Title – 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Director – Noam Murro (Smart People)
Cast – Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Callan Mulvey, Hans Matheson, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro
Plot – Set both before, during and after the grand battle of the 300 Spartans, Rise of an Empire focuses its golden tinged gaze onto the mighty Themistocles (Stapleton) and his daring battles against the bent on blood Artemisia (Green) as her Persian army looks to burn Greece to the ground.
“Better we show them, we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees”
Review by Eddie on 7/03/2014
While Zack Snyder’s 2006 blood soaked, sun drenched, slo-mo ab fest 300 is in no way a narrative masterpiece there is little doubt about it’s power as pure visceral entertainment value, a fact highlighted by its huge box office booty and a legion of fans that to this day remember the splattering of Persian and Spartan blood as fondly as when it first hit their senses like a swaying of a sharpened sword. With the subsequent release of this prequel/sequel, many of these rabid fans were hoping for more of the same and while 300: Rise of an Empire does indeed provide much of the same in the stakes of blood, slo-mo abs and as much wheat grass 3-D effects as you can shake a loincloth at, it just holds none of the abstract charm or wow factor that made it’s much grander predecessor such a joy.
The movie itself should be entitled 300: On a Boat (and yes I was hoping you’d think of Lonely Island as you read that) with much of the action forfeiting the comfort of solid ground in favour of a procession of navy battles that really start to blur into one another and become nothing more than a bunch of skirmishes that feel all to similar. The move to have the action take place on the high seas was clearly done to try and make the film seem more grand than it actually is and try to separate itself from what has come before, but in saying this the film seems to take every opportunity to pay homage or remind us of what went on in 300 and all that does is remind the audience that they probably should’ve stayed home and watched the original instead. These naval battles do however have moments of visual beauty and individual scenes that give off the sense at some stage the film was on the right track, but is consistently derailed thanks to a narrative that at no stage engages as 300 did in 2006.
In his first Hollywood leading role, Australian Sullivan Stapleton is given a sword, a cape and many grandstanding battle speeches but unfortunately he doesn’t even come close to filling Gerard Butler’s blood soaked sandals. His role as the heroic Themistocles is so bland you almost wish the film was a silent movie, with no dialogue resonating or getting that pre-battle blood flowing in a way which vastly improved our time spent with Leonidas. Other actors are all merely sword and spear fodder with Eva Green’s seriously tormented and twisted Artemisia making the biggest impression, but to say her performance is anything more than a bit of fun would be a lie. It is a shame that relatively new director Noam Murro couldn’t get more out of the human aspect; as said before he does at times display a quality hand with certain visuals and moments of battle that make the film better than it perhaps even is.
While 300 will continue to entertain and remain a very quality piece of throwaway visual entertainment, Rise of an Empire will likely sink like a wrecked ship of war in a sea of other average follow ups. Possessing some nice visuals and spraying some pretty looking blood effects does not a good film make, but we can be thankful of it reminding us that the original is a better film than many give it credit for.
2 boat horses out of 5