‘300: Rise of an Empire’ – We’ve Seen This Movie Before, Right?
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It’s been nearly 10 years since the release of ‘300,’ the big-screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which was based on a legendary battle that took place in 480 B.C. While making the Roman empire a full blown CGI world with ‘Matrix’-style camera moves may have been like cramming a square peg into a round hole, audiences certainly loved it, and they made ‘300’ a huge hit. While Zack Snyder isn’t back to direct this time, we’re certain ‘300’ will have the same signature trademarks of the first installment. In fact, we’d be willing to bet it’s going to be pretty much the same movie. So instead of wasting your money at the theater this weekend, here are a few other Roman warrior flicks you can have a toga party with in the comfort of your own home.
Before Ridley Scott’s Roman epic, there was no genre deader than the gladiator film. Not only was ‘Gladiator’ a major hit, it also launched a ton of imitations. In fact, practically every Roman empire flick following ‘Gladiator’ has pretty much followed the same template, including ‘300.’ While ‘Gladiator’ won a Best Picture Oscar and was hyped as being about the triumph of the human spirit, it’s essentially a big-budget B movie, pretty much like every movie made by mainstream Hollywood these days. Yet ‘Gladiator’ on its most fundamental level delivered as an entertaining epic, and it’s the foundation of the modern Roman warrior film.
There’s something to be said for a movie that’s more than three decades old and is still completely offensive. Unleashed back in 1979, ‘Caligula’ still has the power to repulse. Like a lot of movies, there was a great idea at the core of ‘Caligula': make a movie about the Roman empire in all its down-and-dirty decadence. Except Caligula went too down and dirty. In fact, it’s hard to think of a single movie that breaks as many taboos as ‘Caligula’ does, and it’s still incredibly sick to this day. ‘Caligula’ was one of many bad investments that made Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse magazine, go broke. He spent $17 million of his own money in making the film, added hardcore porn scenes and distributed it himself, which is a great way for any filmmaker to lose their money in a hurry. If you want to watch a film that will make you want to take a long, scathing shower afterward, we definitely recommend ‘Caligula.’
At the time, there were four Alexander the Great movies in development, including one that was written by Christopher McQuarrie (‘The Usual Suspects’), and one that was going to be directed by Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead. After the success of ‘Gladiator,’ there was a big race to bring the life of the great Greek conqueror to the big screen, and Oliver Stone beat everyone to the punch. But the consensus is that ‘Alexander’ missed the mark, and with Hollywood still in reboot mode, maybe there will be another Alexander the Great movie again, although it would certainly be expensive to relaunch. If you check out ‘Alexander,’ look at it as one of those projects that could have, should have, would have been a great epic, but didn’t quite conquer the world of blockbusters.