- Words By | Charles E. Singletary
- Pen Name | Profex
- Twitter | @_Profex
The original 300, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, was a stylish, bloody tour de force that satisfied rabid action fans back in 2006. With an intense Gerard Butler spouting clever one-liners as often as blades flashed on screen, Director Zack Snyder and his team concocted a wondrous film that wouldn’t get you an Oscar, but found its place amidst many blu-ray collections. Seven years later, 300: Rise of an Empire is a return to the hyper-exaggerated historic retelling with a new lead and a couple returning faces, and it’s definitely a welcome return.
- Genre | Action / Drama / War
- Rating | R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity, some language, and something we can probably call a “sex fight”…yea that happened
The Reel Quick Review
Rise of an Empire begins with a story about the rise of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and the events behind his “God-King” persona. The interesting but unfortunately rushed origins introduce us to the two new leads, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemesia (Eva Green). Themistokles loosed the arrow that ultimately killed King Darius, Xerxes’ father, in a great opening battle that embraces the slow motion, gritty brutality of the original film. He makes the grave mistake of allowing Xerxes to live, who vows revenge with Artemesia whispering into his ear. She coerces him into psychotic demeanor and serves as the general of his army.
From here, we see the Persian army tear across the nation and we see events unfold from a couple other perspectives while the events of the original 300 take place. Themistokles is tasked with uniting Greece, knowing that loosing another arrow earlier would have possibly prevented the war.
Sullivan Stapleton (Gangster Squad) is no Gerard Butler as far as leads go, but that is an unfair comparison anyway. Even in this film, the Spartans of a different ilk of warrior while the majority of fighters under Themistokles are merely working men. Sullivan does a good job, portraying a fighter that’s exhausted every idea he could muster to unite Greece against the Persians. With him playing it safe in his role, there needed to be a dynamic performance elsewhere to carry the film.
Eva Green (Dark Shadows, Casino Royale) is it. She will ultimately be the reason this movie travels by word of mouth. Her performance is downright outrageous from beginning to end and no less entertaining throughout. Her character’s origin builds upon her ruthless behavior and the actress sells the downtrodden past Artemesia has survived and grown strong from. Her disposition is infectious on the big screen and will leave audiences wanting more of her performance.
The action, what we all have truly come for, is readily available and even more bloody than the original film. The sea battles switch things up often enough to keep it interesting and things are ramped up as we get closer to the final act. Unfortunately, some parts of the final battle stumble a bit. Some strange choices for CG (The Immortals) and questionable length take away from such a solid build up from the rest of the film. If you know the history, you can guess the outcome but it takes too long to happen and, as a result, is shortened and cheapened in its emotion.
Rise of an Empire is not as good as 300, but it’s definitely entertaining. The final act left way too much to the imagination (another 15-20 minutes could have been added), but the potential for the 3rd film is high. With the recent success and popularity of Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), some will be disappointed they don’t get to see more of her and the Spartans. The final clash with Xerxes should allow Rodrigo Santoro and the rest of the cast the spotlight they deserve. Until then, go watch Eva Green absolutely shine.
The Quick Recap
- + Plenty of action
- +++ Eva Green as Artemesia
- +/- Decent new lead
- - Spotty/Useless CG
- - Final act cut way short
The Redefined Rating
3.5 out of 5