MOVIE MAN

Ultra-violent “300″ sequel a 3-D wonder

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Movie Man jumped back a week to catch “300: Rise of an Empire” for two reasons.

One, he really wasn’t interested in “Need for Speed.”

Two, he heard that “Rise of an Empire” was great in 3-D.

Man, that’s true.

ABOUT THE FILM

Everyone has some sort of movie genre they prefer.

The Movie Man is partial to comedies, sci-fi/horror and dramas.

He’s not crazy about war movies or westerns. And a romantic comedy must have some sort of juicer – a favorite actor or director – to get the Movie Man to go that route.

Historical epics are somewhere in the middle. That’s where the first “300″ (2007, a 6) fell.

Seven years later is a bit long in returning a story to the screen. But that original “300″ did great worldwide. In America, it raked in $210.6 million. The total take was $456 million after factoring in the $245.4 overseas.

The international box office charts are full of anomalies.

Sometimes a movie that doesn’t do that great in the U.S. is a major hit elsewhere.

A recent example of that is the mysterious worldwide love for “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (2012, a 3 – it was terribly unfunny).

The movie was gigantic elsewhere; 81.7 percent of its $879.6 million take came from foreign markets. In the U.S., it made $161.3 million. Overseas, the number was a staggering $718.3 million.

Another example: “Pacific Rim” (2013, a 6) was considered a dud here in the states with a take of just $101.8 million. But in distant cinemas, it hauled in $310 million – that’s a 31.4/68.6 percent difference.

A case of an American “flop” highlights the U.S. versus the world concept: “John Carter” (2012, a 5). While it limped around the U.S. finally taking in just $73 million, it made 74.2 percent of its $283.5 million haul overseas.

The flip side of that coin – where a movie does better here than overseas (keeping in mind that it might not get as massive a release as others) – is “The Lorax” (2012, a 6).

Domestically, the movie performed much better with a $214 million take compared to the rest of the world at $127.1, a 62.7/37.3 split.

One more box office note: “Frozen” (2013, a 7) will soon become the 19th movie to reach the $400 million mark in the U.S., excluding old movies adjusted for box office. Otherwise, there are 107 U.S. pictures ahead of it.

THE PLOT

Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), urged on by his No. 1 military leader Artemisia (Eva Green), decides to put Greece in its place by invading.

Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) knows Greece’s states must unite to be able to handle the mighty assault. Sparta, famed for its mighty warriors and expansive navy, isn’t interested, however. Even a visit there by Stapleton to see the Queen Gorgo (Lena Headley) goes for naught.

Stapleton rallies his heroes while helplessly out-numbered. He wins a couple of minor victories at sea.

The Spartans’ brutal defeat elsewhere (from the original movie) gives Stapleton’s soldiers a rally cry. But another trip to urge Headley to use Sparta’s navy seems to fall on deaf ears.

Or does it?

WHAT WORKS

This is one of the great 3-D movies of all time. Every scene has something diverting that takes advantage of the process, whether it’s geysers of blood flying through the air or specks or ashes dancing through sunlight during lulls in the action.

One scene is really cool. Santoro steps out from a high palace window to urge his minions to war. The camera comes up from behind then rises above him to reveal a gigantic mass of people below.

The shot is disorienting and effective like those from the great “Gravity” (2013, a 9 and Best of Year) that unsettle you. That’s when 3-D works best.

Green is the breakout from this movie. It’s rare for a woman to be the baddest of the bunch, but she is.

Finally, “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath fits nicely over the end credits.

BEST SCENE

The opening battle comes right off the bat. It lets you know early this “Rise of an Empire” is not going to shy away from the gore.

Shot in normal speed then slowed excessively to near stopping, heads fall and limbs are severed while blood flies everywhere – all while the sky flashes with lightning.

It’s sensory overload and eye-popping.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

You expect a bombastic movie like this to be full of really stilted language, but this is hilariously terrible.

After that cool opening fight, things get a bit repetitive. There are only so many ways to maim and disfigure and by the 90-minute mark, the movie has explored them all.

Santoro looks cool as Xerxes, but all he does is walk around and issue dire warnings. Again, it’s unintentionally funny.

THE RATING

This movie is one hard R. The gore is intense and nonstop to match the ceaseless violence. Plus, there’s a coupling scene and nudity. It’s certainly not for children. And don’t look for it in any history class, ever.

SUMMING UP

Fanboys who have bemoaned the PG-13 ratings of recent horror and action movies will rejoice that “Rise of an Empire” pulls no punches (literally!) for its strong R.

This movie is big and dumb and loud and violent. And sometimes awesome.

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