300: Rise of an Israeli director
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300: Rise of an Israeli director

Jerusalem-raised Noam Murro is the blockbuster debutant behind ‘300: Rise of an Empire,’ the much-anticipated sequel to ‘300’

Debra writes for the JTA, and is a former features writer for The Times of Israel.

A still from "300: Rise of an Empire" (screen capture: YouTube/official trailer)
A still from "300: Rise of an Empire" (screen capture: YouTube/official trailer)

The gory, amputation-packed sequel to the cult popcorn thriller “300” — “300: Rise of an Empire” — roared into US theaters on Friday, marking both a new low in syrupy blood spurts as well the blockbuster debut for Israeli director Noam Murro.

The Jerusalem-born Murro, whose resume is packed with US commercial work but very light on feature films, has taken the chariot reins from “300” director Zack Synder, who is all but a god to the Comic-Con set. It’s been eight years since “300” wowed thrill-loving, carnage-hungry audiences, and for its legion of devoted fans, Murro’s $100 million 3-D epic followup could not have come too soon.

This second “300” film has all the shirtless men and blood-soaked rivers of its predecessor, but rather than picking up where that film left up, it simply takes one of its major plot lines and begins to thread it in a different direction.

“What do you call it? A prequel? A sequel?” Murro asked The Los Angeles Times in an interview this week. “It’s an equal, hopefully. It’s a different perspective of the same time. Thematically, that’s an interesting place to be.”

Noam Murro. (photo credit: Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore)
Noam Murro. (photo credit: Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore)

Murro’s portfolio includes commercial spots for big brands like Guiness, Lipton Tea, Volkswagen and Nike, but his only other major film thus far is 2008’s “Smart People,” starring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker. That film, which hardly made a blip at the box office, is about as cerebral as “300” is carnal, making Murro a surprising choice for such a highly anticipated picture.

But Murro, whose background is in classical music and art, won the gig by suggesting this second “300” could be a sort of slaughterhouse opera, one where the drama is as high-pitched as the squeals of death.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Synder’s wife had worked with Murro on a commercial and they were impressed by his idea of pushing the film’s artistic side.

“My true passion is opera. I understand it,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

The sequel, which has received lukewarm reviews from critics, is nevertheless estimated to have pulled in a whopping $45 million during its first weekend in theaters. And Murro, no doubt, is hoping his “300” film will work the same magic for his career as the first did for Snyder, who is currently directing the untitled Superman-Batman project, whose cast includes Israeli ingénue Gal Gadot.

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