Thursday, December 5, 2013

300: Rise Of An Empire Trailer #2 & Other Film News

(This is an old post; for my complete review and interpretation of all the elements of the film, please see A Call To Rebel: 300 Rise Of An Empire).
Oh, yea,...
Why start out with a prophecy?
Why start out with a prophecy about the end?
Why start out with a prophecy about the end that only stout wooden ships can overcome?
Because it's about America's legacy as a super-power.
Just as we will quote movies in our daily conversations, the movies also quote movies: films want you to know that they know you are an educated viewer, you have seen films, you remember scenes and you have bonded with characters. When we see instances in 300 Rise Of An Empire that reminds us of 300, it's because it wants us to remember that film, it wants us to remember what happened and why and how we felt about it. When we see scenes or hear dialogue in other films that make us think of 300, it's because those films want to be "linked" to 300, in what it said and why (like 47 Ronin). The world is an entirely different place today than it was when 300 came out in 2006. Why focus on a naval battle? Well, one history student might respond, because that's what happened. That might be correct historically speaking, however, if there were not some real reason for today's needs, film makers would have ditched the "stout ships" and gone for another "foot soldier" film like we saw at the end of 300 with the 10,000 Spartans charging the invading Persians. So, why the ships? America has always been protected from "invasions" by the Atlantic on the east, and Pacific on the west, one of the main reasons we have enjoyed peace for so long. It's was through its naval power that ancient Greece was recognized as a super-power, and why Artemisia (Eva Green) says only a god can defeat the Greeks, because their ships were of superior technology and their navy's skill unsurpassed, so we can easily see Greece as a metaphor for America's former role as a super-power in the world. Put this thought on hold; what image do we first see in the trailer? A man hurling a flame out into the water and it catching fire; why? This probably invokes the famous Greek fire, one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. Why is this important? Technology and innovation. You have a democracy, Athens, that is also a super-power because of it's technology and innovation, being invaded by an army using brute force and fear as its weapons.
There are lots of films coming about the end of the world--Pompeii, This Is the End, World War Z, Ice Age 4, The Croods, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, X-Men Days Of Future Past, etc.--but this is the film about stopping the end of the world. As we have said numerous times, history films are never ever never ever never ever never EVER about history, in this case, the invasion of the Persians, rather, they are ALWAYS about the here and the now, because we aren't interested in another people, we are really only interested in ourselves, and the historical events being depicted are merely a vehicle for us to understand what is happening in our own day, our own time.
Greece falling is a metaphor of the United States falling.
How can we say that?
What's that on her back? Spikes, like a reptile's, like a dragon's, meant to communicate that she is an animal, a cold-blooded animal. There have been a number of dragons making appearances lately and we shouldn't think this is a coincidence (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 47 Ronin, Maleficent, and the serpent in Noah). Likewise, we have recently seen another female with a bow wanting to bring down a government: Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). This is a war movie, but this is a war between women: Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) goes up against Artemisia (Green) who--from what I understand--wants revenge on the Greeks because they killed her family. We could sit back and say, that's so trite, what film doesn't erect that as a narrative device, but examining how she is being portrayed (and yes, Artemisia I of Caria was a real woman, who really controlled a navy for Xerxes and was a queen after the death of her husband because her son was too young to take the throne for himself, but we don't know if that will play into the film's story or not) will tell us exactly what was killed by America; we have all ready seen this in Olympus Has Fallen, when the North Korean wants to turn America's own nukes against it because his family was killed when he was a child (read: when socialism was still young in the world, America killed Marxism, socialism, fascism, Nazism and all the others, so now, they are going to take revenge on America). How can I make this about class so soon? Well, it will have to get around to that at one point or another, because Themistocles is from Athens, a democracy, whereas Gorgo is from Sparta, and while Sparta was a champion of democracies in other parts of the world, and fought against tyrants, Sparta's own government was based upon a complex system of those who were free and those who were enslaved. Part of the class conflict, however, probably won't focus on the differences between the Athenians and Spartans, rather, upon the Greeks and Persians: more rights were enjoyed by a greater majority of Greeks than by Persians who were utterly enslaved; Artemisia may look like she enjoys a lot of modern "women's rights," but the differences between her and Gorgo will be the important sub-text of the film.  
