Historical inaccuracies are forgivable in period-set films, especially when they are so clearly more “fantasy-oriented” or anachronistic or just for the sake of enriching the atmosphere, style, story and entertainment value. The problem is that 300: Rise of an Empire just is not much fun or entertaining. We live in an age where trashy rock ‘em sock ‘em “junk food” films have been pretty much perfected. Unfortunately this awkward spinoff to the 2006 Zack Snyder film 300 sort of forgets much of the stylish grindhouse ingenuity of the original in favor of a heavy handed talky/expository affair that is at times jingoistic, misogynistic, mean-spirited and ultimately dull. Whereas Snyder’s film was a macho death-fantasy, this one plays like a derivative cover-band recreation that misses what made the original so special and enduring. The film depicts a war between white (or orange, as per the film’s odd color palate) people who “don’t negotiate with tyrants” and the brown people who hate their freedom. The original film had its fair share of troubling implications but the stylish way in which beefed-up dudes slaughtered one another whilst half-naked made the film far too silly and over-the-top to have its issues be taken seriously. This film however, dumps much of the testosterone power fantasy in favor of…philosophical debates and exposition which all but put a spotlight on the film’s troubles.
The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki is the acclaimed animation director’s final film. It is his most personal film, his most audacious; it is also incredibly flawed and has a bit of a moral quandary beneath its gorgeous and sentimental overtones. There has been a lot of talk about the moral implications of the film, which is a traditional western-styled character epic and unlike Miyazaki’s other films, it’s set in the “real” world rather than a fantasy/magic/sci-fi one. The film follows a boy named Jiro (loosely based on Jiro Horokoshi, the designer of the “Zero” WWII Fighter plane) who dreamed of airplanes and flying, and became an engineer to do so. Unfortunately for Jiro, he had that dream during pre-World War II Japan.
With the announcement of a newly rebooted film adaptation of Fantastic Four comes debates as to the merits of such an undertaking. Personally, I see neither the point, nor the merits. Not only were the two 2005-2007 live action features fairly enjoyable and serviceably/competently made popcorn entertainment – we have already gotten the best incarnation/interpretation of that saga in the medium best suited to tell it: a 3+ year comic run written by Jonathan Hickman. Beyond being one of, if not the outright best vision of the Fantastic Four, it’s one of the greatest stories conceived, and one that could only have been done in the medium of comics.