300: Rise of an Empire

By Peter Towe

Published on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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Slow motion, sword fights, boats, horses, water, blood, 3D, more boats, a lot more blood, and a little story sprinkled in.  There you have it.  My complete review for the sequel to the popular 2007 film 300, which was the fictionalized retelling of the battles of the Persian wars.   The sequel 300: Rise of an Empire is based on the newly published work by Frank Miller.  The story picks up before, during, and after the events of the original and provides a different view into the battles that took place in the original.  This time around Zack Snyder stepped away from the directors chair, but still produced and wrote the script (along with Kurt Johnstad).  Director Noam Murro leads the new film which looks to expand the universe Frank Miller created and Zack Snyder brought to life in the original.  This time around the filmmakers were able to use the 3D to enhance the visually striking fight sequences.  I know Snyder wanted 3D in the original, but the technology or the studio weren’t ready.  The 3D was excellently done and provided good depth to the images, which offer a slight upgrade in the respect to the original.  300 was the foundation, and Rise of an Empire builds upon this base that is already established.

300: Rise of an Empire pits Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) of Athens against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Artemisia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy.  Narrated by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), the story begins with the Queen telling her men of the Battle of Marathon, where King Darius of Persia was killed by Themistocles.  Darius’ son Xerxes is shown on his rise to power, which was led by military expert Artemisia.  From there, the story weaves the missing parts from the original, and shows what happens after Leonides and the 300 have fallen.  Themistokles pleaded the council for extra men to fight off the upcoming Persian army, which greatly outnumber the Athens soldiers.  Getting no support, Thermopylae and his men must fight off the invading navy of the Persians, as the battles move from land to sea.

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Since the original 300, technology has come a long way.  Rise of an Empire thrives on both its IMAX and 3D presentations, bringing the audience closer into the action than ever before.  Visually, the sequel uses the formula Zack Snyder set up in the original, and it works again.  One of the things the original had going for it was that at the time, we had never seen a movie captured in that visual way.  So the filmmakers had to try and bring something new to the table.  While the visual style mimics the original, there are enough new things to make the movie feel fresh.  Slow motion is relied on very heavily as you might expect.  For the most part it works, but after so long the fights do become tedious.  There was not enough variation in the fighting to make anything groundbreaking.  After about an hour everything from the slow motion sword swipe to the blood flying at the screen becomes overdone.  However at the end of the day, it is a 300 film, so what can you really expect, and while I’m very critical of the technique it was still fairly enjoyable.

Beside the visual aspects which are no doubt the reason to see the film, seeing the story both before, during, and after the events of the original offer more to the 300 lore.  The Xerxes aka The God-kings back story, at least plot wise, was a highlight of the film.  It was interesting to see the transformation from “human” to “God”, and the glowing god-like king we’ve seen in the previous film.  For the most part, most of the other characters blend in and nobody really stands out.  However, Eva Green as Artemisia was fantastic.  She had a toughness about her that made her very intimidating.  You knew she was a girl that you would not want to mess with, while staying incredibly beautiful at the same time.

If you don’t mind spending a couple extra dollars at the box office, check this one out in IMAX.  Otherwise, it’s still an incredibly aesthetically pleasing film.  The visuals are clearly the intended highlight, but Eva Green and the Xerxes back story help add to the somewhat flat plot.  Nobody should go into this film expecting high levels of storytelling, instead enjoy the visuals and Eva Green and you will come out on the other side ready to go into battle.

300: Rise of an Empire stars Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, and Hans Matheson, and will be presented in IMAX and other large format theaters nationwide March 7, 2014.

The Good

+ 3d adds to the visually stunning fight sequences

+ Eva Green is badass

+ Gold God backstory added depth to the story

+ Production value felt grand in scope, which made for an impressive looking film


The Bad

- Fight scenes get somewhat stale throughout the course of the film

- There is ash floating in every scene (at first it helped add depth the the 3d image, but by the end its distracting)

- Seasickness kicks in, and you wish for some solid ground fighting

Verdict7

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