waiting for her to move closer to center stage – really she’s just a “Very Special Guest”. This is Eva’s show.
I liked it! I found the movie visually/formally engaging throughout. I guess it’s a good thing that it doesn’t have the tongue-in-cheek-or-is-it? jingoism of the first movie, but it also lacked that movie’s straightforward narrative drive: it jumped around at beginning, with several false starts, and never fell into a groove. The main male characters/actors are all pretty dull. I think they’re dull on purpose, but dull is dull.
It reminded me a lot of Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, which plays with scale in a similar way, but which I found a lot more enjoyable on a storytelling level: even though the story in Immortals is goofy and hacky and ripped right out of the Joseph Campbell playbook, it satisfied in a way that this one didn’t.
As I was leaving the theater I couldn’t help but get a little depressed that Eva Green and Lena Headey don’t seem to be able to get involved in many (any?) movies worthy of their talents.
- I’m surprised that we don’t seem to have any blogposts about Eva Green here, but there’s a very cool conversation about The Dreamers, a Bertolucci movie starring Eva, on Ye Olde 2Blowhards Website.
- Immortals used to be on Netflix Watch Instant, but it isn’t there anymore. Maybe it will come back, but for now it’s available for streaming rental on Amazon (and probably some other places). I think it’s worth the $3 if you’re at all interested in contemporary fx-driven movie: it’s weirder than almost all of the more mainstream hits in the genre (i.e., the Marvel superhero movies, the children of The Matrix, etc.), and is even sexy (albeit in a very goofy way).
- I think the original 300 is one of the most important post-Matrix blockbusters. Audiences were genuinely excited about it, and since it wasn’t about already known and loved characters (like the Batman movies), the excitement seemed pure to me and not something dredged up by marketing hacks. Hey, here’s a great 2Blowhards piece on 300.