Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Strap On Those Sandals

300: Rise of An Empire -- 2014, Zoam Murro -- download
Hercules -- 2014, Brett Ratner  (Red Dragon, X-Men: Last Stand) -- download

No, this isn't the beginning of yet another new recurring segment on We Disagree. Just a way to blend the commentary on two somewhat related movies, i.e. they are both of ancient Greek persuasion. Unless Kent agrees to a series review of all the Sinbad movies, there won't be enough fodder for a new category.

Well, maybe if we do Spartacus, in honour of our visit to the Kubrick exhibit.

300: Rise of an Empire is the side-quel for the Zack Snyder, Frank Miller graphic novel become green screen movie. It happens roughly at the same time as the first movie, but following different characters. This time, not owing its style to recreation of comic panels, it opens up more. The movie connects the first's Battle of Thermopylae to the battle at Marathon, where our main character Themistocles slays the King of Persia but spares his son, Xerxes. It is that event that leads to the fantastical nature of the Persian army that invades Greece ten years later, i.e. Xerxes becoming a god king.

When I mentioned not really having an internal vision of how Persia should be portrayed in fantasy fiction, this movie didn't really help. This is typical of the brown skinned exotic Evil Empire approach. But there is history, so its forgivable, I guess. What isn't history is the backstory they give to Xerxes, the god king of the Persians. Tall, golden and basically hairless, the man walks into a magic bath bearded and normal sized, but emerges as a cross between a diva and a giant. This sort of flies in the face of what the first movie wanted to portray, that he was mortal, after all. Magical transmogrification for appearances only?

His right hand man, er, woman is Artemisia, a Greek who hates Greece and is played by Eva Green channeling her usual scary, sexy goth. Not that I am complaining. She is capable, manipulative and is portrayed as the intelligence behind the whole invasion, with Xerxes as just a pretty golden puppet, albeit 10 feet high.

This is a movie for those who enjoyed the first one and for anyone who has watched the Spartacus: Boobs & Blood TV series. Every battle scene is slow-mo, digital blood spraying every which way, good guys cutting down bad guys with dramatic swipes of their swords, ignoring the armor of the Persians while they fight in speedos. But rather than just men with spears and swords, they toss in a sea battle, ships crunching against each other with a dramatic battle where numerous boats are stuck together and the Greeks and Persians fight from deck to deck. Still not sure why a horse as considered a secret weapon when they could not have predicted the configuration of the tangled decks. These movies are all about cool factor in battle with little sense behind them.

The movie was fun, stylish, well shot (decent CGI) and dramatically acted (I will always enjoy watch Eva Green hamming it up, as long as its not Camelot) but generally forgettable.

I know very little of the graphic novel Hercules is based on. Despite my pirate access to all and every comic, the lack of visits to comic shops has diminished my awareness of the hot titles.  Maybe it wasn't so hot, as the lack of Googlish data says something.  Anyways, I was not aware of it being a comic before the trailers of the movie came out, and I was not aware of the type of movie it was, based on the trailers.

The trailers do a disservice to this movie. They depict a typical, expected adaptation of the Hercules myth, showing his greatest feats, i.e. his Labours. But the movie is not so. This is Hercules, the man behind the myths, picking up years later as he leads a group of mercenaries who bank on his reputation. Whether real or myth, the name sells. Enemies and the rulers of Greek city states believe he did all the feats of heroism by himself, not knowing that this D&D party of variously skilled adventurers helped him accomplish it all. That is what this movie is about.

Even without the myth, Hercules is a dominant warrior, hired for good reason. The movie brings him to Thrace, in eastern Greece, to help a king go up against ruthless rebels. The king needs his army trained and the rebels vanquished. Hercules is not so sure about sending more young men to their deaths, but he wants the coin, so his men and he can retire. Things never go as planned in these movies, as betrayals pile up and Herc must decide who he really is.

Every time someone, usually Iolaus the storyteller, reminds us of how great Hercules was, we get a flashback to his battle with a legendary creature. But we also get hints of the truth behind the hero. These CGI monster laden scenes are what the trailer was telling us to see, but the core of the movie is how Hercules himself can both rise above his mythos and those around can learn to depend on the man. His men (and woman!) trust him, but he must learn to trust himself.

Its a fun movie, where The Rock gets to try his hand at a tortured hero trope. I doubt it had the weight the graphic novel was supposed to have, but it did a decent job of portraying something other than a big screen adaptation of familiar, typical mythos movies.

Really, that is my usual fallback to describing these movies. I don't expect great, I don't even expect good, but if I have fun, then I am usually satisfied. This one fell short of being added to my Swords & ... collection, and I would never have the intention of adding the first one, but I could not not see them. I always see them. And yes, I am the guy who will see Seventh Son with Jeff Bridges, should they actually ever get around to releasing it.