The First 13 Minutes of 300: Rise of an Empire Are Gloriously Gratuitous

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Last night I got to attend a special “fan event” for 300: Rise of an Empire, featuring the first 13 minutes of the movie in 3D Imax, followed by a full screening of the original 300, blown up to Imax size. The poster you see above is one I believe was exclusive to this event and those like it nationwide; click to see the rather lovely details on it.

Like, I suspect, a lot of people, I was a bit past caring about a 300 sequel. And yet, like the rest of the people in my theater, I let out an audible “Awwww” when the footage cut off at the 13-minute mark. Whatever else we may say about the movie down the line, I can say that Warner Bros. obviously knows they have, at the very least, a rock-solid introductory sequence. If by “rock solid” one means “insanely gory and pulling out every 3D trick in the book.”

Following a recorded introduction by Lena Headey, in which she admonished would-be texters and pirates that “you know how Spartans deal with those who betray their trust,” we got right into it. The 3D is kickass off the bat, with the WB logo as a craving on a set of doors in an ancient temple, that open up to reveal a set of Legendary doors, that open to reveal a wall sculpture of the dead 300 on the ground filled with arrows…which dissolves into the live-action version of same, as we get a POV shot of Leonidas’ head being sliced of by Xerxes. with full 3D effects to make the audience feel nearly decapitated. Xerxes is then seen in Sparta wielding Leonidas’s head, as his men sack the city and a naked woman is dragged off just so some large 3D breasts get everyone’s attention.

Then there’s some more in-your-face stuff: rain, dust, giant hammers, and finally a tidal wave of blood, before we cut to…

Headey’s Queen Gorgo telling the story this time, to Helios and other Greeks in exile. Despite the prior film’s mockery of Athenians as “boy lovers,” she begins by telling a flashback tale of the Athenians winning the battle of Marathon, by attacking the Persian boats the moment they hit land.

And here is where you get what you expect from “300 sequel in 3D.” The Athenians have blue capes this time, but other than that, it’s the same slo-mo/fast-mo, giant aprabolic arcs of blood in Frank Miller-esque swirls, follow the flight of arrows, horses crushing heads kind of battle that you presumably want to see if you’re coming to a movie with this title. Also, you know that thing that happens in most Zack Snyder movies, where the good guys fight just as dirty as the bad guys because they say the right things, even though there’s no indication by their actions that they act on those things? I’ll just leave this quote here…

“All for an idea. An Athenian experiment…called democracy.”

Anyway, Athenian hero Themistocles mortally wounds Persian king Darius with an arrow, despite the best efforts of his son Xerxes, who at this point is a wimpy little guy with a beard, revealing that yes, all along this was Paolo the take-a-shit-guy from Lost.

Back in Persia, which looks for all intents and purposes like the lair of the Scorpion King, Darius is dying, and attended by Artemisia (Eva Green), “the warrior child his son would never be.” He tells Xerxes never to invade Greece, because only the gods can defeat the Greeks. Artemisia promptly pulls the arrow out of his chest, killing him, and creatively interprets his last words to Xerxes as meaning that the boy must become a god, and then it’ll be plain sailing.

So Xerxes wanders out into the desert, finds a magic cave inhabited by “the hollow creatures that dwell in the corners of all men’s hearts,” and finds a golden pool. He walks into it a short bearded dude in rags, then steps out as a nine-foot tall, fully shaven, bling-sporting, mascara-lovin’, Speedo-wearing metrosexual giant we know and love. I’m not sure this is historically accurate.

Meanwhile, Artemisia goes around the Persian palace killing all Xerxes’ friends, so he’ll trust only her. He comes home, and walks out on the roof of his palace high above his people, looking like that Jesus statue that stands over Rio de Janeiro (great 3D for vertigo effect here) and proclaims that it’s time for war. And then…

13 minutes are up.

I had a blast, but just so you know why…I’ve been waiting a damn long time to see a 3D movie that really exploits 3D, not just for atmosphere, but for throwing weapons at your face. This throws weapons, weather, blood-drenched water and everything else your way, which may not make for the best DVD experience down the line, but it makes me remember when R-rated 3D sequels were amazing gimmicks to look forward to. Zack Snyder’s not the director this time, but the new guy apes him so closely he might as well be. If you like Snyder, you’re set. If not, don’t say you didn’t know what was coming.

Isn’t it hilarious that, as much as we mock Frank Miller for being a one-note has-been these days – we’re still getting two major movie sequels based on his work this year? For what I imagine to be an angry drunk, he’s productive.