“This! Continues To Be! Sparta!” Alas those words were nowhere to be heard during the thirteen minute preview that Warner Bros. and #Klout held at their “Fan Event” last night for the forthcoming “300: Rise of an Empire.” In fact, we think the movie is going to end up starring not Spartans but Athenians — those “boy lovers” so mocked by King Leonidas in the 2007 original. While the sneak peek proved that nothing is ever going to be quite as miraculous as Zack Snyder‘s crypto-fascist green-screen masterpiece, this is definitely cut from the same gauzy, sheer, nipple-propped cloth.
Here are ten takeaways from the evening.
1. So, What Is This?
The movie begins with a clay relief dissolving into the last shot of the dead warriors from “300.” (Only this time in 3D.) Then the creepy androgynous Xerxes, gets all up in our grill with a humongous axe. Next thing you know, Lena Headey, the Queen from the first movie, is talking to armed men a few years later. So this is a sequel! Then she tells a story, about the battle of Marathon, which preceded the action at Thermopylae. So this is a prequel! But the build-up is actually leading to tell a story of other battles which happened kinda right before and maybe during and maybe even right after Thermopylae. So this is a…sidequel?
My God – we have a sidequel!
Boobs in the first three minutes. Big, jiggly 3D boobs as a “Greek” (so, y’know, very Anglo) woman is being yanked away by marauders.
3. The Snyder Effect
Zack Snyder is credited as a producer and co-writer, but did not direct. Commercial director Noam Murro is making his blockbuster debut (he previously helmed the dramedy “Smart People“), but he got the memo. It looks just like the first one did, with its bronze haze, intermittent slo-mo and ribbons of blood which artfully burst from pierced and punctured bodies. Only now, with the 3D, the blood looks like tomato paste.
4. Button Mashing
There’s a sequence — THE sequence, as far as I’m concerned — where “300” resembles a classic sidescroller. In this one, they clearly want to go bigger, so there are shots where the 360 chaos feels ripped direct from first person shooters. The target demo will, I’m sure, be happy.
5. Use Your Words?
So why are they fighting? I dunno. I kinda spaced out at the beginning when Lena Headey was yapping. But the big fight scene we see is Themistocles repelling the Persian King Darius at Marathon. As an arrow (the same type of arrow from the first movie) pierces Darius’ chest, his son runs in slow motion and makes a NOOOOOOOOO face. His eyes are described as having “the stink of destiny.” It’s possible I misheard this. Maybe Headey says “streak of destiny?” But that doesn’t quite make sense either. I’m sticking with “stink.” Either way, revenge will be his.
6. Gimme an X!
That son is Xerxes, the weird dude with the bald head who sounded like proto-Bane in the first movie. But here, he’s just a guy. After the death of his father, he and his sister mope and mourn. She eventually sends him out in the desert wrapped in muslin cloth dipped in potions brewed by wizards and sorcerers. He ends up in a cave guarded by a blind hermit (note: by this point I am in the audience just drooling in quasi-mythological nerdish glee) and submerges himself in “300”’s version of a Mikvah or Lazarus Pit.
Then Xerxes rises, glowing, as the freak we remember from the first movie. Only now he’s, like ten feet tall with legs and a rear end and a unit that’s proportional.
7 . Is There A Gen-X Reference You Can Make To Better Describe How Xerxes Looks In The New Movie?
Yes. Anyone remember Shazzan?
8. So, Ya Got A Sister?
A few months before my seventh birthday my old man took me to see “Superman II.” In it, Sarah Douglas played the part of Ursa and it…changed me. It gave me feelings that I…didn’t understand. What I’m trying to say is that my fetish for severe, domineering brunettes with saucerlike eyes was born, and when inchoate red blooded American males go see this movie the performance by Eva Green as Artemesia will likely do the same thing.
9. What Kind Of Things Does She Do?
Well, in the first 13 minutes she stabs a dude in the heart with a dagger and tells her brother he will be “a God-King.” It also appears that she’s the one who is really pulling his strings, even feeding him Cyrano-style as he stands before his subjects in his golden codpiece. She says that she wants to initiate war, although this is [pushes glasses up nose] clearly a canonical breach, as “300” states that Leonidas “brought war on himself.”
10. Did the “Fans” Lose Their Minds?
It was far from a sell-out. At least in New York. They had stacks of exclusive Mondo prints laying dormant on the table, as well as empty seats. Also, #Klout screwed up. The original invite that went out to “influencers” implied we’d be seeing the new movie in its entirety.
Invites direct from Warner Bros. were more clear. Once the thirteen minutes ended and the 2007 movie began, a steady stream of people exited the theater. I love “300” to death, but when I realized this was hardly a rowdy bunch with nary a “woo” among them, I bailed too, right after one of my favorite moments in cinema — when the heavy metal guitars kick in and the Persian ships get pelted by the rain. Michael Fassbender – yeah, Michael Fassbender – makes some really ridiculous faces during this scene.
“300: Rise Of An Empire” opens on March 7th. Here’s a new behind-the-scenes featurette.