This weekend saw the theatrical release of two movies*: One an auteur-driven masterpiece highly anticipated for its brilliant cast, the other The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m only half kidding—300: Rise of an Empire fell regretfully short of the masterpiece of schlock it could have been, and certainly The Grand Budapest Hotel is the superior film, but the 300 sequel puts Eva Green and Lena Headey in the same movie, which is something Wes Anderson is regretfully yet to do.
Seeing the two films one after the other A) gave me a severe case of mental whiplash, and B) made me wonder what a Wes Anderson-directed 300: Rise of an Empire would have been like. Aside from amazing.
That theoretical bit o’ pan-fried magnificence would include:
1) Goldenrod yellow blood splatters. Basically they’d look like Smucker’s orange marmalade instead of Smucker’s strawberry jam. The film’s entire muddy, camera-lens-smeared-with-baby-poop color palette would have been switched out with vibrant oranges, pinks, blues, and yellows. So many yellows.
2) Eva Green’s black leather outfits would be complemented by dashing, adorable pea coats in a variety of primary colors. The dudes’ speedo-and-cape fighting ensembles are paired with a ascots and some hipster wet dream eyewear.
3) Instead of Sullivan Stapleton playing Greek general Themistokles, a military genius who deviously takes screen time away from Eva Green on the basis of him being the main character (sigh), how about Bill Murray? Sure, the fight scenes might not be so convincing, and his bare torso wouldn’t be much to look at compared to Sullivan’s action movie six-pack. But I think it could work. Even a sleeping Bill Murray has ten times the charisma of the regretfully milquetoast Stapleton. Say what you will about Gerard Butler’s hammy line delivery in 300, the dude at least commanded your attention.
4) In fact, switch out 90% of the supporting cast, too. Lena Headey, reprising her role as Queen Gorgo, can stay, as can Eva Green as warmongering general Artemisia. But just about everyone else was so forgettable that I never caught their names, nor did I care about what happened to them. Bland BFF Played by Hans Matheson? Jason Schwartzman. Bland Other BFF And His Bland Son? Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe. Yes, I know Dafoe is older than Norton. Don’t talk to me like I care. Artemisia’s Bland Persian Generals? Waris Ahluwalia. Yes, all of them. It’s not like they have any distinguishing characteristics anyway.
5) 300: Rise of an Empire has a Lena Headey voiceover, which is a good start if you’re going for an Andersonian vibe. But The Grand Budapest Hotel, no joke, has three voiceovers. Time to step it up a bit. I want Gorgo delivering a stirring speech about the strength of Athenians and bald baddie Xerxes reminiscing on his relationship with his distant father and BillMistokles saying whatever the hell Bill Murray feels like saying when he walks on-set.
6) Naval strategy that involves precise symmetrical placement of ships. Themistokles and Artemisia are both geniuses when it comes to naval strategy, but the prevailing military tactics of the day didn’t involve nearly enough putting things in the middle of other things for Wes.
7) Anachronistic pattered wallpaper.
8) A quirked-up backstory for Artemisia. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will say that Rise of an Empire took the real-life origin of Artemisia of Caria and turned it into the most generic action movie baddie background imaginable. She’s a full-on ’80s movie villainess, with her family tragedy and her wanting to bone the hero and her fishnets. (Seriously. Fishnets. In ancient Greece.) Anderson would give us something involving distant parents, a boarding school, a xylophone, a first edition-copy of the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, and a doomed romance with an apprentice sommelier. It might not have made any sense in context, but at least it would’ve been something original.
(*And Mr. Peabody & Sherman, but who cares about that, honestly?)
Rebecca really likes Eva Green and Lena Headey, if you can’t tell.