300: Rise Of An Empire is the long awaited sequel to the original 300 film released in 2007 which is mostly remembered for Gerard Butler’s iconic portrayal of the Spartan King, Leonidas. 300 was also a film that made Zack Snyder famous for the slow motion action sequences and filming style which has since become synonymous with his style of film. There was always going to be a high amount of expectation going into 300: Rise Of An Empire. Not only is Zack Snyder not directing this film, though he still is producing it. But it is also going to be very hard to match such an iconic character that was Leonidas. Fortunately for me though the sequel is just as good as the first film, being an entertainment action oriented film 300: Rise Of An Empire absolutely delivers on the entertainment experience.
The plot of 300: Rise Of An Empire takes place almost in parallel to to the events that occurred in the original 300 film and then proceeds to continue past the the battle of Thermopylae which allows us viewers to learn Greece’s response to the Persian threat against their treasured Greek city states. Where the sequel is different to the original film is that it’s more focused on the Athenian’s rather than the Spartan’s and instead of the battle of Thermopylae we get to see the great naval battle of Artemisium which actually occurs at the same time as the battle of Thermopylae. We then are later taken to the battle of Salamis during 480BC. There is also a brief glimpse of the Battle of Marathon early on in the film. Now that’s a lot of historical battles and surely more than enough action for a film to hold!
Now in terms of the character’s that we get to see in 300: Rise Of An Empire there were many from both the Greek and Persian sides. What this film does a lot better than the first though is create a more balanced view of of each opposing side of characters and their forces. While the first 300 showed Leonidas and his men seemingly being unstoppable and overpowering in comparison to the Persian fighters, we never really got to see as anything more than hapless opponents of the Spartans. Of course Xerxes did appear in the first film but there wasn’t any real characterisation of the enemy there. In this film I’m happy to say that there was. I think it was this one single factor that saved this film and made it worth every minute of its 102 minute run time.
300: Rise Of An empire is basically broken down into your standard heroes versus villains. The heroes being the Greek’s led by Themistocles who is played by newcomer Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton. Some Australians may recognise him for his work on local TV shows like Underbelly or Neighbours. On the Villains side we get Artemisia who is played by Eva Green who some may recognise her for her work on Camelot where she played Morgan, or for her appearance in Casino Royale as Vesper. Other characters who make a return for the sequel include Queen Gorgo of Sparta played by Lena Headey, King Xerxes played by Rodrigo Santoro, Ephialtes played by Andrew Tiernan and Dilios who is played by David Wenham.
The Actors in this film did get a lot to work with. While the standout performance after viewing it is certainly Eva Green’s Artemisia who entertained me more than enough with her sole performance in this film. But other actors did well in their part as well. It’s just a shame that for some reason Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles does not shine as bright as Gerard Butler’s Leonidas and is overshadowed quite a bit in his own film by Eva Green’s performance. Lena Headey does well again as Queen Gorgo although her appearance is minimal but not as minimal as Peter Mensah who seems to have been on screen for barely a minute! Rodrigo Santoro was also a very good Xerxes yet again and did well with the transformation of his character. All acting was on about the same level as the first movie with the only thing really special being Eva Green who to me raised the standard higher than it otherwise would have been.
In this film I found that I liked watching the villains a lot more than I liked watching the heroes. The reason being is that Eva Green as Artemisia was absolutely phenomenal. Now I know there I still alot of films still to be released for 2014, but honestly Eva Green’s portrayal of the dangerous villainess Artemisia will surely be one of the best of the year. I would say that this film is worth it as it is, just to check out this villain. I have not seen a strong female villain like this in a film for ages really and I surely won’t forget Artemisia from 300: Rise Of An Empire for a very long time. Artemisia was presented as woman who was not only strategically intelligent, but also a totally ruthless leader who will punish failure with a swift death by her sword without a moments hesitation.
Continuing on with the villains side of things over in Persia we also get to see a bit more about the origin of Xerxes and how he got to his God King status. Xerxes who is played by Rodrigo Santoro was also very good in this film and his scenes with Eva Green were especially entertaining to watch. It’s always great watching the villains meet and scheme together before they go out and wreak havoc. The villain element was definitely something that the original 300 film was lacking, while there were villains in that Xerxes was present in both, this sequel definitely delivered on the villains part.
