Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, April 10, 2015

Movie Review 300: Rise of an Empire

You know I've cooled a bit on 300.  Sure as an Michigan State University graduate I have to have some loyalty to it but all the same the O.G. Spartans were kind of ... complicated.

The more I think about it though the less I like that we've deified  them as the "founders of western military tradition". While crazy awesome in the moment this scene in particular feels like the height of stupidity when my brain turns on.

When your sword is blunted and your armor is dented you'll be damn glad you had a blacksmith or two around.  Shut the hell up.

And as for potters, I have three words. GREEK FIRE ASSHOLES!

I'm borrowing a bit from Moviebob (I have got to stop doing that) here but yes 300: Rise of a Empire feels like nothing more than a deconstruction of the black and white simplicity of the first movie, an attempt to inject some brains into it.

But the reason why the first movie worked was the extreme melodrama that such moral simplicity allowed for. Who doesn't love shouting quotes from it at the top of their lungs?


I am torn. The thing that makes this movie intellectually interesting is the same thing that makes it boring as hell to sit through.

The grand thesis of the film is that Greece was more than her army and definitely more than the Spartans. And considering all the societal infrastructure it took and still takes to build a military naval vassal it seems like an apt foil to the a free man with a just cause and a long spear posturing of the first.

To that end the movie tries to undo some of the myth making of the original by showcasing Themistocles and the Battles of Artemisium and Salamis who many including myself believe don't get as much press as his terrestrial counterparts when he deserves at least as much and maybe more.

But since the movie's raison detre is to bring 300 back down to earth and it knows it can't while still remaining 300 it problematically tries to find the sweet spot between Scylla and Carbides.

As for actual history or political theorizing about the relationships between a civilian economy, the navy and the army there are better places to go.

And for action well, look naval combat is always a bitch to film. The movie gives it a good go with usual 300 tricks, but in the wide expanse of water ships are kind of slow moving doubly so in antiquity. Most movies get around this by having a lot of tension and build up.

And sure the movies tries but first off that takes the edge of the decapathon, and second of all the movie seems to think that anybody watching already kind of understands Salamis' relationship to Thermopylae and the larger Greco-Persian conflict.

Lets get the history out of the way.

While yes there were a shit ton of Persians at Thermopylae the bulk of the Persian army was tied up in the straits of Artemisium in a naval battle, after the battle of Thermopylae was lost Themistocles convinced the Greeks to change objectives and engage the Persians in the Straits of Salamis where they more or less crushed the Persian navy The movie is trying to do for that naval battle what 300 did for Thermopylae while criticizing the notion that that one battle forged western civilization especially when Thermopylae was lost. .

Anyway, we get a lot of talk about why the battle is important to the characters but again part of the point of the film is to get past the guttural manipulation of the first one so there isn't much of a reason to root for anybody other than the battle's bigger importance in the war the 300 started, which like I said the movie is kind of vague on.

In the original the battle is important because of how the film is framed. The Greeks are a rag tag band of bad-ass brothers while the Persians... that's a can of worms I'm not touching with a ten foot poll.

In this movie since everything is downplayed there isn't a lot of difference between the two navies. Hell at one point I thought the Greeks were shooting arrows at their own guys in the water.

The first one was all heart while the second tried for brains and their both flawed for it.

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