Thursday, 2 April 2015

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire is not a good movie. But it's not really a bad movie either.
Pictured: A neither good nor bad movie
It's certainly better than its predecessor, but that's not exactly a high bar to set. So let's look at this film piece by piece and compare the good versus the bad.

When Spartans get tired they'll take a nap anywhere
We start right where the previous film left off, but don't let that fool you. This film actually runs concurrently to it. But for now it's in sequel mode. So, the bearded Idiot is dead and Mighty Codpiece is going all Queen of Hearts on him.
Sadly there wasn't a good shot of his mighty codpiece available
Then he skips off to burn Athens.
Not even 1:30 before boobs. Stay classy Frank.
Then it's over to the Queen of Sparta giving a rousing speech to her men.
We all remember Queen what'serface
It's pretty much what Belios said at the end of the last movie, but it has been a few years so I'll forgive it. Although Belios should've cleaned his wound by now.
At least change the bandage
And now we're onto a history lesson (narrated by Queenie) about how the war started and how the earlier war ended. A large army of Persians led by King Darius attacked at Marathon. A guy named Themistocles was leading the Greeks and he knew they were outnumbered.
And out-armoured, apparently
However, since Themistocles isn't a Spartan he has an IQ score above 30. He decides to surprise attack the Persians just as they're unloading they're ships. That way, they're tired and won't have had enough time to prepare their defenses.
Since these are actually sound military tactics I'm amazed they made it into this film series.
Queenie then tells us about the guy who came up with this plan.
This dude
"His men call him Themistocles."
And a good thing too, since that's his name.
We then get treated to the first fight scene of the movie. And what I think is its biggest issue.
Blood for the Blood God!
Seriously, every single attack causes more blood spatter than Dracula.
I'd rather have a stake hammered into my heart than watch any more Frank Miller movies
It's incredibly distracting. And badly done.
Other than that though, these fight scenes kick arse. It's well-choreographed, quick-paced and imaginative. Not a word often associated with Frank Miller.
Anywhoo, the fight makes its way to the waters edge where Themistocles kills some archers and spots king Darius and his son, Xerxes.
Pictured: A Xerxes that looks historically accurate. Don't get used to it.
Themistocles puts his brain to good use again and shoots king Darius, thus ending the war. But Xerxes saw it happen (despite historically not being there).
Back then he also knew how to wear clothes. Don't get used to that either.
They then returned to Persia, where Darius pretty much ignores his son in favour of Artemisia.
Who was apparently the worlds first Emo
Let's play the historical accuracy game. How much of the following backstory is historically accurate?
Darius praises Artemisia like a daughter because she wins wars, whereas Xerxes was a pansy. 
Almost showing emotion is womanly
He tells Xerxes not to fight the Greeks, since only the Gods can defeat them. Dude lost one battle to a surprise attack and he calls them invincible? What tactics did all of his other conquests use? Mildly unpleasant insults?
You dress like a fetishist and look like a golden dildo!
Then Darius ups and dies, leaving his empire to Xerxes because he had no-one else to give it to. Xerxes gets depressed about this, so Artemisia tells him that Darius' last words weren't a warning, but a challenge.
I've been sitting here for eight days, you couldn't have mentioned this sooner?
Oddly enough, Darius' corpse has been lying there for eight days and yet it doesn't show any sign of decomposition.
Anyway, Artemisia dresses Xerxes up in rags and sends him out to the desert to become a God.
And don't come back for forty days
Xerxes eventually stumbles upon a cave with some creepy old dudes inside. He takes a bath and is reborn as a God.
God of what I'm not sure. Facial piercings?
Before his return, Artemisia brutally murders everybody who had advised Darius, making sure that only she remained to advise Xerxes.
Even Steve from accounting. Especially Steve from accounting.
Xerxes then stands atop a building and addresses his people.
"Gaze upon my Codpiece!"
"Pardon? We can't hear you!"
"Sorry, you'd think I'd have used a megaphone or something."
He tells them that they'll all go to war as vengeance for the death of his father. But not for 10 years. He's got shit to do in the meantime.

So did you play along? How much of that was historically accurate?
If you guessed feck all then congratulations, you're not a moron.
For starters, Darius didn't think of Artemisia like a daughter. She was just another general. Xerxes was actually his favoured son, hence why Darius handed him the throne instead of his older brother. Xerxes was also a follower of Zoroastrianism, which is monotheistic, so it's highly unlikely he would have tried to make himself into a God.

Anyway, later Xerxes is moving his army around the Aegatean sea by building a bridge of ships to cut the journey by several months.
Look, the first real bit of historical accuracy. Savour it.
Artemisia tells Xerxes that there's still no word from the messenger he sent to Sparta.
That guy
Her statement is important for two reasons. I won't reveal the obvious one yet. As for the other reason, I did some research since the last movie. It turns out that Xerxes sent messengers to every Greek city-state. Except two. Athens and Sparta. This was an attempt to isolate the two strongest states and paralyse Greece through in-fighting. It didn't work, but it was still a good tactic.
But then we wouldn't have the Bearded Idiot kicking an innocent man into a well.
And who would want that?

