The Legacy of 300 :: There is the legacy that 300 had left behind when it released in 2006. I managed to watch it much later though, as this practice of multiplexes and new Hollywood movies instantly reaching here was not that normal at that time, unless the name of the movie is something like Avatar or may be if the title of movie has a certain 007 in it. Well, it has now reached that state when I have watched one of those movies even before its release date. Thanks to the special shows in the multiplexes the evening before its original release date which is in this case, February 7th. While King Leonidas said in 300, “This is Sparta!”, we are to be sure that there will be not much of that warrior city-state this time as we know that the best of them are already dead and they could be in mourning. This one involves more of the Athenians, of that land which would later have Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (as the Spartan Queen would say: there is no Athens, there is only that idea; there are only Athenians). But we were to be sure about two other things, there will be rivers of blood with some splashes and there will be not much loss of the stylish combats, no matter where it is fought or with whom it is fought; that is a safe bet indeed.
What is it about? :: The most courageous 300 men are dead. Even as Xerxes took a big hit on his face which somewhat disfigured and proved that even a god-king can bleed, he is extremely proud of his bloody achievement of slaughtering the outnumbered opponents. But the story doesn’t follow a direct and straight narrative, as it has the story of Themistocles, a politician and the commander of the Athenian army at the centre of the plot. But there are also the stories of Artemisia and King Xerxes as well as his father Darius, how the god-king became a reality and how the lady general of the Persian army became the sadistic creature that she turned out to be. As the Spartans fight the Persians on land, Themistocles leads the Athenians on a war at the sea. Even as the Greeks do score victories over the better-built and vastly numbered Persian ships by using superior tactics, terrain and weather conditions, they realize that it is only a matter of time until the Athenians begins to loss just because of being outnumbered and lacking in military training. They are still the more scholarly of the lot and the best naval power among the Greek city-states, and so may be they will hold on for enough time for the reinforcements to come from the other Greeks or even Sparta themselves – who knows?
The defence of 300: Rise of an Empire :: The first thing to think about as well as notice is the visual awesomeness of this movie. Yes, there is lot of special effects going on, and 3D nicely supports them – special mention for the blood and the rain. There are so many of the mighty ships of the Persians which are nicely detailed as nothing less than huge battering rams on water while the Greek ships are nicely detailed, smaller and quicker suiting the Athenian tactics. The battles are nicely done, not only with the ships, but also with the swords, bows and arrows and even the fire elements. The power of the seas, thunder and lightning, the foggy side, the carnage and the flowing blood – they all contribute to the beauty of the movie, and there is no stylish method which is forgotten in this worthy sequel. There is that spectacle you have been waiting for, something which is not easy to make with a ship full of one-sided ideas about blood and violence. The story is also nicely mixed, even as some people won’t like the way in which the story moves. Some part of this movie is a prequel to the original, and it is partly a sequel while some events happen at the same time as the events of 300. The story of Artemisia and Xerxes makes a nice addition to the whole thing.
The positives and negatives :: When our pretty antagonist said “Today we will dance across the backs of dead Greeks” she was pretty much serious. There is lot of blood everywhere in this movie, and lot of people loss their arms and legs; the rest just has a sword going right through them or ripping them apart. It is so bloody that one day, Count Dracula himself might wish to begin a vampire settlement somewhere around there – why wouldn’t he not want a sea of blood? Sometimes, one may think that there is too much of the CGI blood that it is somewhat funny as body parts keep flying around. Well, this movie goes only on one direction, which is to become that action movie, that sword flick which intend to bring on stylish action supported by a lot of blood and violence, and it has succeeded in the same. In the words of the Spartan Queen: “It begins as a whisper; a promise; the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom; a wind of justice; a wind of vengeance”. Yes, it is war, and there might be more to come. But if the viewer is looking for anything else in the same, there comes the sadness; but what else would anyone who has known anything about 300 want? That was evident from the multiplex which had zero female presence, and there was almost nobody who was older than what would be a middle age, even when the seats were almost full.
