Review: ‘300: Rise of An Empire’
More Blood And Abs In Ancient Greece
Friday, March 7, 2014
San Diego filmmaker and action junkie Dante Moran provides a review of "300: Rise of an Empire" (opening March 7 throughout San Diego).
“300: Rise of an Empire,” directed by newcomer Noam Murro, is an epic scale continuation of Frank Miller and Zack Snyder's “300” (2006) that is bigger, bolder and most certainly bloodier than its predecessor.
If blood rained down in buckets in the original “300,” it's water falling by swimming pools in this prequel/sequel/concurrent timeline sword and savagery tale. "No limb shall go uncleaved" was surely the mantra of the special effects department. Set design and costumes were exquisite and captivating as the camera swept over digital terrain occasionally splashed with blood and mayhem all captured in eye-popping 3D.
Sullivan Stapleton ("Animal Kingdom," "Strike Back") is Themistokles, the loyal and heroic General of the Athenian Navy tasked with uniting Greece in order to stave off a retaliatory Persian invasion for the slaying of their beloved King Darius at the hands of Themistokles. Persian hordes thirsting for Greek blood is the least of one’s worries when Artemisia, Greek-born Persian Naval Commander and Goddess of Destruction (played by deliciously evil Eva Green of “Sin City 2” and “Quantum of Solace” fame) wants your head for an ashtray. Green’s Artemisia is the commanding presence in “300: Rise of an Empire” just as Gerard Butler’s Leonidas was in the original film. With liquid nitrogen running through her veins, Artemisia is sexy, calculating, utterly ruthless and completely intolerant of failure as a good villain should be. One mistake and you're doing a Greg Louganis in the middle of the ocean wearing 100-pound handcuffs. In a world full of inept villains who get killed because they're too busy doing a monologue, Green’s Artemisia was refreshing. As was a scene of tactics and strategy she shares with Themistokles that would make Brad and Angelina blush!
Lena Heady (“Game of Thrones”), who coincidently gave a chilling performance as Mama in the criminally under-rated “DREDD” (2012) reprises her role as Queen Gorgo of Sparta and the voice that guides the narrative. Rodrigo Santoro returns as the mortal-turned-god Xerxes who is the instrument through which Artemisia focuses her hate. Backstories are told through color hued flashbacks giving insight on how each character put their destinies into motion and what sacrifices were necessary to protect a nation and achieve greatness.
With scenes seemingly lifted straight from the graphic novel, “300: Rise of an Empire” is a comic book fan/video gamer's dream on screen and a cinephile's worst nightmare as digital blood, weapons, fire, breasts (yup, I said it) speed ramp and whoosh in maddening delight. And, in 3D! Production was, in my opinion, top notch. It was on par and in some aspects even elevated what “300” was to begin: a dizzying spectacle. With the battles taking place on water in explosive naval confrontations, the film moves like a swift game of RISK where the loser gets decapitated. Fans of the original may not think this is better than the original but will find this a very satisfying continuation of the Frank Miller "300" universe.
The filmmakers unfortunately had the task of trying to place a large amount of interpretation of history into a 90-minute movie causing the third act to feel rushed with motivations being compromised to move the story along. This could easily have been two films or a four-part HBO or STARZ mini-series to flesh out characters, especially the Persian royalty. The costumes alone should get their own episode. I will confess my expectations were met and exceeded as I took in this bedazzled piece celluloid like Malcolm McDowell's Alex, weaving and dodging arrows, hunchbacks, and bits of flesh that flew from the screen in REAL 3D. With fire and brimstone burning hot like hell, audience members will be in lock step with Greek and Persian soldiers to fight for glory and die for Cinema. I give it my 4 SHIELDS rating.