Writer: Casey Chong
Overall: 3.5 Out of 5
Cast: 3.0 Out of 5
Plot: 3.5 Out of 5
Effects: 4.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 4.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: “300”, “Gladiator” and “Immortals”.
So far, this year's epic genre by the likes of "The Legend Of Hercules" and "Pompeii" failed to generate desirable results at the box office. However, the arrival of the long-awaited "300: Rise Of An Empire" seems like a potential winner that may finally break the jinx of this particular genre in 2014. After all, this is the sequel (or "side-quel", if you may) to the fan-favorite "300" we are talking about here - the then-groundbreaking sword-and-sandal epic famous for the stylistic slow-motion of bloody massacre and Gerard Butler's breakthrough performance as the fearless Spartan leader, King Leonidas.
Set in the concurrent event where the Battle of Thermopylae (previously seen in 2006's "300" where King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors fight to their death against Rodrigo Santoro's King Xerxes' Persian army) is still taking place, "300: Rise Of An Empire" tells the other side of the story at which Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads his Greek army against Artemisia (Eva Green) on a naval engagement.
The good news is, Israeli veteran commercials director-turned-feature filmmaker Noam Murro (whose previous sole credit was 2008's "Smart People") knows well how to execute a big-budget Hollywood project like the back of his hand. Working from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad (which is adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel "Xerxes"), the story is engaging enough to sustain your interest because of the way everything is carefully dispensed without much excessive weight (e.g. the well-told backstories involving Xerxes and Artemisia).
On the other hand, Murro manages to re-create Snyder's trademark super slow-motion battle scenes complete with lots of CGI blood and gore with satisfying result. With the help of cinematographer Simon Duggan, Murro plays around with lots of interesting camera angles (especially during the naval-battle scene) which gives the action set-pieces all the more rousing experience to watch for. The rest of the technical credits, including the eye-catching special effects and Junkie XL's pulse-pounding score that comes with a Middle Eastern twist, really contributes a lot to the movie.
However, the cast is a mixed bag. With the iconic Gerard Butler out of the picture, it's mostly left for Australian hunk Sullivan Stapleton to carry all the weight. While he looks physically fine, his acting isn't as commanding as that of Butler. But thankfully, Eva Green steals the show as the fearsome Artemisia. Her performance is especially engaging each time she appears, and it's a welcome change of pace to see a female actor share an equal amount of dominance in this otherwise testosterone-driven movie.
While "300: Rise Of An Empire" has plenty of awestruck moments throughout its 102 minutes running time, the movie somewhat stumbles toward its climactic finale. Make no mistake, the final battle scene is exhilarating but at the same time, it's also unnecessarily anticlimactic which concludes with an open ending. It then begs the all-important question; is it really necessary to give way for a possible third "300" movie?
As for now, "300: Rise Of An Empire" is fortunate enough to be still fresh and entertaining mostly because of Murro's muscular direction. If possible, watch this in IMAX 3D because all the arresting visuals and vivid display of violence that's presented here is simply gripping and cinematic.
Cinema Online, 05 March 2014