It’s been 8 years since Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 hit the big screen. The standalone film blazed with battle cries, cutting edge visuals and ancient Greek “This is… SPARTA!” machismo. It set in motion the careers of its director, Zack Snyder and Gerard Butler.
No wonder Snyder wanted to rinse and repeat. While mostly unnecessary, a sequel to 300 was almost inevitable after films like Immortals and Clash of the Titans tried to capture the same “God of War” hungry audience that wanted more primitive grit, blood-thirsty savagery and Greek tragedy.
While attached as producer and screenwriter, Snyder handed over the reins of the 300 chariot to Noam Murro. While best known for the snarky comedy drama, Smart People, Murro wouldn’t be the first person you’d think of to direct an action movie. Yet he was attached to direct A Good Day to Die Hardat one point, which means that it wasn’t just Snyder who thinks he could do blockbuster action.
300: Rise of an Empire happens at the same time as 300, except at sea. The navy was pretty different back then and they’ve used blue capes as opposed to the red ones in 300. To stack the odds against them, it’s the massive Persian navy they’re dealing with under the leadership of “Joan of Arc” wannabe, Artemisia. As if being outnumbered wasn’t enough… the Spartan B-team are composed of farmers and whoever’s willing to die for Greece.
Murro uses flashbacks of Gerard Butler to leverage his gutsy performance and to summon up nostalgia. It’s a double-edged sword, giving the sequel more credibility yet simultaneously drawing contrasts between the leads and films.
“THIS IS… NOT GERARD BUTLER!”
Sullivan Stapleton has the look of a hero, as similarly poised as Luke Goss was to Jason Statham, when he replaced him in the Death Race series. Unfortunately, he’s so busy trying to sound “unAustralian” that his performance parallels that of Sam Worthington in Clash of the Titans rather than his predecessor’s. You just don’t feel as compelled to charge headlong to certain death under the leadership of Stapleton.
Eva Green, while introduced as beautiful, is about as menacing and ugly as her co-star Lena Headey was in Dredd. Her rise-to-power back story is quite ludicrous, yet she’s given god-like status as commander of the Persian navy. She adds some much-needed femininity to the Game of Thrones style drama and you’ll struggle to forget the power “tussle” between her and Themistokles.
Game of Thrones actress, Lena Headey, reprises her role as Queen Gorgo. Her part, along with David Wenham’s and Rodrigo Santoro’s as Xerxes, is mainly there to recall and parallel 300: Rise of an Empire with the original. However, it seems that she’s destined to have a more influential role in what they’ve primed as a trilogy.
300: Rise of an Empire is redeemed by its book ends. The film starts well with a tremendous action sequence and some epicLord of the Rings style scene-setting, complete with montages and narration. The Game of Thrones level performances and back-and-forth drama filler eventually make way for a pulse-racing and cutthroat battle.
The visual effects are just as important to 300: Rise of an Empire as they were in 300. While the graphic novel to celluloid transition was seen as a breakthrough in the original, the sequel’s novelty is all about the 3D. The visuals are still spectacular with more variety in each sea attack, however they’ve employed a very distracting way of creating greater depth. As if the 3D wasn’t enough, a constant stream of grass cuttings, flames or sea-spray drifts across the screen.
300: Rise of an Empire has a number of film references, whether intentional or otherwise. The hunchback is similar to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and the face paint used by some of the warriors is reminiscent of The Joker from The Dark Knight.
The 300 series remains spoof-worthy, throwing an outnumbered makeshift navy of chest-waxed Greek farmers against a superior Persian navy… with explosive blood, and a “sea horse” scene to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies… you can’t take it too seriously or you’ll miss the point.
The bottom line: Enjoyable
Release date: 7 March, 2014
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