300: Rise of an Empire is really, really, really, really dumb. Based on Frank Miller’s unpublished Xerxes, 300 Reloaded is reminiscent of all of Frank Miller’s work, and thus pervaded by a juvenile preoccupation with glorified visceral violence, unthinking machismo, raging misogyny and an all-encompassing sense of dumb. That doesn’t mean 300 Remix is rubbish by any means, but rather that how much you enjoy the film is inversely related to how much you think about it while watching it.
300 Revolutions expands on the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city states, circling around the events of the battle of Thermopylae, portrayed so faithfully in 300. It follows the events before, during and after Thermopylae, climaxing in the naval battle of Salamis, where Xerxes’ fleet got a solid wedgie, and his campaign came to a halt – after which Xerxes was soon forced to return to Persia to calm the rising civil unrest, while his remaining army was lead to a crushing defeat at Plataea.
With Leonidas dead at the Hot Gates, the gruff, buffed-up, bearded motherfucker Gerald Butler is replaced by Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles, a gruff, buffed-up, bearded motherfucker. Themistocles as a character is somewhat weaker than Gerald Butler’s Leonidas, seeming to lack character and personality. Leonidas was at least much more memorable, with a sense of sarcasm and a gruff Spartan accent, while Themistocles is just a completely generic soldier-character. The number of inspirational speeches he gives before a battle becomes quite comic, as there are at least five that I remember counting.
300 Historical Revisions is notably dumb, but does pretty well when viewed against the background of the original 300 and the graphic novel that originated it. Everything touched by Frank Miller tends to lean towards a juvenile and underdeveloped vision of adultness, where gruff, white, muscular motherfuckers portray the epitome of heroism and all minorities tend to be tarnished in direct proportion to their distance from the overtly masculine archetypes, and human interaction consists exclusively of visceral violence and knobbing. However, 300 RoaE manages to include a somewhat wider spectrum of moral ambiguity and feminine agency.
The visuals are the strongest part of the film, and while the constant use of slow-motion – even in shots where it serves no visible purpose – borders on really annoying, it also translates the style of graphic novels very well. The shots often slow down to almost a complete halt, allowing you to see and focus on all the detail, similarly to how you would read graphic novels and take time examining frames and taking everything in.
Eva Green is really the positive surprise in the film, portraying Artemisia, Xerxes’ naval commander/architypal bond villain, a vengeful Greek woman abused by Greek hoplites, and fostered by a Persian envoy. She becomes portrayed as the one truly running the Persian campaign against the city states, and the hand manipulating Xerxes, who unfortunately remains reduced to a malleable, petty autocrat. This is a bit of an odd development, possibly stemming from some underlying aspiration to turn 300 into a trilogy – a state that all intellectual property seems expected to move towards – building up to the final battle of Plataea.
Eva Green is ultimately the one who steals the screen, not only for her great, big tits, but also because she looks like she is having a great time onset; switching in turn between the raging fighter, a menacing bond-villain indifferently throwing men into their deaths, and the manipulating temptress, bending the surrounding man-children into doing her bidding. She shows here she has great range, and does a bloody brilliant job as an action heroine. Why Frank Miller’s female characters have a tendency to be sexually manipulative temptresses who want to control the witless neanderthals around them for cynical, personal gain is a question for someone who has a better understanding of psychology.
300: Another One is more overloaded with problems than a senior level mathematics textbook, but it is quite entertaining and has some awesome bits as well, while its failings also tend to endear it to the viewer, like a puppy pissing itself in excitement. But that doesn’t exactly stop the carpet from smelling like wee. If you really like 300 with all its awesomely enjoyable and unironic glory, then you will most probably like Rise of an Empire as well.