In 2007, Zack Snyder painted a gory and graphic epic out of the true story of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. as interpreted by the Frank Miller/Lynn Varley graphic novel. Seven years later, director Noam Murro (Smart People
) takes up the helm for 300: Rise of an Empire
. This sort of sequel is set simultaneously to the first film, revealing the battle waged between Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) naval force, headed by the legendary Artemisia (Eva Green).
Our theatrical review
will weigh in on whether or not this new release is worth your time, while this column will focus solely on the film's use of 3D. Considering seven separate categories, To 3D Or Not To 3D evaluates the full scope of the 3D viewing experience. Think of it as a consumer's guide for your movie-going, complete with a viewers poll where you can weigh in on how you plan to see 300: Rise of an Empire
Categorically yes. There are plenty of action sequences that can get an extra bit of spectacle oomph from 3D. Everything from blood to weapons and waves thrash about in a way that could grab audiences in 3D. And with much of the film reliant on computer generated graphics and visual effects, there's a great groundwork for building 3D planes.
Planning & Effort Score
Between the release of the first film and its sequel, there was a major shift in the way action movies are unleashed. Avatar
was a total game changer that, for better or worse, demanded action movies offer a 3D version. With the first film taking in an impressive $456 million worldwide, you can bet that Warner Bros. was eager to inflate that number with the higher price tag 3D screenings. So assume 3D was a part of the discussion from early on. It's just a shame the cinematography and heaps of visual effects didn't account for the use of the device a little more. More on that below…
Before the Window Score
This is 3D's most garish aspect, where elements of the movie seem to fly out into the theater. And 300: Rise of an Empire
has no shortage of debris to throw at audiences. Thick ropes of blood, spatters of sweat and spit, splinters from shattered spears, and slashing swords protrude from the screen. But Murro often cuts this effect short by having sprays hit an imaginary camera lens. An effect that can be gripping in 2D, it's a bit jarring in 3D, where the barrier between the movie and the audience is meant to be dismantled. Similarly, out of focus foreground elements sometimes undermine this effect.
Beyond the Window Score
On the other hand you have this 3D element, where the world of the movie appears to stretch deep into the screen. There are some excellent battle scenes where this depth of field adds a deeper sense of drama, as we get a fuller sense of these grand war ships or of the carnage that hides beneath the ocean's surface. But these are rare moments. Mostly, characters have little in their backdrop save for an ominous sky or out of focus structure, offering little use for this 3D tool.
3D glasses make things inherently dimmer, so when applying 3D producers need to remember to accommodate for this lowered brightness. By and large the high contrast look of 300: Rise of an Empire
helps keep things clear. But there are definitely times where the moody darkness of the film collides with the dimness of the glasses to make a few moments of the film flat out hard to see.
Want to know how much 3D a movie has? Pull off your glasses for a moment and take a look at the blur or echoes of figures you see onscreen. When you put them back on, everything will pop freshly before your eyes. To its credit, 300: Rise of an Empire
makes an earnest effort to implement 3D in every scene I tested. But it really sings in the battle scenes on the boats.
Audience Health Score
There's one creative decision about the final look of 300: Rise of an Empire
that is completely mystifying to me: a heavy use of lens flares. There's aren't the artful over earnest flares of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek
, but a fainter, yellower kind that float through countless scenes. It makes the movie physically hard to watch, and at one point I actually checked to see if this effect was in the movie or if my glasses' lenses had somehow become incredibly smudged. Ultimately, this move made the movie actually eye-straining, as my eyes tried in vain to focus on a picture that was purposely made less clear. There are loads of stylistic details put into this movie, but this was one too many.
3D SCORES RECAP
P & E
Before The Window
Beyond The Window
Glasses Off Test
This is a tough call. Two-thirds of the way through the movie, I'd have given a soft recommendation for 300: Rise of an Empire
's 3D. Sure, there are missteps in its use, but some of the battle scenes are pretty damn cool in 3D. But by the end, the weird choice of the lens flares actually made the 3D a struggle in seeing the movie as my eyes fought to figure out how to focus. I did ask fellow moviegoers if they experienced the same issue with the flares, and all asked agreed. Yet the general consensus was that the 3D was overall fine.