To begin, 300 (which we will discuss fully prior to the release of 300: Rise of An Empire in March) was clearly a metaphor for the damages done to the United States by the jihad of 9/11 and the vast differences in the cultures between those who crashed the planes into the World Trade Centers and the culture that built the World Trade Centers with the incredible physiques of the 300 Spartan soldiers representing, first of all, their spiritual/moral strength as well as the strength of the American economy because men generally symbolize the active principles of production (again, we'll go more into it later). But here's the obvious contradiction: 300 Rise Of An Empire is "the rise of an empire," not the end and downfall of an empire this second trailer opens with, so why are we talking about the end? Because when threatened with demise, we will rise up and be re-born; that's how it is, and we will see the same themes in both 47 Ronin (Keanu Reeves) and The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug. Which leads us to the role Leonides plays in the film, even if Gerard Butler isn't in it,...
What about this guy? What about the guy who is the 10-foot "god king" who couldn't make a Spartan bow and worship him? We see Xerxes in this newest trailer emerging from a "golden bath," (0:38) rather like the Queen (Charlize Theron) in Snow White and the Huntsman emerging from a thick, white liquid. In SWH, the queen had to artificially concoct a substance that would artificially endow her with similar virtues to that of Snow White (the liquid, in essence, being a bath to make the queen as "white as Snow White" but only being skin-deep) and, we could say, we see Xerxes bathing in the golden liquid attempting the same in being a god: if I bathe in gold, I will be like the immortal gods. In a different direction, we have Xerxes calling for war in the trailer, and Artemisia wanting war; why? IF we can take America to be represented by Greece, then this serves as a defense, since America doesn't start wars, others start war with America (the city-states of Greece are prosperous, but peaceful, because--as we have noted on different occasions--peace is necessary for trade to thrive, whereas war is necessary for a slave state (such as socialism) because the leaders more easily justify their tyranny in a state of war, as well as the vast consumption of resources they don't want going to their citizens (if citizens are healthy, they will overthrow the tyrant).
"Let's pray they're that stupid," Leonides (Gerard Butler) tells one of his bodyguards, because if the Persians are dumb enough to kill one of the Spartan kings, that automatically means Sparta is at war with Persia, regardless of any festival or holiday--hence, the sacrifice of Leonides for the rest of his homeland. So, what we have, in effect, is the logical game created by Leonides who knew war with Persia could not be avoided. At 0:42 in the trailer, we see Xerxes calling for war (probably some kind of a flashback) and Artemisia saying "war," and then Xerxes saying, "war" which suggests that Xerxes is Artemisia's pigeon, her plaything, and she can get him to do whatever she wants, unlike Gorgo and Leonides whose relationship was based on mutual respect. This won't just be about class relations, but also sexual relations, and what happens when male/female takes an unnatural part in a relationship and the consequences of that (because we certainly see that in today's culture).
When they aren't wearing much, every little detail is important. Whereas the Spartans of 300 wore their red capes, the Athenians wear blue. Red, as we know, symbolizes blood: either you love someone to the point you are willing to spill your bold for them, or you are so angry/hateful of that person, you are willing to spill their blood for your own appeasement. With the Spartans, they loved their country so much, they willingly gave their lives for their king and country. What about the Athenians? Blue denotes both wisdom and depression: the path of wisdom is often filled with the hardships of experience, which is usually depressing, so whereas the Spartans had their bodies as weapons, we should probably look to the Athenians for using the hearts and minds as their weapons.
This is definitely a film creating dichotomies on numerous levels and two more deal with how to face death and who we are as individuals. "Look deep into your souls," Themistocles says, and that's because he believes we have souls; someone like Xerxes believes he is a god, but doesn't believe the "underlings" beneath him have souls, they exist solely to serve his whims and cease to exist when they don't serve his whims (Artemisia echoes this when she says, "Today we will dock on the backs of dead Greeks," comparing them to planks of wood); so, defining the "individual" will be one of many dichotomies created. Additionally, how the two sides view death will also be a philosophical point: "If death comes for me today, I'm ready," Artemisia says, while Themistocles says, "It's better to die on your feet, than live on your knees."
What's the difference?
