Friday, March 21, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Title: 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Director:  Noam Murro

Cast:  Eva Green, Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro

Here’s a movie that I had extremely low hopes for…yet ended up loving the hell out of! I love it when that happens. Why was I ready for 300: Rise of an Empire to be a stinker? Well, a couple of factors had diverted my judgment, number one, Zack Snyder was not returning as a director and that to me immediately brought the film down a couple of notches for me because in my eyes, it was Snyder’s stylish visuals that made 300 (2006) such a winner. Number two, I didn’t know who the hell this new director was, when I look him up he’s only directed one other film called Smart People (2008), which I still haven’t seen, so I had nothing telling me that this new guy had what it took to make a decent sequel to 300. I mean, his only theatrical release was a dramatic comedy, what did that have to do with special effects and action? Nothing. To me this new director was simply hired to ape Snyder’s style in order to make a similar looking sequel, to cash in on the success of the original. So yeah, those were the factors that made me judge 300: Rise of the Empire harshly before I’d even laid eyes upon it, something I rarely do. So anyhow, positive reviews and great word of mouth made me give this one a go and boy was I wrong! This movie rocks!

300 Rise of an Empire has a very original concept behind it: it’s not exactly a sequel or a prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire actually happens parallel to 300, so while King Leonidas and his 300 where kicking ass in Thermopylae, this film is happening simultaneously in Athens. I don’t even know what to call a film that happens parallel to another? So anyhow, I thought that was an original concept, so original I don’t even have a word for it! So anyhow, this time around we follow Themistocles as he and his naval fleets go up against Xerxes and his ever growing empire. Will the Spartans decide to help Themistocles go up against Xerxes? Can they put a stop to the despotic leader?

First up, I recommend you pony up the extra dough and go see this one 3-D, it really exploits what 3-D technology has to offer, in other words, the film doesn’t feel like a cheap last minute 3-D conversion;  blood will practically splatter on your face, axes will almost cut your nose!  Trust me, you’ll love it. Of all the preconceived ideas I had about this movie, I was right about one of them: director Noam Murro is trying to deliver a film similar in style to what Zack Snyder and crew created with the first film, and we can’t really blame the director for this because I’m pretty sure that one of the requirements from the studio was to not mess with the formula and give the people more of what they loved from the first film. And 300: Rise of the Empire does just that, it gives us more of what we loved about the first film; stylish visuals, tons of blood and sand, rousing speeches and awesome battle sequences. Funny thing is, I can’t say I didn’t like it. You know how some people complaint about the use of slow motion in these films? I don’t, I freaking loved it! I wanted to take in these beautiful visuals in slow motion, there’s just so much to look at. The film is eye candy, it has a lot to offer to your pupils! Trust me! Best part about the whole thing is that it does feel like Frank Miller’s drawings coming to life. In his comic book work, Frank Miller has always been all about style, and the images on the film reflect that. By the way, if you like this film, you should try and find Frank Miller's Xerxes, a five issue story that's going to be released through Dark Horse Comics. Funny how the movie came out well before the book! Still, I don't think we'll be dissapointed with what Miller is working on. 

This films strengths lie in its visuals, and I’m a sucker for films that have a strong visual sense. I didn’t want to stop looking at the screen, I mean, this is a well constructed film, the people behind it made sure that the viewer wouldn’t be bored for a second, there’s many exciting and visually interesting moments here. You know how most films have this formula where it’s a big explosive opening sequence, then we pull back and slow it down and then something cool in the middle and slow it down and so forth till the end? Well, on this one it’s cool stuff happening all the time! One of the coolest things about the film is how much of it focuses on the battles that were waged at sea, between these huge ships! At times it almost felt like a pirate film in that sense. Honestly? This is the kind of film I like to watch more than once at the theater, I wouldn’t be surprised if I caught myself seeing it one more time in 3-D. Another plus for me was that on top of the awesome visuals, we actually get a decent story. How cool is it that we get to see how Xerxes became Xerxes? Very cool to let us in on that back story.

On the negative side of things Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles is a poor replacement for the awesomeness of Gerard Butler’s Leonidas. Stapleton’s Themistocles, comes off as too soft spoken to be the commander of such a savage army. I’m not saying he does a bad job as Themistocles, I’m just saying that in comparison, Butler’s Leonidas was way more explosive and intense. But everything evens out because we get Eva Green who brings intensity to her Artemisia, she’s a highlight of the film. Last words on 300: Rise of an Empire: it kicks ass, great action, never boring, awesome visuals and another thing, this is without a doubt the bloodiest movie of the year! A film very deserving of it’s R rating, it has blood, decapitations, nudity and violence galore! Frank Miller would be proud! I didn’t know who this new director was, but after seeing 300: Rise of an Empire, I say he’s earned my respect, the film has some visually impressive moments and camera angles, you’ll be blown away, this one was made to be enjoyed in a movie theater, go see it!

Rating: 5 out of 5    



Maurice Mitchell said...

300 made a ton of money based on it's directorial style (and butler's abs) so I figured this wouldn't be as good. He proved me wrong! Insightful review Fransisco.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Maurice! The ending of the film leaves a wide open door for another sequel, hope it gets made, cause they left me wanting more.


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