300 Rise of an Empire – 2014
Director Noam Murro
Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro
Screenplay Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad
300 Rise of an Empire is a story, starting with the Battle of Marathon and concluding with the Battle of Salamis. This is before, during and after the Battle of Thermopylae which is the focus of the first film, 300. What I remember of the first film is that it made me blush way more than it made me wince. Much blood was spilled, but much more man flesh was exhibited. This time around, the blood still runs freely, but the men are a little less chiseled. The Greeks are still battling the Persians, but this time there is a hot formerly Greek Artimisia (Green) who is leading the antagonists. The good guys have Themistocles (Australian Stapleton) making all the right moves, including a nice soft core take down of Artimisia during some aggressive negotiations.
There is less sepia tone this time, a little more of the color blue (so we can tell where the hero is). We still get plenty of slow motion carnage, including some interesting sea beasts that show up after the call to abandon ship. Queen Gorgo (Heady) returns to give the film narration and a heavy dose of the attitude she presents in Game of Thrones. Overall, the film dovetails adequately with the previous story, even if it gets to the point where the action seems without end.
The best part of watching films like these is the absolute lack of economy in the act of killing. Some of the dispatches happen quickly, but often the moves look like they come out of a big time wrestling match. While never having been in a large-scale battle of any kind, my matches with my brothers in my youth winded me after a few minutes. One can scarcely imagine how long I would have lasted had I included a body slam or two in the proceedings.
Economical death does not a glamorous movie make. If for no other reason than slow motion, we need stuff to look cool. Funny thing is, very early into the fighting, the image of Po’s large butt rolling across Tai Lung’s surprised face (at the 48 second mark) in Kung Fu Panda came to me. And that picture never left. This is the type of film made after a film made to be parodied. Given that a no name hired gun Noam Murro to direct, it’s more than a little surprising that it made as much money as it did.
Just like Transformers, Snyder seems to appreciate that it is mayhem that people crave. Sure this is still Frank Miller, but I think it’s a bit closer to the bottom of his barrel. Can they keep producing movies like this making this much money? How many battles were there in Ancient Greece?
(**1/2 out of *****)