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300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Seize your glory!
Filmmaker(s): Noam Murro

Greek general Themistocles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. Themistocles faces the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god, Xerxes and Artemesia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Slaves in the Hold

I live near Pat Robertson‘s elaborate film school, and have often wondered what the world will be like when religious extremists master effective filmmaking. What happens when we move from Roger Ailes to Leni Riefenstahl? Well, here we have something that tells me we are close.

The values behind this thing are disturbing, even repellent. The history is even backwards, needlessly so. But this is so finely crafted, so extraordinarily fine tuned story-telling that I have to remark on it. So set aside the dangerous notions of self and sex as explosive violence. Set aside jingowoven, hooha misogyny. Set aside the notion that every blow is spectacularly fatal.

The original was notable in its production method; a few real objects and bodies in the foreground with synthesised, situational background. A side effect of this method allowed two teams to optimise independently. So the main characters had refined, economical costumes and totems.

The similar, more traditional process used for example in ‘Gravity’ tightly connected the synthesised bits with the foreground actors, with the side effect of constraining both. Narrative economy had to be found elsewhere, and was.

But here, you basically have two movies, one playing behind the other. Each has its own cinematic philosophy and creative team.

An example of how conscious of this and clever these folks are; how do you integrate these? I mean visually, because this is essentially a new cinematic vocabulary. Well, you introduce spatial dust that exists in both worlds simultaneously. Every scene here has this dust, sometimes floating embers. It jars at first, but the distraction is necessary to its effectiveness.

Another example: nearly every filmed battle we have in our cinematic tradition is a land battle. We have a couple of those here. But they are nested in a grander sea battle, just as the former movie is nested in the story. How do you stage and choreograph such a thing?

And here, I was also impressed by the talent and novelty brought to the problem. For the first time, we have battles with new motions and cameras. Oh, we still have the big lugs in the foreground doing their traditional Kurosawa through Braveheart thing. But how to be exciting with ships? How to convey situation?

A notable technique messed with my brain. They messed with the physics of water. The cinematic Ted loved how the stage was bent. Ships here literally come over impossible huge standing hills of water. Notions of speed and penetration were borrowed from other worlds. (Is this common in video games?) The scientific Ted had to simply live with it.

Integrating foreground and background? Water and oars were rendered using the same tropes as sword and blood.

A lot of art here. No decision seems to have been the default one. A bushel of economies are delivered, including the economy of theatrical urges. Urges made plain, visible and fluid.

I only wish they were on my team, working to challenge and enrich. What happens when practically evil minds get these methods?

Posted in 2014

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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