FlixChatter Review – 300: Rise of an Empire

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After almost a decade, Warner Bros. finally released a sequel to their sword and sandals hit 300. Before I go into the review of this new movie, I wanted to point out that I was never a fan of the first movie, I didn’t hate it but I thought it’s like I’m watching a video game with nonstop carnage and I was bored with it.

Now I’m not sure if I should call this new movie a sequel since it took place the same timeline as the first movie. It opens right after the end of the first one, we see King Leonidas and his men bodies laying dead and Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) came by and chopped Leonidas’ head off. We hear an exposition voice over by his grieving wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), she’s basically telling the audience what’s going on in the movie. Then the movie flashes back and showed how Xerxes became such a powerful figure. We were also introduced to a new hero, Themistokle (Sullivan Stapleton), he’s the general of the Athens’ army. Upon learning that Greek is being invaded by the Persians, he tried to team up Leonidas’ army but the Sparta king refused to even to talk to him. Then we were introduced to another character, Persian’s naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). She’s of Greek ancestry but something happened to her when she was a child and she vowed to kill every Greeks as much as she could. After the introductions of these characters, the rest of the movie’s basically a non-stop battles after another, just like the first one.

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So apparently the movie was based on Frank Miller‘s graphic novel called Xerxes but since the novel’s really about Xerxes rise to power, the script was written so that it focuses again on the Greeks’ army. The script was written by Zack Snyder, he’s too busy with Man of Steel so he decided not to come back and direct the flick. He and his co-screenwriter Kurt Johnstad didn’t really come up with anything new for this one. Heck they even included a little subplot of a father and son who’re part of the army. Instead of the father losing his son in that battle like the first movie, here the son lost his father. Wow that’ so genius of them to come up with a such a cool twist, I had to roll my eyes when I saw that scene.

Director Noam Murro, whom I never heard of before this movie, stepped behind the cameras this time and basically copied Snyder’s style from the first movie step by step. I wondered if since Snyder’s also the producer, he may have given Murro a style guide on how to shoot each scene the way he likes it. To his credit though, Murro did stage some cool action sequences, much more elaborate than the first movie. But still he didn’t bring anything new to the table for the sequel.

As for the performances, Evan Green looked like she had a lot of fun playing the vicious baddie. Unfortunately for the new hero, Stapleton didn’t really established himself as a leading man here. Even though I didn’t care for the first movie, I thought Gerard Butler was quite effective as the lead in that film. I always thought Lena Headey overacted her role in the first film and she didn’t change my mind in this one. Santoro‘s Xerxes didn’t really have much to do again in this one, he walks around looking like a super villain.

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I can’t say I hate this movie because I didn’t have any expectations for it and in a way, it lived up to my lack of expectations. It would’ve been better maybe if the movie actually focuses on Xerxes’ rise to power but since the studio folks only care about getting the big bucks at the box office, we got the same exact movie as the last one. Nothing new or original here. I’m giving this a two stars rating partly because I enjoyed some of the action sequences and I loved the Dolby Atmos surround sound mix. Fans of the original will probably enjoy this one and get their money’s worth. As for everyone else, this was a waste of time and money.

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What do you think of the 300 sequel?

300 & Gladiator sequel talks? Oh, please don’t!

Maximus & Leonidas might be back!
Maximus & Leonidas – seconds from being resurrected!

All the rumors swirling about a sequel/prequel of 300 just got a new boost now that director Zack Snyder told IGN at the Comic Con this weekend that he’s basically just waiting for Frank Miller’s draft of the comic. Snyder said that there’s a lot of Spartan history to draw inspiration from. He also hinted that even though his character King Leonidas died at the end of the movie, he doesn’t rule out Gerard Butler coming back in some form. Ha, if that’s true, Gerry better starts training pronto to get his 8-pack back. He’s been kind of plump lately, even on CNN’s review of The Ugly Truth, he’s called a ‘potato-faced Russell Crowe with a lot less charm.’ Ouch!

Speaking of Crowe, have you heard of the rejected Gladiator 2 script that was uncovered this past May? Apparently Crowe himself enlisted a fellow Aussie goth rocker (and sometimes screenplay writer) Nick Cave to write it. The supernatural-themed script has to be one of the most bizarre and preposterous scripts ever written. For those of you who haven’t seen Gladiator (would you just put it on your Netflix already?), Crowe’s character Maximus died at the end, but Cave’s script resurrected him by having the Roman gods reincarnate him and send him back to Rome. But it doesn’t stop there, according to the detailed review of it by Gone Elsewhere blog, the century-spanning script has Maximus stood up for early Christian rebels, as well as taking him to WW II and modern day Pentagon! [shakes head] No wonder the studios dismissed the script, deeming it too over the top despite thumbs up from Crowe and the original director Ridley Scott. The script itself seems like a hoot and craftily-written, but I can’t imagine it working as a sequel to such a classic film. I couldn’t even finish reading it, I mean I LOVE Gladiator and Maximus is one of my favorite cinematic characters, but what Cave wrote is just too out there and weird for my taste. Check it out for yourself (download the PDF) and let me know what you think.

I personally think they should leave masterpieces alone, why mess with perfection, you know? In the history of sequels/prequels, only a tiny handful of them actually works (The Lord of the Rings, Toy Story) but most sequels are craps driven merely by profits. Alas, they probably will do a sequel to both of them in the future, those suits in Hollywood just can’t resist it with the popularity of swords & sandals flicks popping up again (see my previous post). In fact, I just saw a promo shot of Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia on the latest EW magazine at Barnes & Noble today. Jake’s looking very Ryan Reynolds-like with his new buff physique, but sorry I just don’t see him as a bad @$$ hero the way Crowe in Gladiator or Butler did in 300. It’s more than just the body IMO, it’s the panache/charisma of the actor that makes the character believable.

Anyhoo, enough with the sequel talks. I think Hollywood ought to invest in a fresh new crop of writers instead of doing the same thing over and over again.