Until now, director Noam Murro's biggest claim to fame has been 2008's modest Dennis Quaid-Sarah Jessica Parker-Ellen Page slice-of-life "Smart People"—not exactly an obvious precursor to an effects-heavy graphic novel adaptation that may break a new record in onscreen stabbings and projectile crimson spurting. What is such a kicker, then, is that his delectably insane, technically mesmerizing prequel-cum-sequel to 2007's $210-million-grossing sword-and-sandals historical fantasy "300" takes an immeasurably giant step forward in just about every possible aspect. Suffice it to say, Murro has one-upped the original's director—the supposedly more experienced Zack Snyder (2011's "Sucker Punch")—to a welcomingly auspicious degree. Snyder still participates, adapting for the screen Frank Miller's "Xerxes" graphic novel with co-penner Kurt Johnstad, but "300: Rise of an Empire" will probably not be remembered for its writing (although it is rather strong under the circumstances) so much as for its wildly unapologetic, visually spectacular R-rated orgy of seafaring battles, ravenous animalistic sexuality and extreme ultraviolence.
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