So Themistocles goes to Sparta to tell the Spartans about it and request their aid. After watching a bunch of men beating up a kid Queenie calls him gay. She outright states it. In fact, there's a lot of anti-gay sentiment in this film.

Just a bunch of musclemen sweating in the sun whilst wearing nothing but their underwear. Nothing gay here at all.
I think Frank's suppressing something.
Themistocles asks Queenie if he can rely on the Spartans for help but she tells him to shove it. This despite the fact that she was fully supportive of the idea when Bearded Idiot said it in the last film.
Women, amirite?
So Themistocles leaves thinking the Spartans won't help, only to be told later on that they're helping anyway.
Making this scene entirely pointless.
Speaking of pointless scenes.
We then skip to Artemisia on board her ship, executing a prisoner for no particular reason.
This scene is both pointless and gross. Why do I have deja vu?
She spots a spy on board. She very cleverly deduces this from his hands not being coarse enough to have worked on a ship.
His being the only white guy should have tipped her off though.
She orders him killed, but he escapes. And apparently swims to Greece. Faster than the ships. Which were mentioned to take a couple of hours to get there. During a storm. And he does it with enough time to dry off, get changed and join Themistocles' war council.
He had a spare twenty seconds, so he picked up his son too.
And what vital information did he attain on his incredibly risky mission?
"They're led by the exact person everyone expected to be leading them."
Good job buddy. Have a cookie.
"I am so important to the plot."
This is used as an excuse for yet another flashback. This time it explains Artemisia's backstory, about how her parents were murdered before her eyes and she was kidnapped to be raised as a sex slave before being dumped somewhere in the Persian Empire.
"And you thought my backstory was horse shit?"
She then gets discovered and raised as a warrior, pleasing Darius through her military victories. As an aside, look at who raised her.
That guy
If he's the one who saved her and raised her, then why did she refer to him earlier as just the messenger? Did she never bother to learn his name? Did she not know it was him? And Furthermore, if he was so close to King Darius (He's the one to introduced Artemisia to him) then why didn't she kill him along with the other advisors?
And what is up with Darius' skull fetish?
None of it really matters anyway since, once again, all of this is made up horse shit.
As Themistocles discusses strategy they mention that it's 50 ships versus thousands.
And there's more where they came from
It doesn't really matter at this point, but I feel that I should mention the actual numbers. The Greeks had 271 ships. After many loses related to storms the Persians had around 800. So it was a little over 3-1 in favour of the Persians. I don't know why they changed it. If I were to change the numbers I would have rounded it up for the Greeks. Keep the title relevant.
Anyway, using sound military tactics and some pretty decent fight scenes, Themistocles fights off the Persians.
I'm amazed none of them slipped
To be fair, this is awesome
After the first day of battle the Greeks dock and celebrate their victory. The Persians lick their wounds the only way they know how.
With delicious murder!
Artemisia complains at length about how everyone is worthless and she just wants a man who can stand as an equal to her. Because that's what all women want, right Frank? Even badass warrior-women who control vast armies can't possibly be happy without a man by their side.
Fuck you Frank.
Anyway, both armies get ready for the second day of battle. I'm sure you're sick of hearing me say it by now, but this didn't happen historically. There were no battles on the second day. Everyone was too busy repairing their ships.
But yeah, on the second day this guy leads a bunch of ships to attack Themistocles personally.
I neither know nor care about his name
Artemisia's lieutenant comments that he's a skilled strategist. He proves this by sailing his ships directly into the most obvious trap in history.
They're retreating into the fog. Clearly they're fleeing in terror. Let's follow them.
The Persian ships get smashed to pieces on the rocks that they really should have known were there. Then they get swarmed by the Greek army jumping off of the cliffs and onto the ships.
Considering how far this guy jumps, the only surprise should be his broken ankles.
Once again we're treated to a fight scene that would have been simply amazing without the ridiculous blood splatter.
Themistocles and the other Greeks slaughter everybody they meet until they reach the general, who puts up a good fight alongside two of his guards. Themistocles doesn't even break a sweat.
Themistocles is more badass than Leonidas. Yeah, I said it.
After two failed attacks Artemisia decides that Themistocles but be a pretty awesome bloke so she orders her lieutenant to invite him over for tea and biscuits. 
This guy.
When asked what assurances they have that Themistocles won't be brutally murdered, he responds by saying that the only honour Artemisia can have now is by personally impaling Themistocles to his own ship while it sinks.
"Why didn't you just say that to begin with?"
I'm starting to like this guy.
Unfortunately, the ensuing scene is entirely pointless. Artemisia tries to seduce Themistocles to the Persian side. She does this by shagging him. Because she's a woman and Frank Miller is a terrible human being.
Not pictured: Anything that actually advances the fucking story
Themistocles turns her down and she gets angry, kicking him off her ship. Staying true to her word though she does have her lieutenant return him to his camp. When asked about what happened Themistocles just says that tomorrow Artemisia will bring all Hell with her.
A Hell hath no fury joke.
We wasted 15 minutes of the movie with a pointless, boring sex scene just so Themistocles could make a Hell hath no fury joke?
Ancient Greeks didn't even call it Hell. Hell comes from Norse mythology Frank. The Greeks had the Underworld.
All of my hate!
This film series has all of my hate.
Anyway, on the third day of fighting the Persians bring out this thing.
I don't even care anymore
It starts spraying thick black liquid everywhere. Artemisia orders her personal guard to be sent in.
AKA suicide bombers. From the Middle East. Say it with me.
Fuck you Frank.
During the fighting the people on top of the metal ship start throwing flaming hammers at the Greeks, causing the oil to ignite. Themistocles orders a guy to perform an impossible javelin throw, which he succeeds at on his first try. This causes the hammer thrower to catch alight and fall into the oil, exploding the whole ship.
Once again I will admit that this was awesome.
Just as the fighting reaches its' peak and it looks like the Greeks might win again Artemisia shoots the spy in the chest.
But he was so important to the plot
Imagine if absolutely anyone else in her army had thought to use arrows.
So one of the suicide bombers makes it on board and Artemisia shoots him with a flaming arrow, causing him to explode directly in front of Themistocles.
Somehow he survives though and he wakes up underwater. Where he sees giant sea serpents eating dead Greeks.
Yeah, I've got no frikking clue either.
When Themistocles wakes up on shore my favourite character from the first movie shows up again.
You remember him? He was the guy with brain cells.
He tells Themistocles that the Bearded Idiot is dead. Themistocles declares that Greece now has martyrs. He tells baldy to spread the word whilst he travels to Athens to evacuate.
When he gets there he's greeted by Ephialtes, the hunchback.
They get along faboulously
Themistocles spares his life and travels back to Sparta in order to request aid again.
Naturally the Queen is a bitch for no good reason. She complains about Greece always demanding that the Spartans sacrifice their lives to defend her, despite this being what all Spartans supposedly dream of.
Yeah, consistency is not one of Frank's strong points.
When Xerxes gets to Athens he burns it to the ground and slaughters everybody. Despite the fact that it had been evacuated. Which was the only reason he burned it to the ground.
Can I just stop pointing out the historical inaccuracies now? It's getting repetitive.
Anyhow, Ephialtes informs Xerxes of where the Greeks have holed up. When he mentions that Themistocles is still alive, Artemisia decides to attack with the entire fleet to finish them off. Xerxes advises against this, but Artemisia is too stubborn and decides to attack anyway.
Historical inaccuracy alert!
Fine. Just like last movie, at around the same point, we have a discussion that was exactly reversed from history. Artemisia was actually the only one of Xerxes' generals who advised against attacking the Greeks, instead preferring to blockade their hiding place and starve them out. While Xerxes praised her tactical advise he wanted to finish it quickly and ordered the attack anyway.
Actual history is so much more fun than this crap.
And so we enter our final battle scene. The Greeks are down to only a handful of ships while the Persian forces are as vast as ever.