On the heroes side though with Themistocles who is this great Athenian politician and general during these battles, just isn’t of the same strength of character that Leonidas was in the first film. In this instance the first film definitely had much better heroes. Although I did think about this for some time and it would have been silly to make Themistocles the same as Leonidas as his historical character was not that way all, in fact Leonidas and Themistocles could not be more different as people. Instead we get a more strategic intellectual general who relies on these skills to battle Artemisia throughout the film. Of course being a 300 film everyone in this movie has excellent fighting skills and definitely Themistocles has these and uses them throughout for the majority of the films action scenes.
Speaking of the action scenes, they were all phenomenal. If you happen to have an IMAX cinema near you, I highly recommend watching this film in IMAX 3D. Not only will it give you a great large screen for these large scale battles but you will also be able to watch everything in some very well done 3D. Honestly I was very impressed with the 3D in 300: Rise Of An Empire and I would gladly watch it again in that format which is a lot for me to say because I usually prefer watching everything in 2D, but not for 300: Rise Of An Empire, it’s definitely worth it in 3D and if you can in IMAX.
Action scenes are actually the majority of the film taking up more screen time in total than most of the dialogue and plot. Thankfully you do get a great mix of visual effects and gore. The gore level in this movie is also way above that of 300. There is a lot more head chopping, limb splitting and blood spilling sword slashes to appease anyone situated in the modern audience. If it’s action you are going for it’s this movie that will give it to you. Much of the action is similar to what we were shown in 300 but in Rise of An Empire there is of course a new director who does leave their mark on this new film. But much of it is very much the same as we have come to know and definitely I was not bored in any of the action scenes. I enjoyed the naval battles maybe even more than the Hoplite battles even tough they were mixed together at different points in a few scenes.
Of course a lot of the action in 300: Rise Of An Empire is exaggerated and more on the mythical level than on the realism side. People are able to jump massive distances and fight and aim arrows flawlessly almost all the time. Like in a true Greek tale this is one mixed with a little bit of mythology to sweeten the story just that little bit more, just like 300 was. Now this is all great and all but it does detract from the historical accuracy in the film. I have read quite alot of Ancient Greek history so I’m familiar with the characters but in terms of historical accuracy this film is almost there but it’s sort of like the story has been through a few people and changed a bit down the line. Major events are correct but small inaccuracies are present. This totally doesn’t matter at all though, because the film was made for entertainment purposes and isn’t meant to be a documentary. If anything I hope it encourages more people to read more historical texts and learn the history of the ancient world, which is incredibly interesting.
Noam Murro as director I think did well with this film as it was on such an epic scale and considering he’s only really made one film before this which was Smart People (2008) he did a good job. All of the CGI looks great and the 3D as mentioned was very well done. For me the best effects were during the naval battle scenes but there was also a good mix of slow motion arrow shots. The character angles and positioning of the camera to make every scene powerful was great and clearly noticeable as good work. I know that pretty much most of this movie was shot on green screen like 300, or like 300 inspired shows like Spartacus. But the scenery was all great, it’s very good how it was all created. I’m definitely looking forward to the Blu Ray behind the scenes for the film when it comes out. I did have one issue though which was a short recap during the film of an earlier event, which I felt was unnecessary and I didn’t think the audience needed to be reminded, I don’t want to spoil it. But there is a flashback of the beginning of the film in the middle of the film and to me it seemed a waste of screen time. Also just with the screen play I thought it wrapped up the film a little bit too quickly at the end where everything seemed to just resolve neatly for the heroes. This sort of let the film down a bit and kept me from giving it a higher score. There is also some strange pacing and some things do seem a little bit too unrealistic even for 300 but I’ll let it slide.
The music is also an element of the film that I thought was great. In particular the music played during the Persian side of things and in particular the Artemisia theme was very good and added a lot of atmosphere to the film. The colouring style, costume design and look of all the characters was also great. Xerxes look before and after his transformation as a God King was excellent and the same goes for Artemisia. All of the outfits Artemisia wore in this film looked very dangerous and very memorable. On the Greek side they also had good costumes to, although the elected Greek government members looked a little bit poor I thought and could have been better.
Overall 300: Rise Of An Empire is a great entertainment film that you would go to watch if you want some great action scenes or are a fan of the original Zack Snyder 300. This film has one of the best villains I have seen in a long time at the cinema and an excellent performance from Eva Green who to me really stood out in this film as the most brutally cunning villainess, Artemisia. It’s got great action, great 3D, great acting (Eva Green) and overall I think delivers on what it promises and definitely is a well done and entertaining sequel.