With so many foreordained awards contenders crammed into the end of the year, it's easy to forget movies that open earlier, and some movies don't fit the profile of a "contender" at all. So Criticwire is launching Nominate This, a series dedicated to highlighting films and contributions that deserve notice but might be otherwise overlooked.
The Nominee: Eva Green, "300: Rise of an Empire"
The Case: Let's try a little thought experiment, shall we? Line up in front of a mirror, put on your best sultry grimace, and sneer, "You fight much harder than you fuck." Now do it again, and try not to sound ridiculous. Again. Again.
That's the task set before Eva Green in "300: Rise of an Empire," the sequel (or, if you prefer, sidequel) to Zack Snyder's buffed and waxed CGI epic. Like the original's Lena Headey, who reappears briefly and narrates the new film, Green's Artemesia is a female presence in a world, and a movie, where women hold little interest. In a review for Out, Armond White jumps past the sniggering about "300's" resemblance to the locker room at a gay gym and simply proclaims the new film an erotic epic that "combines an emotional surge with a chubby that keeps you ready for more."
Born in Greece but raised in Persia, Artemesia commands her homeland's forces with a fierceness that equals any man's, a demonic dominatrix with an inborn flair for military strategy. It's a ridiculous part in a movie that, unlike Snyder's bombastic precursor, is at least fleetingly tuned into its own absurdity, but there's no hint of self-consciousness in Green's performance. She plays Artemesia as if she were Medea or Lady Macbeth, albeit with a libido to equal their thirst for vengeance. The scene where she seduces and then discards her military rival, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), could be high camp, but you dare not laugh lest Green step down off the screen and rip your still-beating heart from your chest. At least you'd die smiling.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture: "The film has a fantastic ace card in Eva Green’s Artemisia -- a magnificently vicious creation, an over-the-top badass who slices and dices her way through battle and then makes out with the severed heads of her vanquished enemies.They should do a spinoff movie just about her."
Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice: "Even if you're not really one for digital effects, the whole enterprise looks pretty grand. Yet the finest spectacle in all of 'Rise of an Empire' is a human being: Eva Green."
Robbie Collin, the Telegraph: "Even though Green has 40 percent of the screen time, she makes off with 90 percent of the fun."
Matt Prigge, Metro: "Green has always had a thing for old school vamping. Here’s the role she was born to play."
Kyle Buchanan, Vulture: "Artemisia is ostensibly the film's villain, but her motives are so understandable and Green's charisma is so all-consuming that when one battle sequence concludes with Artemisia seemingly slaughtering all of our heroes a third of the way through the movie, you kind of have to hand it to her. She deserved that win!"
David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Green is awesome as an evil harpie of vengeance."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "But really, the film belongs to Green -- maybe the only actress ever to 'graduate' from being a Bertolucci muse to a bloodthirsty action-flick dominatrix."
Adam Nayman, the Globe and Mail: "By throwing herself headfirst into scenes that a more cautious actress might beg off, Green earns herself a citation for valor -- a Purple Heart in a movie that's otherwise way too grim and grey for its own good."
The Chances: Movies like "300: Rise of an Empire" don't get nominated outside of technical categories, but perhaps a few of Green's admirers will spare a thought when it comes to their year-end ballots.