But first, the exact same rousing speech we've heard in every movie since the dawn of cinema.

And so we get yet another fight scene that would have been awesome if it weren't for the blood splatter. Themistocles actually rides a horse through a burning ship at one point. There were no flames or explosions, the ship just spontaneously combusted from the sheer testosterone of the scene.
Themistocles fights his way to Artemisia and they have a genuinely and unashamedly brilliant fight scene.
It says a lot about a movie when watching the two main characters fight is more enjoyable than watching them shag.
Just as they hit a stalemate, Artemisia hears something on the wind.
Look to the East!
Yep, the Spartan Queen has decided to stop moping around and actually do something. The Spartans get to be big damn heroes.
And they're totally not ripping off the Blood Angels.
But wait, there's more.
Look to the West!
That's right, the Spartans just got upstaged during their own Big Damn Heroes moment.
Themistocles offers Artemisia a chance to surrender, which she declines. After she dies (Historical inaccuracy) Themistocles and Queenie nod at each other and charge back into the fray.
To a Spartan, gutting a dude is equivalent to nodding.
And we're finally finished with this movie.
So, in retrospect, was this movie bad?
Actually, yes. This was a bad movie. Sure, it had some good points. Themistocles and his friends are likable enough. They use sound battle strategies most of the time. The fight scenes are pretty darn cool. The music is simply fantastic and there're even some things that are historically accurate.
But it's not quite enough.
The bad guys are boring. Artemisia's backstory had me laughing rather than sympathising. Same with Xerxes. There are still some utterly stupid tactical decisions. It's sexist and homophobic. The fight scenes are ruined by the cgi bloodshed. And the historical inaccuracies keep mounting up.

Moral of this story? Don't let Frank Miller write history textbooks. Or anything. At all.

Ok, so now that we're done with these, it's time to review a movie that I actually like.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Alrighty then!

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