How much do I adore French actress Eva Green? So much so that she’s going to break me down into watching an episodic television program. It’s an oft-repeated joke of mine that I don’t watch T.V. shows, because if I did add them to the roster I’d never leave dark rooms my entire life. But every now and then one tickles my fancy enough to give it a try. Last decade, I enjoyed both seasons of Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series, and in 2010 I got through a whole year’s slate of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” before quitting. Not that I stopped liking it, I just couldn’t make the weekly commitment. But Eva Green is a game changer, so I’m going to give Showtime’s relatively new “Penny Dreadful” a shot too. Frankenstein, Dracula, Dorian Gray…it’s right up my alley. Plus it stars Eva Green. I first encountered her a decade ago in 2004’s “The Dreamers” from Bernardo Bertolucci. Immediately enraptured. Two years later she was the greatest Bond girl ever in 2006’s “Casino Royale”. And in 2014, she sets the screen on fire in “300: Rise of an Empire”. She’s the reason to see it, and I’ll bet next month that Eva will be the driving force behind “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” too. Remember that you read that here.
I wasn’t very taken with Zack Snyder’s original “300” movie from 2007, but it was a huge international smash. However, director Noam Murro has the Ms. Green trump card with this sequel/prequel to the first film. I’m not even all that interested in informing you as to what “300: Rise of an Empire” is about. In fact, it’s mostly silly and grandly overstuffed. There’s that bald giant Xerxes from the first film(the returning Rodrigo Santoro), and Lena Headey is back as Queen Gorgo. Sullivan Stapleton is mostly bland as Themistocles, and there are swords and naval battles, massive amounts of CGI and bright red, 3D geysers of blood. There is apparently some historical accuracy to all of this, but it all comes off like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo anyway. But it positively sings whenever Eva Green is onscreen as Artemisia. She struts, she glowers, she beheads, she rips off her clothes and uses sex as a weapon. Thankfully, movies have gone all digital, because Eva’s eyes alone could ignite that volatile celluloid. “300: Rise of an Empire” is knuckle-headed fun, and Ms. Green should be nominated for something by year’s end, for her sexy, crazed, manipulating warrior. She saves the picture, and is the only justification for taking this journey. I’ve already forgotten just about every character, only hours after seeing it. But Eva…definitely…sticks. Grade: C+