Performers of the soul :: The best and the most gorgeous performer of the movie is indeed Eva Green. No, I had not doubt about that earlier either, even as I did wonder about Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles which was nice, but he wasn’t to be a Leonidas. Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo also has so much less to do, and same is the case of Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes who is still the unconquered nemesis. Yes, everyone had to make way for the stunning performance of the one who had showed us the dark side as the witch in Dark Shadows, making that image more powerful, relentless and furious in this one holding severed heads, sometimes kissing them or otherwise presenting them to her king. Throwing the losing commanders of the Persian Army into the depths of the Aegean Sea is just one of Artemisia’s hobbies. Whenever she is on the screen, there is so much strength in the movie and when she is not there to be found, the whole thing turns less interesting. May be there could have been even more of her, as she keeps at least one step above the movie all the time. But while the movie tries to make too much attempt to make everyone feel that it is better than the original with a certain complexity, her character losses some of the glory, but Eva is still there, so no worries! In the current timeline of the Persian invasion after the death of the 300, there are no damsels in distress; Gorgo and Artemisia joins the bloodbath as they go through the Persian Immortals and the Greek Hoplites respectively, sending them to their watery graves.
Soul exploration :: The movie has the Athenian democracy and the Spartan monarchy (or oligarchy) in the picture – both against the tyranny of their opponents. While the former has mostly scholar, sculptors and farmers with voluntary military service, the latters are warriors born to live and die on the battlefields prepared to serve mandatory military service. While the former focuses more on naval warfare due to the strategic location their city, the latter has dominance on land combat. There is one thing in common though, which is the Greek concept of freedom and the desire for a united Greece at least during a foreign invasion (Peloponnesian War would later place them against each other, when the Persians are not invading with a huge army and navy). The movie ends at the Battle of Salamis, or rather continues as the combat never really finishes. It becomes no Battle of Thermopylae though due to its setting. But one thing that this movie tries different from its predecessor is that it doesn’t really go one-sided; it has the side of Xerxes who is tormented and made to become the god-kind, and also the side of Artemisia who is abused and left for dead in her childhood only to come back and become the harbinger of death and destruction herself. It also makes an attempt to sound intellectual by bringing the Athenian idea and ideology into the scene, even as that doesn’t really work due to the half-baked nature and the narrative giving no place for the same. But it doesn’t really go either. Ancient Athens was still the city of freedom and the centre of art and learning, and that should be evident with the name it got from the goddess of wisdom.
How it finishes :: 300: Rise of an Empire shows Popmeii and The Legend of Hercules how it should have been done. The problem with this movie would be about how well it can match its predecessor. The best lines are already taken by the predecessor, like
“Immortals; we put their name to the test”.
“You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It won’t be long before they fear my spears more than your whips”.
“Xerxes dispatches his monsters from half the world away. They’re clumsy beasts, and the piled Persian dead are slippery”.
“Now, as then, a beast approaches; patient and confident, savoring the meal to come. This beast is made of men and horses, swords and spears. An army of slaves vast beyond imagining, ready to devour tiny Greece, ready to snuff out the world’s one hope for reason and justice”.
“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed”.
“Freedom isn’t free at all, that it comes with the highest of costs. The cost of blood.”
Meanwhile, the best lines of this sequel outside the three I have already mentioned is “Better we show them, we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees”.
But as there was hope for Greece when everything was against the city-states, lets hope for the best in a future sequel, and may be wear some clothes or at least get better clothes. Persia might have never managed to conquer Greece, but in just about one hundred and fifty years, the Greeks would go on to conquer the whole Persian Empire under Alexander the Great and the name of the king will still be Darius – there lies the irony of it.
Release date: 7th March 2014
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Jack O’Connell, Andrew Tiernan, Yigal Naor, Andrew Pleavin, Ben Turner, Ashraf Barhom, Christopher Sciueref
@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.