"I read for Noam and he said, 'Wow, when close my eyes, all I hear is Russell Crowe!' I'd heard this comparison before, but just for this director to say it, that's big. So I said something like, 'Just cast me, then. I might sound like Russell Crowe, but I'm a whole lot cheaper!'" 300: Rise Of An Empire star Sullivan Stapleton on his first meeting with director Noam Murro.
Gun to my head, I might be able to say something positive about 300: Rise of an Empire. In a vacuum, I suppose I'd call its aesthetic appealing, its production value impressive, or its giant rhinos kind of cool. But these elements cannot be taken alone, embroidered on a gigantic patch of joyless pain that infests your conscious mind from its inceptive moments on.
It's not so much that the 300 sequel fails at its desired conceit — it gives you exactly what it promises: gore, swordplay, angry sex, halfwit maxims about honor and manliness and the love of the fight. It's simply that its desired conceit is dehumanizing agony. Holding too hard and too long to its mission statement to top its Zack Snyder-helmed predecessor in scope, scale, and spilled pints of blood, Noam Murro's Rise of an Empire doesn't put any energy into filtering its spectacular mayhem through whatever semblance of a humanistic touch made the first one feel like a comprehensive movie.
Now, it's been a good eight years since I've seen 300, and I can't say that I was particularly fond of it. But beneath its own eye-widening layer of violence, there was a tangible idea of who King Leonidas was, what this war meant, and why Sparta mattered. No matter how much clumsy exposition is hurled our way, all we really know here is that there are two sides and they hate each other.
When Rise of an Empire asks us to engage on a more intimate level, which it does — the personal warfare between Sullivan Stapleton (whose name, I guess, is Themistokles) and Bad Guy Captain Eva Green (a.k.a. Artemisia) is founded on the idea that she likes him, and he kind of digs her (re: angry sex), and they want to rule together, but a rose by any other name and all that — we're effectively lost. With characters who don't matter in the slightest, material like this is just filler between the practically striking battle sequences.
But when the "in-between material" is as meaningless as it is in Rise of an Empire, the battles can't function as much more than filler themselves. Filler between the opening titles and closing credits. A game of Candy Crush you play on the subway. Contemptfully insubstantial and not particularly fun, but taking place nonetheless.
Without even a remote layer of camp — too palpably absent as Rise of an Empire splashes its screen with so much human fluid that "The End" by The Doors will start to play in your head — there's no victory in a movie like this. No characters to latch onto, no story to follow, no joy to be derived. Yes, it might be aesthetically stunning (and really, that's where the one star comes in... well, half a star for that and half for the giant rhinos), but the marvel of its look shrinks under the shadow of the painful vacancy of anything tolerable.
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Warner Bros via Everett Collection
Last week, we took a look at each of the awards circuits that have announced their winning picks for 2013, calculating just how good an indicator each one might be at predicting the Academy Awards top prize. Unsurprisingly, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were the most common titles to take awards from venues like the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle, Critics Choice Awards, and others. With the organizations carrying a variety of insight, statistically speaking, into what will be the Oscars' big winner, we named 12 Years our Most Likely to Succeed at the 86th Annual Academy Awards... but that was before today's news. See, this morning gave us the winner of the Director's Guild of America Awards — historically, the best indicator of the Best Picture Oscar with a 90% consistency over the past 10 years and an 81% consistency overall — and it is third party candidate Gravity.
Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster has snagged the DGA, putting it in the company of Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, and many other features that went on to win Best Picture. In fact, the last movie to take the DGA but lose out on the top Oscar would be Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a rarity as well for winning the Best Director Oscar but not Best Picture. Averaged with the precognitive capabilities of the Producers Guild of America (middling) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (dismal) — in which Gravity tied as winner with 12 Years and Her, respectively — the space-set thriller is about even with Steve McQueen's slavery epic in its chances to take home the Oscar.
