Friday, March 07, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

300–2: Simply the Spectacle
by Reymundo Salao

While I'd like to call it as "300-2" as a corny joke, “300: Rise of an Empire” was not the “joke” I thought it would be. This is a movie that functions both as a prequel and a sequel to the 2007 movie adaptation of Frank Miller's “300” graphic novel (which is an adaptation of the classic movie "300 Spartans" which depicts the Battle of Thermopylae, which was part of the Second Persian Invasion of Greece. 300: Rise of an Empire centers on the stories of the Greek hero Themistocles, the Persian "god-king" Xerxes, and his female general Artemisia, and how their fates are tested during the Second Persian Invasion of Greece. Once again, we see bloody warriors in slow-mo and surreal sword-battle action with this sequel. (Here we go again. As if we needed to have a sequel to 300...)
[hit the jump to continue]

I thought I was probably going to dismiss this film as an immensely unnecessary sequel. A sequel which comes awfully too late, right when everybody else has already gone weary of seeing the imitated look of the first movie (from that TV series Spartacus to The Immortals, to The Legend of Hercules). But 300: Rise of an Empire did not turn out to be the garbage I was expecting to see. While I would not say that it was a good movie in critique standards, I wouldn’t deny that I did find myself having a great time with the movie. The key is to appreciate it for what it was: a cheap standard, eye candy spectacle. And even though it was just that, I can appreciate the effort to try to elevate it to a more respectable degree.

Apart from the expected eye-candy, new director Noam Murro manages to inject some sense of graphic novel poetry just like the first movie. Dare I say that this movie has a little more narrative content than the first movie. While the first movie seemed to go straight to the themes of valiant bravery, courageous sacrifice and war, the narrative of this sequel goes around telling back-stories of a couple of main characters. Many of these narrative details have flaws, but just when these flaws begin to be annoying, it conveniently shifts gear to distract and please you with its "video game action sequences" which are often entertaining (not unless you are not a fan of barbaric action) to watch.

There is a focus in the naval battles in this movie. And because of that, we get to see a more interesting and refreshing style of action; one that has an emphasis on strategy and ways of outwitting the enemy. Unfortunately, these scenes of battle-strategy never last too long and would soon give way to the expected bloody swordfights.

Aside from the few silly little flaws here and there, the movie's more glaring flaw lies on the use of CGI blood effects which makes the blood splatters look like strawberry jello. I am also not quite happy as to how the movie consciously chose not to give itself a properly wrapped-up ending, and seems to obviously open itself to a possibility of a sequel, which is a lame attempt to drag on and extract each and every last drop of this cash-cow for as long as it can.

The cast? The not-so-popular lead Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles was good enough. Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro both, as expected, hit their marks. But Eva Green, as a major villain named Artemisia, was such a delight to watch and could definitely embody that intimidating ultra-femme-fatale look, she knows how to project the kind of impact and charisma for such her role. Plus, she looked alluringly awesome in her female warrior look.

Overall, 300: Rise of an Empire was spectacular and just bloody-action-fun without having to go down to the level of "Michael Bay stupidity" just to please its audience. It may not be all-great, but it certainly isn’t a waste of time. I give it a simple little thumb-up.

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