The most compelling thing there is in the first 300, after all the special effects and whatnot, is Gerald Butler. As King Leonidas he had this ironic, wry toothy grin plastered on his face that’s so effective it can make you overlook the senseless dialogue and laughable delivery, made worse by an idiotic faux British accent everyone tries to make exotic by rolling their Rs and Ss.
It’s sort of what you would expect if you made a WWE wrestler recite his threats in a Dracula accent. Stupid, and if you try to decipher what they are saying, even stupider.
Butler however with his grin put a kind of satirical mocking with his character, almost as if saying ‘I know this sounds stupid, but I have great looking abs so shut it I’m doing it anyway.‘ There is a scene in 300 where Xerxes offered him to be a warlord if he would only kneel to him, he says ‘You are generous, ..but the idea of kneeling, it’s, uh, you see, slaughtering all those men of yours has left a nasty cramp in my leg so kneeling will be hard for me’. It was so well executed and hilarious that I probably think of that line at least once a month.
And so I actually enjoyed 300, and when I learned there was to be an inevitable sequel, I knew it was not going to work if Butler was not in it.
So here it is, Butler isn’t in it, and it’s hardly as enjoyable. Whoever they got to replace him (I’m too lazy to check) does Butler’s Leonidas a disservice because he is so ineffective that most of the time I can’t make him out from the supporting cast. Only after I realize that the camera is focused on him and he’s saying the most number of things do I realize that he’s the lead.
Eva Green however, is another matter. I first remember her from Casino Royale, and here she fills up the screen as the ultimate female baddie. A long haired brunette that’s sexual enough to remind you she’s a beautiful woman but not too much to remind you she will cut your head off on a whim. She is terrific and if only her character’s history was established earlier in the film (to explain why she’s such a homicidal maniac), she’d have taken it over. No, I take it back. This is her film, and if they’d change the poster to reflect this to be her story instead it honestly would have been more appropriate.
I like movies like these and I will always look forward to movie versions of anything Frank Miller does. If there’s news of him writing another 300, Batman, Ronin, Sin City or whatever, I would gladly pay in advance.
This one didn’t work sure, so I’ll wait for the next. Miller wrote Daredevil, the single most compelling comic character of my young life. If there’s anyone who can make a true legendary film he can.