Girlpower in Greece

A digitised gore-fest fails to impress

300: Rise of an Empire (16)

The verbally challenged Jack Warner (or was it Sam Goldwyn?) is alleged to have come out of a particularly violent film muttering, “It was very blood and thirsty. I am thunder and struck.”
Well 300: The Rise of an Empire is also 'blood and thirsty' and I am well and truly 'thunder and struck' after seeing it. With all the money that went into it, wouldn't you have thought they might rise to the occasion of employing a half-decent scriptwriter? Or maybe cut back on the sword-slashing a bit so that the final battle scenes become something more than an anti-climax?
I remember seeing 300 Spartans, the Richard Egan template for this abominable movie, as a boy. It wasn't a classic but it was a serviceable rendition of the tale of the 300 warriors who gave their lives so gallantly against the might of a huge Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae. 
300 has misappropriated that story to create a quasi-gothic exercise in blood-lust. It's also added a woman as the prime instigator of most of the deaths, presumably to grab the kind of audience that makes people go to films like Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, i.e. so they can see Uma Thurman going at the martial arts stuff as good as the boys.
Noam Murro, who helms the movie, makes Tarantino look like Walt Disney. All, presumably, in the name of 'realism'. But what is realism? This form of graphic blood-spilling is meaningless unless it's buttressed by a cast of 'realistic' characters. As with so many films that prioritise special effects – most of which are neither 'special' nor 'effective' – the ones we get here are like cardboard cut-outs.
Even Eva Green with her steely eyes disappoints. She captures the venom of Artemisia but not her trauma. (Her thirst for slaughter, we learn, results from a horrific childhood). For a lot of the time, despite the fact that we know she'd just as soon behead someone as kiss them – in one horrific scene she does both – she resembles a snooty headmistress at a posh school putting some recalcitrant pupils through their paces.
She tells us she's a mixture of Greek and Persian but she speaks more like someone who's doing a doctorate in English at Cambridge.
Sullivan Stapleton (sounding like Pierce Brosnan in a toga) plays Themistokles, the leader she tries to co-opt to her army to get rid of those pesky Spartans. The rest of the cast speak in the stilted tones in which third-rate epics like this seem to have cornered the market. Some of them seem suitably fierce; others look like they'd be more at home in a film about cricket.
The 3D effects are scorching – there are a few phenomenal maritime scenes – but one gets the impression Murro has created them from sitting behind a computer digitalising his images. I prefer the pre-technology approach when directors went out onto the field of battle with their troops and shot it for real.
Murro tries to validate his gore-fest by dint of a choral soundtrack and some high-sounding hyperbole but this only highlights the relentless blood-spattering. I regard myself as fairly battle-hardened after seeing so many films by the aforementioned Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah etc. but I had to avert my eyes for some of the scenes here.
In a world in which we wake up every other morning to the news of yet another violent death, what does Murro think he's going to achieve by this ode to casual dismemberment?
There's also an aggressive sex scene. And yet the film carries only a 16s cert instead of an 18s one. I think it should be sent back to the censor for re-classification.