Having studied ancient history at university, I’ll admit that I just can’t get enough of stuff like this.
One might argue that Noam Murro’s 300: Rise Of An Empire, takes unseemly delight in gory hand-to-hand combat – it is a splatter-fest, no more no less – but as anybody who has read Herodotus and Plutarch would be aware, the Greece v Persia conflict was no place for sissies.
How good, too, to see the obscure Artemisia (Eva Green) belatedly take her place in a field usually dominated by hairy blokes. An early champion of the sisterhood, she was much favoured by the Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and fought as a commander at the decisive battle of Salamis, though we’ll never know if she was as adept at decapitations as she’s shown to be here.
In fact, the episode where she slices off a hapless soldier’s head was almost enough for me to heave up my strawberry flavoured choc-top.
It is 480 BC, ten years after the Greeks’ famous victory at Marathon, and Xerxes, aiming to avenge his father Darius, has led his hordes to Athens.
Much is made of the fact that youthful democracy was under threat, that it was the driving issue (Sparta remained a monarchy), but this interpretation of events is a contemporary one designed to fit more comfortably in our own socio-political landscape.
Be that as it may, the movie is an absolute hoot, especially in 3D.
As the great Athenian general Themistocles, Australia’s Sullivan Stapleton doesn’t have the mongrel that Gerard Butler’s Leonidas showed us in 300 (2006), but he manages to find the right stuff when his moment comes to give Artemisia a robust rogering – it’s one of those fantastical sex scenes that makes you think, ‘Jeez, I wish I could do that’.
There is an awful lot of blood hosing out of severed limbs, split skulls and slashed torsos (graphically accentuated by slo-mo), but not too many liberties are taken with the story – and Green is an absolute piece of work. I loved it.
~ John Campbell