Beware Greeks bearing swords, especially when they’re as testosterone-fuelled as the cast of this gleefully gory festival of brutal CGI-baked bloodletting.
Comic books have provided a rich vein of material for filmmakers over the years, although the explosion of big budget movies involving Batman, Superman, Iron Man and Thor et al in recent times has reached near epidemic levels.
Alongside the big names of the Marvel and DC universes that have gone before the cameras are equally beloved titles, most notably from the pen and pencil of the revered Frank Miller. In 2005, a collection of Miller’s hugely acclaimed Sin City stories was directed by Robert Rodriguez and Miller himself (with a helping hand from Quentin Tarantino) and was noteworthy for being one of the first fully digital live action films.
It made the film look, for all intents and purposes, like a live action graphic novel and a similar visual approach was adopted by Zack Snyder for his 2006 adaptation of Miller’s 300, in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads his 300 Spartans into battle against the vastly superior forces of the invading Persian armies, led by the ‘God King’ Xerxes.
That film’s enormous success has inevitably led to 300: Rise Of An Empire that, while not directed by Snyder, might as well have been judging by its identical style. If anything, director Noam Murro has gone even further, throwing in curious tricks like the incessant and distracting floating dust that permeates nearly every frame.
This follow-up is a sequel of sorts, taking place before, during and after the fateful Battle of Thermopylae that was the centrepiece of 300. Sizeable chunks of the film are given over to exposition-heavy narration which establishes how the events of 300 came to pass. At the Battle of Marathon, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) witnesses his father Darius’ death at the hands of Greek General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and is goaded into annihilating the Greeks by Darius’ bloodthirsty naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green).
Artemisia has her own reasons for wanting the Greeks to be wiped out and leads the entire Persian navy into war against the Greek fleet, led by Themistocles. Although vastly outnumbered the Greeks fight on, not only for their families, but also for their way of life.
By sticking so slavishly to 300‘s super-stylised visual palette, Rise Of An Empire loses a lot of its forebear’s impact, but that’s not to say the film doesn’t water the eyes with a series of shamelessly over-the-top battle scenes.
Set on water for large chunks, the film does an effective job of showing large-scale naval warfare, while the swordplay is even more brutal than its predecessor, with limbs being lopped off and CGI blood spraying around so readily it beats you into submission.
Anyone looking for depth will find none here (Snyder co-wrote the script, which should tell you all you need to know), but then this is 300: Rise Of An Empire we’re talking about here and anyone who watched 300 will know what to expect.
The acting is of secondary importance; Stapleton is no Butler (not a phrase I thought I’d ever use), but Green deserves credit for giving a performance of such scenery chewing madness you’d be forgiven for thinking she’d been let out on day release. This isn’t a film that does anything by half and that also goes for the comically absurd sex scene involving Artemisia and Themistocles – illustrated by the glance exchanged by two guards stood outside.
300: Rise Of An Empire makes no apologies for itself and asks little of its audience other than to wallow in its tidal wave of blood and entrails. If you’re after anything else you’d best look elsewhere.
Fine review sir. Think I’m one of the three people in the world who hasn’t seen the first one yet. I might give this one a rental as and when I get around to seeing the first one.
Ha ha! You need to rectify that then sir! Check 300 out first then if I were you. Thanks as always for the feedback Chris 🙂
Good review. Sometimes, I can’t help but enjoy myself with a movie as dumb as this. So rarely happens, so might as well enjoy it while it lasts.
Absolutely! It’s a guilty pleasure but I kinda went with it. As ridiculous as the first movie and that’s saying something.
Good review that adds to the growing consensus. This is a decent fluff flick, but seemingly not special.
Not special at all and if you miss it you’re not missing much. That said, it could have been a lot worse. Thanks.
Very intelligently put, I feel the same but was somewhat taken by Green’s over the top performance.
Much appreciated. I tried to be more intelligent than the movie!
An excellent review. I think this film even though it doesn’t have much depth to it still looks like great entertainment.
Thank you! I kinda liked it in a guilty pleasure kind of way, but then I enjoy that overtly comic book frame style if filmmaking.
Great Review as always. 300 left me kinda cold and on the strength of your review, it doesn’t seem like much new has been brought to the table, therefore I think I’ll probably dodge this one.
Thank you buddy. Fair dues. If you weren’t moved by 300 you sure as hell won’t be moved by this.
“Stapleton is no Butler (not a phrase I thought I’d ever use) …” Ahahahaha, I’ve never heard THAT before Mark, but hey, Butler was indeed iconic as Leonidas. Clearly he wasn’t interested in working out again to get that killer body though. Sounds like the ladies (Green and Heady) fared better than the boys. I might rent it at some point as I like the first one.
If you liked the first one I reckon you’ll enjoy this. Although overwhelmingly testosterone driven, the best parts are given over to Green and Heady. Green especially is bonkers.
IMO, this didn’t follow nearly enough in the first 300’s footsteps, entirely failing to understand what actually made the first movie fun and enjoyable in the first place. A major disappointment, and one that I disagree that fans of the first will be able to enjoy as a result. Eva Green was certainly fun, though.
Fair enough Chris. It was more po-faced than 300, which I appreciate had its tongue in its cheek. Glad you liked Green’s bonkers performance though.
Very good review. I am curious where Green’s career goes.
She’s made a habit out of slightly mad characters. Her performance in Casino Royale was a breakout for me. Thanks for the feedback.
Not as good as the first one but still pretty fun with plenty of bloody violence 😀
Good review, had all reviews in a bookmark folder 😀
Thanks very much Tim. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure; it certainly had it’s moments.