Posted by: da_nibbler | March 8, 2014

Review: ‘300 – Rise of an Empire’

300 Rise of an Empire posterI hear if before I get a chance to catch a glimpse. ‘War Pigs’ is playing. It immediately catches my attention and brings a smile to my face. I look and there it is –  the 30 second commercial for ‘300 – Rise of an Empire’. I say the words as Eva Green utters them, “Today we will dance across the backs of dead Greeks”. “WAAAR!” gives me goosebumps. Needless to say I was very excited to finally see this film. The predecessor is one of my all time favourites, watched countless times, setting the bar high for this sequel. Too high perhaps.

We’re back in Greece with the Persians knocking violently at the door. While the infamous 300 Spartans are having fun with the Persian Army we now get to hang with Themistocles of Athens, trying to keep the Persian Navy at bay. The Atheneans look like Spartans with their half naked bodies and bulging muscles – okay, maybe a little less bulgy –  yet they do things rather differently. Like the politicians not allowing Leonidas to “officially” go up against Xerxes and his army in the original, the Atheneans don’t want all out war unless it’s all of Greece fighting. Until someone or something unites all of Greece Themistocles needs to keep the Persians at bay just as Leonidas is doing or has done (we’ve already seen that). Unfortunately the witty banter that lightened the mood between the battle scenes for the Spartans falls flat among the Atheneans. Not sure if the muscle bulginess of the former would have helped the latter as they lack any kind of charisma and are rather bland. Where Butler’s Leonidas was a charming rascal with the depth and stature of a heroic leader Stapleton’s Themistocles falls short, being too serious and boring.

The film feels jaggedy and patched together as the story is told by loads of flashbacks and Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo sharing exposition in voice overs across the entire film. This breaks the flow of the film and takes you out of the action, while the added information enhances the experience. If only it had been done in a different way it might not have been as distracting.

The real heart of the film is Eva Green’s Artemisia. If only Noam Murro could have unleashed her before the final onslaught the film might have been more entertaining and less samey. There is only so often you enjoy seeing a sword or spear plunged into a body in slow motion, blood spurting everywhere. Only so often before the crunching noise of ships smashing into each other over and over becomes tedious and you want something else. The battles are visually stunning and gruesome as well as repetitive and long. With the men failing to bring the chops to the entertainment block it falls to the ladies and dare I say – Eva Green delivers. Green’s performance and Artemisia’s backstory would have made a terrific film if someone had made her the protagonist. Every moment Green is not on screen the film falls back into dullness. Artemisia, pacing aboard her ship. Yay. Cut to Themistocles doing one of the more interesting things he does, slicing and dicing Persians – CUT BACK TO ARTEMISIA! That sums up the film. Possibly best brought across in a sexy scene, or what could have been a sexy scene, between Artemisia and Themistocles. Green delivering, with a totally wooden Stapleton. Not THAT kind of wooden.

Let’s face it, we’re all here to see Eva Green. If you did not know that before watching ‘300 – Rise of an Empire’ you will know after. Someone must have realised Artemisia is the most interesting character in this entire story, seen the potential of Artemisia on her quest for vengeance. Why the makers shied away from her as the protagonist especially given how successful female led films currently are is beyond me. Trying to replicate and even outdo now cult classic ‘300’ might have been a futile idea, but in the end ‘300 – Rise of an Empire’ looks great, keeping with the style of the original. It is still an entertaining film, but if you are hoping to encounter as much over the top fun and memorable one liners you might be disappointed. There is no “This. Is. Sparta.” moment here. ‘300’ set the bar high. Too high for it’s little brother to even come close. Re-telling a story from a different perspective is an interesting concept. However this film does not give us a different perspective, only a different person doing exactly what Leonidas did. Just this time we’re on water.

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