Friday, March 21, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Director: Noam Murro

Writers: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Frank Miller

Composer: Junkie XL

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O'Connell, Andrew Tiernan, Igal Naor, Andrew Pleavin, Ben Turner

More info: IMDb
Plot: Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

It's been an awful long time since I saw 300 (2006).  I dug it.  I was skeptical when talk began of a sequel, wondering where you could take this.  Having not read the Frank Miller graphic novels, I wasn't sure but it was pretty much a given that I'd see it regardless. For the most part, it's a fun picture.  The visuals are neat.  The entire picture looks like it was filmed on green screen (I feel for the actors on this one) but it's THAT kind of picture that benefits from that CGI look.  It's a fantastical action movie.  Just substitute CGI with testosterone and you're getting a lot of the same things you got in the first film.

The big difference here is that there's a lot more story to tell.  OK, so you can simplify the plot down to a couple of sentences rather than one like in the first movie.  It's still pretty basic but there are more characters and more going on.  It's a prequel and a side-by-side-quel to 300 which makes it kind of neat. And don't you know they left room for a sequel, which in essence would also be a sequel to the original film at the same time as RISE ends a day or two after the first film.  The dialogue is often flat with that " 'tis I who should" this and "for tonight we fight for the 'morrow" kind of language that we find in movies that are set in ancient history.  Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Anthony Hopkins can take lines like these and make them work; they're amazing actors with boat loads of talent, but not the kids in this flick.  So it comes off really cheesy.

Say, speaking of cheesy, I'm beginning to detest the motivational speeches given by leaders moments before leading warriors into battle.  I lost count but I'd swear there are four or six of them in this picture, some made by Themistocles (Stapleton) and one or two by Artemisia (Green).  They're laughable.  What makes it worse is they're speaking with such a low tone that only the immediate half dozen dudes in front of them MIGHT be able to hear them.  But these are things that you expect in movies like this.  I'l love for a film to seriously have fun with this silly trope and make something special and brief.  Stapleton does a fine job with the lead character as does Eva Green who is especially fun in this.  She makes for a great ass-kicker and it'd be easy to make a case that she's the best part of the picture, with or without her fun love/fight scene with Themistocles (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE those cans of hers).  The length is just about right if not a few minutes too long.  I was ready for the closing credits but I enjoyed it.  I'm sure I'll get the 3D Blu-ray once the price is right but I won't be in a hurry.  I'd say it's time to revisit the first one and maybe a couple of those great 1960s Peplum/Sword & Sandal pictures.

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