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Friday, March 7, 2014

300: Rise Of An Empire (2014) movie review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Magnificent lead cast chemistry, charismatic hero and villain, delves into deeper themes, stunning green screen effects.

The Bad: generic music, sub par directing compared to the first film.

3D Readiness: post production 3D conversion. But slo-mo helps the effect
IMax-ability: none.

Legendary's blood soaked, fantasy fetish fueled, graphic novel style retelling of the second Persian invasion of Greece returns. While the brave 300 Spartans faced down Xerxes legions at Thermopylae, a second and no less pivotal conflict was taking place. A massive naval campaign led by the vengeful, and no less crazy, Artemesia advances on Greek shores. Only a handful of Athenian ships, and the unconventional strategies of general Themistocles, stands in their way.

Expanding on the story started in Zack Snyder's 300, 300 Rise of an Empire brings green screen slow motion carnage into the naval arena. Familiar themes are tackled here: of children losing their childhood in the heat of battle, of how one man's devotion to freedom and democracy helped rally a legion, and of how a small force can overcome any odds. Zack Snyder's screenplay peppers the script with a good dose of testosterone, manly howls of inspiration, and dash of innuendo, especially between rival generals Artemesia and Themistocles. 

Eva Green steals the show as the manipulative and sadistic Artemesia. Magnificent screen presence, deadly like a coiled viper yet sizzling hot against the cold blue ocean backdrop. Easily one of the more memorable and charismatic comic book villains since Dark Knight's Joker. Without conscience and fueled by burning passion, she is the perfect foil to Themistocles' stereotypical superhero image. 

Themistocles is a little like marvel's Captain America. He stands for justice, freedom and democracy. He had forsaken family and love for servitude to his country. His image of calm courage and steadfast control threatening to crumble under the weight of leadership; where every wrong move kills off someone's husband, father, or son. Their on screen chemistry is almost perfect despite being in actual physical proximity for 2 scenes. 

Some say that backstory kills off mystique; nobody wanted to know that Michael Meyers had a screwed up childhood before he became the masked Halloween killer. Love it or hate it, 300 Rise of an Empire delves into the tragic backstory of its villains. Xerxes' tale especially lends itself to the running theme of a son taking up his fallen father's mantle and surpassing his parent. Did we really need to know how a depressed prince became the God King of Persia? Why not? Our past shapes our future, as do our mistakes. Through Xerxes' invasion, Themistocles learns the hard way that mistakes of the past will bite you back one day. And bite hard.

It is a pity that Zack Snyder merely penned the screenplay. His presence as a director is sorely missed. Director Noam Murro does his best to follow in the stylish speed tweaked vision of Snyder's. It is a good effort, but not as dynamic as his predecessor. Instead of the golden bronze and striking crimson, we have a dull blue and murky grey color palate. Where Snyder infused his battle scenes with a gruesome grace and flow, Murro's battles are messy, hectic and hastily edited. Slow motion ramping (alternating sped up and slowed down shots) originally used to zoom in on and emphasize iconic shots, are just slapped on seemingly at random.

Despite the disappointing directing, this movie is a real joy to watch. The naval clashes evoke memories of historical classics like Ben Hur; wide in scope and epic in scale. It's cast chemistry and charisma provides the pivotal centerpiece in what could have been a forgettable and unnecessary sequel. 

This ain't Sparta. But this sure is almost as glorious.
*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Story: B+
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: C-
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B-

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