Zack Snyder’s 300 was a heady concoction of geekery and machismo, a blood-red pint of style without a chaser of substance to take the edge off.
It had a certain charm in its simplicity – 300 Spartans against an army – which its sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, sadly lacks; it’s a bloated swords and sandals melodrama crammed with schlocky, B-movie acting and utterly dislikeable characters.
The chronology runs roughly in parallel with the first movie but focuses instead on the naval battle between the evil, marauding Persians and the holier-than-thou, democratic Athenians (draw whatever contemporary parallels you like from that), every one of whom bears an uncanny resemblance to Formula One driver Jenson Button.
Snyder displays a cavalier disregard for conventional pacing – right from the credits he turns it up to 11. There’s blood and hacking and slashing and raping and pillaging, often all in the same frame. There’s an entirely superfluous pair of gigantic, wobbling breasts within the first 20 seconds, possibly as an early counterpoint to the scores of glistening leather posing-pouches on display. Everything is filmed in slow motion; the running time is listed as 102 minutes but I’m genuinely interested to hear what that would fall to if it was played in real-time – I’d be surprised if you didn’t shave off at least 20 minutes.
The top-notch CGI and stylised visuals give it a veneer of aesthetic chutzpah but by the time the final battle kicked off I’d completely lost interest: stab him, slash her, jump that, hang around for the inevitable slo-mo blood fountain, blah blah blah. If that’s what you’re into – and it’s no bad thing if done properly – the upcoming sequel to Sin City promises visuals every bit as dramatic drawn from far more adept source material.
First published in City A.M.