300: Rise of an Empire

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.50 out of 5)
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“We chose to die on our feet, than live on our knees.”

300 Rise of an Empire

The H-Bomb:  While Leonidas and his 300 Spartans wage war against the God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army, Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) gathers his forces to defend Greece from the invading Persian navy, led by Xerxes’ ruthless right hand woman, Artemisia (Eva Green).  The most feared of all the Persian generals, Artemisia has an unquenchable thirst for blood and will slit a man’s throat at the slightest provocation.  God help any subordinate who fails in their task, or who in any way displeases her.

This most unmerciful lass harbors a particular disdain for the Greeks, despite being a born Greek herself, and is all to happy to do her part to burn Athens, and the rest of Greece, to the ground.  However, before she can do that, she’ll have to get past Themistokles and his army of poets, and sculptors, and philosophers.  She figures this should be no problem, since the ships in her fleet do outnumber his ten to one.  But what Artemisia doesn’t understand is that these crazy Greeks do love themselves a good fight, especially when the odds are stacked against them.  Copious amounts of sweaty pecs and severed limbs ensue…

I suppose I should start out by stating that I did enjoy Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 back in 2007.  I wasn’t some super fan or anything, but I dug the hell out of its then inventive visual aesthetic as well as the highly stylized battle scenes.  Sure, the script was pretty cornball, and at times the flamboyant visuals became a bit much, but overall, I had one hell of a good time with it.  Now, seven years later, Snyder (serving as co-screenwriter and producer) comes at us with 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel (or perhaps more accurately, a concurrent-quel) that doesn’t feel entirely necessary, but that’s so ridiculously entertaining I can’t really complain.

The fact that Snyder did not return to the director’s chair initially gave me reservations; however, incoming helmer Noam Murro (Smart People) does a commendable job of nailing down the distinct visual style that Snyder established in the earlier film.  I could give Murro shit for doing nothing more than aping Snyder’s look, but given how well he pulled off the many battle scenes in the picture, I’ll let his copycat approach slide.  The intense sword and arrow battle sequences pack a particularly mean punch in 3D (that I had the very best seat right smack in the middle of the IMAX theater didn’t hurt), with the gallons of CGI blood splashing me right in the face.  Normally I say fuck 3D, but in this case, it’s very much worth shelling out the few extra bucks to catch the carnage in all three dimensions.

On the downside, that CGI blood does look as hokey as ever, making the violence quasi cartoonish at times, and therefore not as effective as it should have been.  Again, I like the overall stylized look of the film, but I would’ve preferred the guts and gore to have looked a tad more realistic.  The video game look of the violence aside, I also had issues with the film’s script, mainly that for much of the first half, the film piles on layer after layer of tiring exposition, delivered mainly via voiceover by the recently widowed Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey).  I exaggerate not, roughly the first 20-30 minutes of the movie is nothing but narration, narration, and more narration, giving us backstory on Themistokles, Xerxes, Artemisia, and the political bullshit leading into the war.

Once all the background blah-blah is out the way, the epic hack n’ slashing starts, and the film turns gruesome good, but the first third is kind of a clunky slog.  And while I’m bitching about that which did not work, I’ll go ahead and say that leading man Stapleton is no Gerard Butler.  He tries his damnedest, and he does get his big, inspirational speech to the troops right before the final battle, but… no, I just don’t buy that he could inspire a nation to unite against a common enemy.  He just doesn’t have the weight or the presence.  Sorry.

On the other hand, Green absolutely kills it as the vile and villainous Artemisia.  She’s vampy, campy, sexy, and sadistic, and she just steals the whole fucking show.  Chewing up the scenery all over this bitch, it’s obvious she’s having a blast in the role, and I had a blast watching her.  Towards the end, she gets to deliver the best line in the movie (you’ll know it when you hear it), and she has an utterly absurd sex scene that I’m fairly sure is intentionally hilarious.  Her off-the-wall, bat shit performance is alone worth the price of admission, and I can’t wait to see what she does in that other Frank Miller sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

I suppose I would be stating the obvious by saying I thought 300: Rise of an Empire was one bloody fun ride, but 300: Rise of an Empire was one bloody fun fucking ride.  It’s certainly not the ground-breaker that its predecessor was, and for God’s sake, don’t mistake it for a history lesson, but as a balls out brutal popcorn flick, it gets the job done.  The severed heads fly fast and furious, the fights are viscerally thrilling, and best of all, the film closes with a sweet lead-in to the inevitable third chapter.  I say bring it!

 


One Response to “300: Rise of an Empire”

  1. RickSwift Says:

    The best naval battle sequences I have ever seen on film! If you love epic stories, great heroics, and FREEDOM – and Eva Green being as Evil as ever, yea, you simply can't pass this one up! And, I agree, the 3D was worth the extra cash. While the film isn't entirely historically accurate, the naval battle strategies of the Greeks are well know and still studied at Naval War Colleges of many nations. So, there is SOME truth in Rise of an Empire.

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