xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
I gave a four-star rating to "Sin City," the 2005 film based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. Now, as I deserve, I get "300," based on another work by Miller. Of the earlier film, I wrote prophetically: "This isn't an adaptation of a comic book, it's like a comic book brought to life and pumped with steroids." They must have been buying steroids wholesale for "300." Every single male character, including the hunchback, has the muscles of a finalist for Mr. Universe.
Both films are faithful to Miller's plots and drawings. "300," I learn, reflects the book almost panel-by-panel. They lean so heavily on CGI that many shots are entirely computer-created. Why did I like the first, and dislike the second? Perhaps because of the subject matter, always a good place to start. "Sin City," directed by Robert Rodriguez and Miller, is film noir, my favorite genre, taken to the extreme. "300," directed by Zack Snyder, is ancient carnage, my least favorite genre, taken beyond the extreme. "Sin City" has vividly- conceived characters and stylized dialogue. "300" has one-dimensional caricatures who talk like professional wrestlers plugging their next feud.
The movie involves a legendary last stand by 300 death-obsessed Spartans against a teeming horde of Persians. So brave and strong are the Spartans that they skewer, eviscerate, behead and otherwise inconvenience tens of thousands of Persians before finally falling to the weight of overwhelming numbers. The lesson is that the Spartans are free, and the Persians are slaves, although the Spartan idea of freedom is not appetizing (children are beaten to toughen them).
But to return to those muscles. Although real actors play the characters and their faces are convincing, I believe their bodies are almost entirely digital creations. They have Schwarzeneggerian biceps, and every last one of them, even the greybeards, wear well-defined six- packs on their abs. I can almost believe the star, Gerard Butler, may have been working out at Gold's Gym ever since he starred as the undernourished Phantom of the Opera, but not 300, 200 or even 100 extras. As a result, every single time I regarded the Spartans in a group, I realized I was seeing artistic renderings, not human beings.