Back in 2005 it was a strange thing to see the first adaptation of Frank Miller's fantasy noir series hit the screen. Along with Batman Begins it fed into what would become a new trend for both grittier comic book films and those adaptations which took far less liberty with the source material. With its bizarre white on black blood effects and the use of far less than realistic physics, Sin City was a fresh experience even if its separate components were all derivative and the look of everything was one step along from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In spite of the clichéd hard boiled detective elements; the ninja cannibals and mutated killers were so out there that it balanced out those stock femme fatales and crooked politicians. In the meantime 9 years have passed - the term "Nolanised" has entered film debate as a pro and con, and people are tired of visual effects that use so much green screen. Robert Rodriguez has become the person that is responsible for two badly executed Machete films instead of what should have been a logical result of his friendship with Quentin Tarantino. So while I would have liked to see this turn things around it's no surprise that nothing feels right even if on the surface everything looks the same.
Lacklustre is the best way to describe the parts that work here. It still looks interesting but somehow everything is cheaper, including the music and the quality of the performances. The narration is of course a big part of the storytelling again but feels far less effective. Even returning cast members seem tired and uninterested. There is a little spectacle but the ideas being used are far more reigned back. It seems that after using up the stranger stories from the comic series, they felt it was best to write some new material. Which doesn't make a lot of sense when Hell and Back could have done wonders. The continuation of the Nancy plot that was used in the first movie doesn't feel like a natural progression at all (as well as raising continuity issues using Marv so much) and its ending is pretty cringe worthy. The other third of the film is a tedious section that tells the story of a gambler looking to outwit people that are clearly way higher on the food chain than him for reasons that are pretty vague to say the least, and it also has a conclusion that feels badly fumbled. The writing and execution overall is completely lacking.
Which leads us to the title of the film and the chapter which should have been the more engaging part, the one that was written in advance. The casting works with Eva Green and Josh Brolin taking centre stage, these are stars who have some experience after all. The older material meant that things could be more in tune with the previous film, and staging it before The Big Fat Kill was a logical choice because they had time to expand on several returning characters and link up little mystery dialogue bites for those who hadn't read the books. But like the rest of this it feels completely tired somehow. There are still sword wielding Japanese girls, the heads still roll and a few of the visuals remain striking but it's all so unimpressive. The electricity has been lost. Maybe all these years were too long to leave things, perhaps their intentions of a sequel were not enthusiastic enough. It's all too little too late.
Dwayne Johnson stars in yet another take on ancient Greek legends in a film that is a far cry from the eye popping spectacle of Jason and the Argonauts. While not a complete mess by any means the light plotting should have gone far deeper into ideas that are repeated during the story - that this is all in fact myth and men make themselves into heroic figures. It's a self aware film that hints at being fun but never quite gets going. With modern day characters (including a rather foul mouthed John Hurt) and battle sequences which have some moments of entertainment value, it doesn't really manage to be either a serious look at these characters or a dumb b-adventure movie. They do include a few creature effects which aren't too bad and things are generally well paced, but it's just all so lightweight in terms of acting and drama. A little push in one direction or another would have done a great deal but it just exists as a kind of half finished idea without the fantasy finesse or the total shlock factor which might have done better.