Maybe it's just me,... does she ever look like a zombie in these scenes to you? I mean, the heavy, dark eye make-up and pale skin, the long, straight hair and gothic clothing? Well, if she has sold her soul to death himself, that pretty much qualifies her as a zombie. IF the film takes her in such a direction--and it would be somewhat difficult to prove--why? Well, the Immortals standing behind her in this scene (the ones who wear the face mask) support this theory because they have abandoned their own identity (in wearing a mask and slavishly obeying Xerxes) to obey without question. So, since--at least in this scene--we see Artemisia standing with those who have abandoned their identity, we will have to ask if she, too, has abandoned her identity. We know that black (the outfit she wears) symbolizes death: their is good death, as in one is dead to the world and worldliness; then there is death that is dead to the spirit/soul but alive only to the world and worldliness. If Artemisia is after power, the way it appears to me in this trailer, then that would be appropriate. Themistocles, however, isn't after power--he wants Greece unified--but he certainly doesn't want this war where everything they have all worked for is going to be destroyed.
We kind of know what the difference is: Artemisia has "Sold her soul to death himself," meaning, roughly, that she is all ready dead regardless of how many more years she might live; why has she struck such a bargain? She has sold her soul so she can force slavery upon others, giving her soul in slavery so she can force the bodies of others into slavery, hence, Themistocles telling his soldiers to steady their hearts and look deep into their souls, because their souls will remain free, whereas Artemisia is all ready enslaved.
I have no idea who this guy is, but his caption reads, "War is in my blood!" This offers an interesting juxtaposition against the Spartans who spend their whole life training for battle and a glorious death, so what's the difference? We'll have to wait and see but I am sure it will be one more incredible layer of characterization the film provides!
In other film news,...
The writer for Life Of Pi is doing the screenplay for the next Chronicles of Narnia film, The Silver Chair, which will be awesome!  Bryan Singer, producer of X-Men Days Of Future Past announced via Twitter today that the next installment, X-Men: Apocalypse will be released May 27, 2016, which will be awesome! There will be a fifth installment of The Bourne Identity coming out in 2016, again starring Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy). Gal Gadot, who plays Gisele in Fast & Furious 6 has won the role of Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman vs Batman film starring Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck (it's rumored that Wonder Woman is/was romantically involved with Batman). Producer Christopher Nolan has his written/directed project Interstellar making its trailer debut at The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug December 14 (I didn't even know they had finished filming!).
Jamie Foxx presents one of those interesting casting decisions: people, especially white people, know that Jamie Foxx hates us and pretty much anyone who is not a gay black male; so why would he be cast as a villain, unless the film makers also view him as a villain? This is one of those instances of "reader response" theory: the film makers know we have seen other films, like Django Unchained, and possibly--though not likely--White House Down, so casting Jamie Foxx as a villain is like casting those films as villains. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am about this one, I think--with making Electro that shocking blue color--we are meant to think of liberals and what they are doing to the country. But isn't Andrew Garfield a liberal, too? Sure, but has he been in racially charged films calling for violent revolution against a certain segment of society either based on skin color, how much money they have or both? No, he hasn't. In fact, what else has Andrew Garfield really been in but this? I think we will see the same type of incorporation of actors in Nolan's Interstellar, which, from what I understand, is about Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Ann Hathaway and some others going into a wormhole that has created new possibilities for humans in space travel, also creating a possibility for time travel; it's my understanding they all die. Anyway, film makers know that actors come out in support of politics of the liberal nature, but I think we need to trust the ultra-conservative Mr. Nolan; when he decides to say something, we should all listen, respectfully, and given how superior The Amazing Spider Man was to anything I was expecting, I think this film deserves our total attention as well.
The first trailer for The Amazing Spider Man 2 has been released and it looks like it's going to be quite spectacular.
The opening monologue,... couldn't we take that to kind of be a good statement of self-summary of the US? We try to save people, we try to help countries and do good, but we have made all these enemies out of the socialists and Muslims and have we finally come up against an enemy too powerful to overcome? We'll discuss this much more after the release of the second trailer, but I think the scene at 1:40, where Spidey has the cover of a man-hole he's using to break the robotic monster (rather like the robotic samurai we saw in The Wolverine) is a great summary: whatever that robot symbolizes, it belongs in the sewer.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner