Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson
Written by: Zack Synder, Kurt Johnstad and (based on the graphic novel Xerxes) Frank Miller
Running Time: 102 mins
Release date: 7th March 2014
Those of you who caught up with my review of Zack Synder’s 2006 graphic novel adaptation 300, will know I wasn’t a fan. So why did I think that this belated follow-up would be any better? Maybe the added bonus of IMAX and 3D? Nope, even improved projection, sound and vision couldn’t save this brainless bore.
Greek general Themistokles hears about the activities happening in Sparta. Knowing that the Persian army, led by Xerxes, will be heading towards them eventually, he gathers his own army to protect the seas from Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy, forcing a mighty war that the Greeks think they cannot win.
With Synder busy building the Superman empire (probably to knock it down in some over – bloated fight scene), he hands directing duties to Noam Murro, whose previous outing as a director was the small-scale comedy drama, Smart People, borrows every trick that was included in the original, with the added inclusion of more CGI gore and bits of fluff that float around the screen aimlessly there in the hope of creating atmosphere.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes, this isn’t as much a sequel as the story runs parallel to the original. so in order to understand where things sit, we get half an hour of explanation, which is fine but when a film has to take that much time explaining itself before the main thrust of the story kicks in, you know that this is desperate to fill the running time.
When the bulk of the very limited plot does arrive, you really don’t care because, once again, the characters are flatter than a pancake. No development whatsoever. We know nothing about them at the beginning and unless they are brutally murdered, we know nothing about them at the end. So we don’t really care about them. They all speak in gruff, grumbling voices, as if a good cough will clear their throats and when they do speak quietly, it’s like a Cook’s tour of accents.
Virtually all the performances are pitched at the same level: loud, louder and louder still. Sullivan Stapleton steps into Gerard Butler’s shoes as the lead this time and while he’s not as throaty as GB, he lacks any real charisma to make him an interesting lead. His speeches to his army sound like rejects from Braveheart but performed by an Australian who doesn’t know he has an accent. Lena Headey returns and doesn’t have much to do apart from almost whisper the previous film’s most famous line: This is Sparta! (Can’t see it being an internet sensation this time).
So it’s left to Eva Green to provide the most interesting performance, as the vengeful, power-hungry, Artemisia. The former Bond girl realises that this is utter codswallop and so plays it like it deserves, a pantomime baddie with a slice or two of ham, hold the pickle. The film lifts every time she appears and I wish they’d spent more time on her story than this dreary old thing. If you want to see how someone can chew up a green screen, then look no further than Eva.
It’s dull, it’s repetitive, it’s messy. It also includes one of the worse, most pointless, least erotic sex scenes ever put on film. Massively macho and sexist in its views, it’s less homoerotic than the last film. If they only realised that it was nonsense and camped it up, this could have been a mini masterpiece, but it is so po-faced and straight that you just long for them to go into a musical number to both surprise and shock you.
The dullest blockbuster so far this year and I don’t think there will be many that can beat it for sheer boredom. Shows you how bored I was, I learnt something while watching it. If you lean your head to the left while watching a 3D film in IMAX, you get multiple images. It’s that boring!