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Director Zack Snyder, who helmed the blockbuster 300 (blockbuster is why sequels were invented, dontcha know...) is now running the Superman movie reboot for Warners, so he and original co-screenwriter Kurt Johnstad join together to give new director Noam Murro a strong base from which to start. Of course, that strong base is Frank Miller's original comic... sorry, graphic novel (and we're not being snide. We've been a fan of Frank Miller's work ever since he saved and rebooted the Daredevil franchise for Marvel Comics nearly three decades ago. Damn, we're getting old <sigh>}
IN SHORT: Hardcore battles and 3-D streams of blood . . . why wasn't high school history like this ??? [Rated R. 103 minutes]
We do not expect that a ticket buyer know the Source Material before sitting for any movie. 300: Rise of an Empire has a moment or two here or there which requires knowledge of its predecessor but, for the most part, those who missed the earlier, land-based bloodbath should pick up the necessary background easily. 300: Rise of an Empire focusses on a fledgling Greek navy from the city-state of Athens which gathers to battle a Persian navy a thousand ships strong. More important, it compresses Greek history to a pair of sequences set ten years earlier. First, Athenian Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) picks up a bow and, from a super-human distance, shoots and kills the Persian King Darius (Igal Naor). Of so it is said. (Things happpen in the heat of battle that are always exaggerated as the stories are retold). Second, the ritual baptism -- in a cave of hermits -- of the Persian heir apparant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), son of Darius. We're guessing that that event was also about ten years before this movie . . . Xerxes is prominent in 300 as King so, there's one link.
The forces of Persia which descend on Athens are led by a fierce, orphaned Greek woman. She is Artemisia (Eva Green) and her nemesis, the aforementioned Themistocles will contemplate an offer that most men would not refuse. 300: Rise of an Empire, though, lays out its entire raison d'etre in its title. Persia, having crushed Sparta, would do the same for the rest of Greece. Themistocles, knowing that only the combined strength of all the city-states of Greece can stand up to the Persians, sets out to rally the farmers and philosphers and all the non-warriors to be an army.
The problem is, the remaining Spartans want nothing to do with the other Greeks. The Persians are counting on it.
That is most all you need to know about 300: Rise of an Empire. We wrote, in our review of the first film, "see it in IMAX" because our screening wasn't in IMAX and we just knew . . ." Yours Cranky was treated to a proper full blast IMAX screening of this sequel and can report that it is quite something, to watch that much battle butchery on the over-sized IMAX screen.
The sole problem is that the screenplay for this film bounces all around historical time. Most of the film should follow the chronological events of the first film, yet inserting the necessary backstory noted above kind of messed up the natural flow of this film's story. The events of the 300 stories are all perfectly suited to teenaged or 20-something boys who live for bloiod and guts stories. Been there done that. We suspect that it is the air-borne blood and guts aspect of this story that gets the boys into a theater. If our suspicions are correct -- for most of 300's box office came from overseas -- there is one more story yet to come from this franchise. One in which the Greeks decide to just put the Persians down for good. There is, after all, a reason why we all are taught the history of ancient Greece, and not Persia, in our school days.
We'll end by saying what needs to be said . . . if you have no stomach for flying body parts, 300: Rise of an Empire is not for you.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 300: Rise of an Empire, he would have paid . . .
Since you lucky readers have the option, dig out your DVD copy of 300 and watch it first.
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