Saturday, March 8, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire 3D review

300: Rise of an Empire is the sequel to the successful cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300 (2006). That movie was based on the last stand of Spartan king, Leonidas as he led 300 warriors against the Persians at Thermopylae. Rise of an Empire was written by Zac Snyder, director of the 2006 movie and Kurt Johnstad. It was also produce by Snyder. The result being that director Noam Murro follows the blueprint of its predecessor. Lots of CGI blood, hacking and slashing. Thankfully, Rise of an Empire is not as racist as 300.

300: Rise of an Empire takes place at roughly at the same time as 300. King Xerxes of Persia has defeated Leonidas and is marching on the city state of Athens. Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is a Greek general who leads a small fleet against a mighty Persian armada. Artemisia (Eva Green) is a young Greek woman who falls in love with a WASP man. Um... sorry that's the plot to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. (2002) Artemisia is Greek but she decides to help the Persians after her family was killed by Greek soldiers when she was a child. She leads the Persian fleet.

The style of 300: Rise of an Empire is very much like the 2006 movie. Scenes look like they belong in a graphic novel. There's quite a bit of slow motion and stop motion scenes. It's quite effective in depicting complex battles. The problem is all the gore. Yeah, I know this is war and it's not pretty. But Rise of an Empire revels in the gore and especially the splash of blood, CGI style. Dismemberment. Decapitation. Splitting skulls. All of this drains the film of dramatic drive. Composer Junkie XL shows his rock and roll roots. The soundtrack is pretty much all rhythm and bass. Forget melody. The result is musical wallpaper with no sense of heroism.

The film's screenplay also does a poor job of explaining the importance of Leonidas' heroic stand, the importance of the naval battle at Salamis. While, I like the extensive exposition, the movie seems to be more interested in Artemisia's crazy and unhinged character than creating the tension needed to give the audience concern over a Greek defeat at sea. And yes, this is not history. The details of the Battle of Salamis maybe lost in time. There really was a Greek woman named Artemisia who commanded some Persians ships. But I'm pretty sure she did not have grudge sex with Themistocles. What will Hollywood do next to history? Make Abraham Lincoln a vampire killer? Ok, forget that. One more thing about the screenplay. The movie ends abruptly, so be prepared for screeching halt.

Rise of an Empire actually works best with the dialogue. There are some ridiculous lines. Artemisia yells something like "I didn't come here as a witness" before she takes her swords and charges. I was more taken by Themistocles' doubt, guilt and worry. Kudos to Sullivan Stapleton for expressing those emotions. Eva Green is sexy, wicked and well, somewhat insane. She chews up the scenery. One note to Ms. Green. Don't do another role like this again, You may end up being typecast.

Skip the 3D version of Rise of an Empire if you see it. This movie was a conversion to 3D from 2D. The best parts display background and foreground. But there's no depth to the actors, or objects. That's because it was not shot with the two lens 3D camera rig which would catch almost everything in the shot. I forgot I was watching this movie in 3D.

300: Rise of an Empire is passable cinema. It might be better reading a book on the second invasion of Greece by Persia. The grade is B Minus.

No comments: