|Sullivan Stapleton was better than expected|
Well that was unexpected. Capitalizing in the huge fame and legacy that the first film generated, "300: rise of an empire" seemed to be the most unnecessary sequel of all time. Based on the yet still unpublished Frank Miller comic, ROAE certainly lacked Zack Snyder behind the camera and the charismatic turn of Gerald Butler in the now iconic role of Leonidas. After 8 years, it is kinda weird that the sequel appears now, in a film era where the then novel green screen and uber slo mo effects are now typical, mediocre and standardized in hyperstylistic Hollywood action sequences. So.....how does this one fare?
Well, it is actually pretty good. Loosely based on the battle of Salamis where Xerxes' navy was pwned by the small (remaining) Greek fleet, "Rise of an empire" offers plenty of the jaw dropping candy and action that made the first film so memorable. Only it just cranks them up to 11. Noam Murro (a director with the credentials of the romantic comedy "Smart People" and some commercials) does not inspire actual confidence before watching a sword and sandal Greek epic. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to see money shot after money shot delivered with epic zooms and astonishing camera work. Murro definitely brought his Snyder notebook on this one and it feels more of an expansion of a style rather than pure imitation.
|Eva Green steals the show with her villainous (and charming) performance|
"Rise of an empire" has astonishing visuals, and simply it is a feast for the eyes. Each shot has a poetic beauty (a night on a rocky beach with a huge moon) and even the most violent and gory scenes carry with them enough magnificence ready to enchant you. It is like watching a hyper realistic movie canvas becoming alive in front of you. Assisted by gorgeous cinematography by Simon Duggan, Murro stages his set pieces in fantastical locations combined with a witty production design from Patrick Tatopoulos (Independence Day, Godzilla, Underworld, Silent Hill). It is style over substance but man what style!
Now, let's be honest, we are not here for the context of the film neither to see if it is accurately depict the historical events that shape pretty much the fate of then ancient Greece. As a Greek I take no offence on that. I am here to see action fantasy cinema and nothing more than that. If there is a good depiction in the films is the heroic deeds of Athenians that tried to fight off a huge navy with inventive ways (and smaller ships). Everything else (non character wise), is pure fiction Instead we get bloody, gorgeous action with eye popping visuals in 3D. Obviously, the characters are literally one dimensional with any backstory added in matter of seconds and there is not a moral ambiguity regarding their actions (and consequences). Murro moves from a set piece to a set piece with only a handful speeches giving us a break from the displayed massacre. Carnage you want, carnage you get. I lost count of the bodies that went flying, chopped, burned, etc more than once. If war is your thing, then rest assured you will not be disappointed. Especially, when it is presented in such poetic fashion. Surely though that does not mean that everyone is going to like this. those annoyed with Snyder's style and visuals will find little to love here. Those of use who embraced (and there are many) oh dear, you are for a treat.
|Shame that Xerxes does not get enough screentime (again).|
The cast is rather interesting with Lena Headey doing a good job as Queen Gorgo. Sullivan Stapleton is by no means Gerald Butler but surprisingly he brings some gravitas into the film and it was wise to have him as a smaller built hero than Leonidas who relies more on his brains rather his warrior skills to defeat his opponents. Rodrigo Santoro (by far the most intriguing visually character) still suffers from limited screentime with zero development (no the start does not count) or any special skills since he became a god king. So the whole film relies on Eva Green's shoulders as the poisonous Artemisia, commander of the Persian navy. She chews the scenery and it is almost impossible to take your eyes of her, first because she is gorgeous to look upon and secondly because she is the only one to have a bit of psychological synthesis for her role. Green seems to be having a blast and is one of the probably the best female villains on the big screen in the last decade (along with Faora).
So this is "300: rise of an empire". It is a great film? No. However, it is one of the best looking movies of all time and for that it is required to be seen in the cinema in immersive 3D and IMAX! There are tones of great and swift action, epic money shots and fantastic cinematography. No point really if you miss that on the big screen! Sometimes style is all you need baby! It is like watching a huge building being demolished. It does not last for long, is shallow, but the spectacle of the moment is fascinating to witness.
+ stunning visuals
+ 3D is actually a character on its own
+ Eva Green, great villain and performance
+ excellent action
+ Stapleton is adequate but ...
- but he is no Gerald Butler
- one dimensional characters
- story does not really go anywhere