Thursday, June 26, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! THIS IS...A POINTLESS 300 SEQUEL!!!

300: Rise of an Empire – 2 out of 5

I love 300. I was a fan of the graphic novel and was excited when I first saw that trailer. The film was just gorgeous and brutal all at the same time. Zack Snyder took the spirit of the pages and made a fantastic fictionalized story of the last stand of the 300 Spartans. I didn’t really understand why it was decided to produce a sequel but, like most films, I gave it a shot. Let’s just say that I don’t feel the same about Rise of an Empire as I do the first film.
A major problem comes from the fact that one of the only positives I have to
say about the film has to do with the cool head gear.

Taking place before, during and after Leonidas falls to the God King Xerxes, 300: Rise of an Empire tells the fictionalized tale of the Battle of Selamis where Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) battles Xerxes’ naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). What follows is a whole load of slo-mo brutality while shoe-horning in the events of the last film like it was some sort of fan fic where the fan author doesn’t want to screw with the canon of the original piece.
Go into the pool that radiates gold looking like a young Michael McDonald...
...come out looking like something out of the gay pride parade that haunts
homophobes' nightmares.  Holy shit!  I just gave that group another argument
for the gay agenda.  This one is completely on me, guys.  I'm sorry.

With the way this film went, I'm actually shocked that "Let
the Bodies Hit the Floor" wasn't utilized in this scene.
I wouldn’t say I walked into 300: Rise of an Empire already jaded but, despite having some decent trailers to sell it, I wasn’t too keen on the film and walked in with little expectations…however, I did have a deep down hope that the film would be entertaining. Believe it or not, some of it was. The action, while much more contrived and far more gratuitous than the first film, is still enough to satisfy the action junkie’s thirst for blood and unspoken desire to see muscular men with testosterone issues kick the ever-loving shit out of each other (and kick the shit out of a woman…which will appeal to the very type of people that I don’t want to associate with). However, at the end of it all, it lacked Zack Snyder’s visual style and ended up just looking like a cheap, Direct-to-DVD sequel.
"Dude...I'm so high.  I mean...I'm dying from a spear to the chest.  Got those two
confused for a second."

One of the biggest problems I had with the film (and one of the things that kept me from getting into it the way that I was into 300) was that Sullivan Stapleton was very vanilla in his performance. First off, he looks just like a generic white guy with a scruffy, stubble beard who would seem more at home on some forgettable drama on TNT or some network I don’t bother paying attention to. However, a bland, flavorless face can be overcome with a strong performance but with memories of Gerard Butler’s epic and fierce performance from the first film permanently burned in my head and Stapleton’s inability to even match half of his passion, the character of Themistocles comes off as boring and uninspired. However, this element seems to match with the overall look of the film.
"Eh...almost...nope.  Sorry, I thought I could act like I cared and give a decent
performance but...come on!  This is a 300 sequel."

One of the things that spoke to me about 300 was Zack Snyder’s directing and visual style. Snyder is very polarized in the popular world and people either love him or hate him (personally, I love the guy) but there’s no denying that he has a unique eye (well, I guess you could deny it if you wanted to). 300 really showed that as every camera angle and sequence felt like you could pause it at any moment, screen cap that shit, and use it as a cover photo on your Facebook timeline that spits in the face of any and all copyright laws. The varying use of tones that would make the characters and background look painted in golden colors, amber lights, and blueish and redish hues made the film feel like the comic book pages had come to life and gave the already fictionalize account of the real historical battle feel even more fantastic and epic feeling. Rise of an Empire didn’t have this. Instead of filters that seem like they are going to be in the next upgrade of Instagram, this movie and director Noam Murro seem to decide against the overall look of the previous film and settle with a look that—and this was a little distracting because of the first film—a look that all too often showed off the true skin tone of each character and ended up feeling like a cheap knock-off of the first film.

And here's a cheap knock-off of Gerard Butler.

I understand this is a strange gripe but every scene in the first film was accompanied by lighting and filters that would bathe the look of the film in rich and deep colors. Rise of an Empire doesn’t head to such lengths and it ends up making the film feel like it is not a true sequel to the epic comic adaptation and more like a third rate studio is trying to make a wannabe 300. Not only did the lack of rich lighting and filters make the film look cheap, it made it look like the entire movie was made by The Asylum—granted with a much larger budget than The Asylum works with (not the 250 dollars the production company is used to).
Truth be told, this one shot had a bigger budget than all The Asylum movies combined.

Finally, it might not have been the worst part of the film but it is still one of the film’s elements that kept me from getting into it, Eva Green’s performance is a little hammy and mega-cheesy. While she commands more attention than Stapleton, she spends much of that acquired attention looking like the community theater drama coach. There was no subtly in her performance. Granted, I wasn’t expecting an actress giving off sly nuances in a subdued performance but you don’t have to make it look like you are filming your audition role for a Joel Schumacher-era Batman film.  Okay, I retract that, she wasn’t THAT bad in her role but she still was laying it on pretty thick and over doing it a little much. If only she offered some of that passion to Stapleton…'re approaching Helena Boham Carter levels, Green.

I won’t lie; I wasn’t expecting big things from 300: Rise of an Empire. However, I didn’t think it was going to be outright terrible when I walked into it (I didn't have high hopes but I still didn't think it was going to be as bad as I found it to be). There’s no denying that the film was, essentially, completely pointless but it didn’t have to feel pointless. The story likes to jump focus and feel like its trying to insert itself into the first film without the added luxury of having a major character from the first one return (seriously, they kept talking about Gerard Butler being off camera that I half expected to get a scene where we see a wall and a single muscular arm come from around it and hear a bad Butler impression saying, “Hey gang, I’m too busy to come out because I’m due at the Hot Gates”) and with lackluster performances, a style that doesn’t match the previous work and fight scenes that are just good enough to not be boring, 300: Rise of an Empire proves that sometimes movies don’t need sequels or, if you’re going to make a sequel that doesn’t have to exist, can you at least make it look like there was some effort in it?

Aw look, Lena Headey is trying to escape.  Good luck, sister...good luck.

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