Of course, math can only take you so far (despite what they tried to drill into your heads in grade school). The separating factor, come Academy season, will be that indefinable quality that makes something an "Oscar movie." Not necessarily the best movie, but the one most palatable to the Academy's appetite. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are both terrific films, but the latter has a few points on its side. Although they might share the DGA with Gravity, movies like Argo, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Baby, et al have far more in common with 12 Years a Slave: they're tales of history, adversity, injustice, human ugliness and human perseverence. Stories very much grounded on this Earth... something that Gravity, quite literally, might not be considered (at least by some).
But we applaud the DGA for recognizing Cuaron's movie, and its other deserving winners (with special notice for the finales of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock). Peruse the winners list below!
The Directors Guild of America Awards
Feature FilmWinner: GravityNominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street
DocumentaryWinner: Cutie and the BoxerNominees: The Act of Killing, The Crash Wheel, The Square, Stories We Tell
Dramatic SeriesWinner: Breaking Bad: "Felina"Nominees: Breaking Bad: "Blood Money," Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere," Homeland: "The Star," House of Cards: "Chapter 1"
Comedy SeriesWinner: 30 Rock: "Hogcock!/Last Lunch"Nominees: The Big Bang Theory: "The Hofstadter Insufficiency," The Big Bang Theory: "The Love Spell Potential," Modern Family: "My Hero," Modern Family: "The Old Man & the Tree"
TV Movie/MiniseriesWinner: Behind the CandelabraNominees: Killing Kennedy, Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Phil Spector, The Sound of Music Live!
Variety/Talk/News/Sports ProgrammingWinner: Saturday Night Live: "Justin Timberlake"Nominees: The Colbert Report: "#10004," The Daily Show: "#19018," Jimmy Kimmel Live: "#13-1810," Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: "#799"
Variety/Talk/News/Sports SpecialWinner: The 67th Annual Tony AwardsNominees: 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, The 55th Annual Grammy Awards, The 85th Annual Academy Awards, Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Reality ProgramsWinner: 72 Hours: "The Lost Coast"Nominees: The Amazing Race: "Beards in the Wind," The Biggest Loser: "1501," The Hero: "Teamwork," Top Chef: "Glacial Gourmand"
Children's ProgramsWinner: An Apology to ElephantsNominees: A.N.T. Farm, Jinxed, Swindle, Teen Beach Movie
CommercialsWinner: Martin de Thurah (The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down, Hennessy VS/Human Race, Acura MDX 2014)Nominees: Fredrik Bond (Voyage, Heineken; From The Future, Johnny Walker), John X. Carey (Real Beauty Sketches, Dove), Matthijs van Heijningen (Perfect Day, Sony Playstation; #Forty Eight, Verizon), Noam Murro (Basketball, Guinness; Kids, DIRECTV; Mask, Volkswagen)
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The wait is over... Let the battle begin! The first trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire, sequel to 2006's popular historical fantasy 300, has finally been released. The sounds of swords clashing, the bold visuals of bodies slicing, and slo-mo scenes of epic battling all reveal that the 300 sequel will not disappoint loyal fans of the first film.
Under the direction of Noam Murro, 300: Rise of an Empire documents Thermistocles the Greek General (Sullivan Stapleton) as he faces the threatening King-turned-God, Thermoplyae and his menacing Persian army. After a ghastly shot of the corpse of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) lying on a mound of dead soldiers, the ominous trailer jumps to Game of Thrones' nefarious Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo giving the Spartans a pep talk to take vengeance against the Persian infantry.
The trailer ensures that this upcoming action-packed movie, written by Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, will satisfy audiences who love gory violence and stunning scenery accompanied by an epic score. 300: Rise of an empire charges into theatres March 7th, 2014.
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There must be something about followup films that just incites the desire to rise. The developing 300 prequel, formerly titled Battle of Artemesia, has taken on a more universally approachable title: 300: Rise of an Empire. This welcomes the Ancient Greek action fable into the ranks of the other "risers" in movie followup history.
In the last three years alone, there have been a handful: the sequels The Dark Knight Rises, G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and not to mention the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series pilot episode Rise of the Turtles. Hollywood is an optimistic place!
