Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

Release date: March 7, 2014
Running time: 102 minutes
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey
Who to see it with: Someone who really really wants to see abs and violence.


300: Rise of an Empire tells a parallel story to the one from the original movie. In the new film, Themistokles (Stapleton) leads a group of Athenian soldiers against the Persian navy and their sadistic, deadly, and beautiful commander Artemisia (Green). The Athenians are horribly outnumbered by the massive Persian forces, but like the warriors in 300, the Greeks fight willingly to protect Greece from the invading force. Writer Zack Snyder returns to pen the screenplay, but 300: Rise of an Empire has a new director in Noam Murro. The film takes a lot of cues from the original movie and tries to bring the look and feel of that hit to this new story including: frequent use of slow motion to emphasize certain violent parts or build tension, the soldiers not wearing enough actual armor, and fight scenes that are insanely violent. 

Some of the callbacks to the original, however, don't completely work for this new story. First, there is a strange absence of King Leonidas (presumably because they couldn't get Gerard Butler to sign on) so there are only passing references to him. Shots from the first movie are reused and every time someone asks to talk to him, "he's away on a mission" or "he's talking with the counsel." It feels awkward to have someone that iconic not show up and Butler's absence hits all the more because Stapleton just isn't as charismatic or inspiring as King Leonidas. He does an admirable job, but he doesn't have the same voice or inherent charisma to fill the role of commander. Other characters from the first film do show up including Lena Heady as Sparta's Queen, David Wenham as Dilios, Rodrigo Santoro as S&M King Xerxes. They're a nice touch but their relatively minor roles make the movie feel like it's trying to recapture the first film without having as good of a story. The use of slow motion was a nice touch, but at times it made the movie drag and felt like it was being used to unnaturally extend the run time. This is also felt when a scene is unnecessarily reused thirty minutes after we saw it first. In the end, the film just feels like either a quick cash grab to feed off some good will left from the first film, or a stepping stone to the real 300 sequel. Either way, it's something that should be seen by fans of first one, just maybe after it's available for rental. 

Rent it.

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