300: RISE OF THE EMPIRE (2014)


Directed By: Noam Murro
Written By: Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad
Based On the Graphic Novel “XERCES” By: Frank Miller
Cinematography By: Simon Duggan
Editor: David Brenner & Wyatt Smith
Production Design By: Patrick Tatopoulos 

Cast: Eva Green, Sullivan Stapleton, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mensah

After its victory over Leonidas’ 300, the Persian Army under the command of Xerxes marches towards the major Greek city-states. The Democratic city of Athens, first on the path of Xerxes’ army, bases its strength on its fleet, led by admiral Themistocles. Themistocles is forced to an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta whose might lies with its superior infantry troops. But Xerxes still reigns supreme in numbers over sea and land

More of the same only it feels smaller scaled as it tries to feel or seem more vast.

Zack Snyder conceptualized the project and wrote the screenplay along with his 300 writing partner Kurt Johnstad and was on-board to direct but dropped off due to commitments to Man of Steel. Noam Murro was picked by the studio to direct but Zack Snyder still produced the film.

The film is credited as being an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel ‘Xerxes’. However, it is an adaptation in name only. The script was written at the same time as the novel and not after the novel was finished so ultimately the two are different. In fact, as of the film’s release date, the novel is not even complete and Miller has reportedly drawn only 2 out of a projected 5 issues and none have been colored. The book has no release date yet or an expected date of completion either.

While a beautiful film to look at with artificial backgrounds. The film increases the extreme violence that doesn’t feel creative as the first film did and uses 3-D as an excuse for it. It explores a similar style but not for the better. With endless slow motion action shots that has blood splattering and gushing that looks cool, but adds nothing.

While the spectacle or the first film was what made it special. It was also anchored by the performance of Gerard butler. This film while impressive visually isn’t as breathtaking. As it just reintroduced us to a world we have already explored. So it’s not as eye opening and it never really introduces anything to further that world or show is something we haven’t seen.

What does help this film apart is Eva Green. Her character really the villain of the story. Is so dynamic and over the top. She feels like the true lead and is much more interesting then the heroic lead. He performance shows she has no fear and is a spectacle for the rest of the film. Standing high and above the rest of the cast. She is the anchor here. Other than being unbelievably sexy and dangerous. The film just seems to exist around her with it’s visuals. Which allows her to add some meaning to the proceedings.

The movie was initially going to be about the story of Xerxes and his military expeditions. The story and narrative were changed significantly and the script was revised in subsequent drafts to have include the Athenian leader Themistocles.

The standout scene for her as well as the film is what will probably be hat most remember from the film. Her love scene that also works as a battle scene. This is the second time she has had a scene like this in a movie. She had a similar scene in DARK SHADOWS. Only here it is more violent, disturbing and graphic then in the other film also here there is nudity. She does it with such bravery and looks like she is having a hint of fun. The scene reminds me of a similar scene attempted in ALEXANDER between Colin Farrell and Rosario Dawson. Only here it feels more powerful. In fact I wish ALEXANDER was as entertaining as this film was.

This film fulfilled Eva Green ‘s long held acting dream of playing an action hero in a movie.

Eva Green revealed that she underwent major preparation for the role. “I trained four hours a day with a group of stunt men from L.A. for three months before we began shooting. And then I continued training and sword fighting while we were shooting”. She added that the training “was extremely liberating and empowering” and that her character of Artemesia is “the strongest, toughest, bravest character I’ve ever played”.

This film was obviously filmed in 3d to take advantage of the effects and technology. Many of the shots seem to be dedicated only to exploiting it. That at times starts to feel more like a gimmick then necessary.

I will say that little distractions such as that does make the film fun with a video game look and score. While feeling like a b-movie costume dramas only more hyped up with energy. And a particular look.

In fact the look of the characters feels like a Mark Anthony and Cleopatra or a new age. With the minor romance and adversarial advantage. Or what should have been at the time.

It feels like the sequel to planet of the apes, beneath the planet of the apes from the 1970’s compared to the original. Where it is a continuation of the story only with new faces and some old, but feels like it is on a different playing field while still in the same universe. It reminds you of the original, but is noticeably different.

Though this film stays in the same territory it also seeks it’s independence and legacy. While stuck in a franchise. Though a large part of the film takes place on water and boats, the film was filmed completely “dry” with all the water digitally added in later. Director Noam Murro said this allowed great freedom in filming.

Strangely though he film covers vast lands. The film doesn’t feel as epic as the first and in fact seems like it takes place on only two soundstages, with plenty of dressing.

This seems like the perfect film or teenage boys, who are too young to watch it. It has nudity, action and violence plus video game like special effects. I see this film As a sort of forbidden fruit.

The film isn’t disappointing. As going in I really has no great expectations or really hope for it. To tell the truth Eva green was the only reason I was interested in seeing it, then word I mouth got started that t wasn’t as bad as most thought it would be. So I have it a chance and while not as terrible as I thought. It is entertaining and distracting with it’s ruthlessness. Though it barely adds anything new I the equation.

The film never has any real weight as it never feels real or anything close To reality. It feels like a video game that you have finished. You go back and play for fun and the memories, but never quite as interested as when you first watched. It’s not shocking or surprising anymore.


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