The 300 prequel is expected to follow a battle between Athens and Persia, and will feature 300's Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) alongside new characters like Persian military commander Artemesia (Eva Green) and Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). Noam Murro takes directing duties from Zack Snyder, who wrote and directed 300 and is writing the script for 300: Rise of an Empire.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros]
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The French actress, who stunned Daniel Craig's 007 in Casino Royale, will join Aussie actor Sullivan Stapleton in the follow-up to director Zack Snyder's cult 2006 film.
Noam Murro will direct the sequel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Stapleton will play Persian king Xerxes in the film.
UPDATE: Jamie Blackley is on his way to notoriety as a fantasy-adventure fixture. The young actor has a role in the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman, and now is joining the ever fertile world of Greek mythology for the new 300 movie, Battle of Artemesia.
Deadline reports that Blackley will star alongside Sullivan Stapleton as a leading character in Noam Murro's film. Blackley's character will be a sixteen year-old soldier, aspiring to the greatness once embodied by his father, who becomes a military leader in the titular battle.
EARLIER: The long-awaited follow-up to the 2007 sword-and-sandals blockbuster 300 appears at last to be gathering momentum, as Variety reports that Sullivan Stapleton is in final negotiations for the leading role. The Strike Back star had reportedly been mulling over the role in the film, billed as "neither a prequel or [sic] a sequel" by Variety (hence the compromise "spin-off" label), for quite a while but couldn't commit until scheduling issues with his Cinemax series were properly worked out.
The film, which has been unofficially branded The Battle of Artemisia, is slated to begin shooting this summer. Noam Murro (Smart People) is directing from a script by Kurt Johnstad and Zack Snyder.
For a taste of Stapleton's hit series Strike Back, check out one of our exclusive clips:
Eva Green is in negotiations with Warner Bros. to star in the upcoming 300 prequel, Battle of Artemisia.
The former Bond girl would play the title character in the film, to be directed by Smart People's Noam Murro.
In Artemisia, Xerxes -- with the help of the title goddess -- squares off against Greek forces and their leader, Themistocles (once rumored to be played by Joel Edgerton).
Joel Edgerton has thrust himself into the breach more than his share of times.
He played a warrior in Warrior. He was attacked by clones in Attack of the Clones. And though I can't really make a play on words with the title of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, you can bet that he was pretty stalwart as Metalbeak. His next seizing of the sword might very well take place in Ancient Greece: Edgerton is in talks to join the 300 sequel, Battle of Artemesia as its star player.
Edgerton's character-to-be is Themosticles, leader of the Greek army against invading Persian forces. Like the first movie, this story takes blace in 480 B.C. Pretty big year for the groundwork of the whole Greek-Persian enmity of ancient days. Smart People director Noam Murro is trying his hand at action-adventure with this sequel, while 300 director Zack Snyder is working on the script.
But, of course, the most exciting news about this project is still the potential casting of Gerard Butler.
Sequels are the sort of thing that either happen right away (see: almost every money-making summer movie from the past five years) or way down the line (Tron: Legacy), but once they hit that middle ground, hope for a follow up quickly wanes.
Apparently that's not the case with the second installment of the proposed 300 franchise, which continues to churn out news bites as quickly as Sin City 2. When it was first "officially" announced back in 2009, there was just a vague notion. Then in 2010, Zack Snyder was set to help write the film with a proposed title of Xerxes. Then it all got switched around, dropping Snyder, picking up a new title (300: Battle for Artemisia) and hiring director Noam Murro.
Now there's a new tidbit: there's a possibility of Gerard Butler and Lena Hedley returning. The quote comes from 300 Bernie Goldmann, who suggested to Movies.com (where you can read the full quote) that there was room for the duo to return for the, essentially, unrelated sequel. Does that make the movie a prequel? Not necessarily—that's why the movie gods invented flashbacks—but it does suggest that the film will be tied closer to the original than one may have suspected.
That is to say, expect plenty more scantily clad, ripped men in red capes beating the living daylights out of one another.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches and @Hollywood_com