Good day happy readers! Starting this week, I am going to be putting up a review of a movie that is currently in theaters every(ish) Tuesday. I will warn you that I have done little writing in my past, so this will be quite the adventure each week. I will do my best to give an insightful view of each movie I see each week. Also, each film I go see will have opened the previous weekend. So, if you are someone who only goes to see movies on opening weekend, this might not be the place for you to get your reviews. However, if you are like me, and can’t go see movies as soon as they come out, you’ll be in luck. At the end of the review, I will submit my quick takes and final score, so if you find my writing to be as hideous as I think it may be, you can always scroll to the bottom. So, let’s get on with it!
In 2006 Zack Snyder, for better or worse, changed how period action movies were made. He created a stylised, hyper violent, blood soaked epic with 300. 300 was a defining film for my generation of action movie fans. It made the violence more than bearable on screen, it made you want to stand up and cheer with every slow motion kill. Ever since then, Hollywood has tried to capitalise on that film by putting out movie after movie set in the ancient Greek/Roman era. No movie really was able to capture the essence of 300. There have been a few attempts that just always fall short (Clash of the Titans and its sequel come to mind).
300: Rise of an Empire is the next closest thing to its predecessor that I have seen so far. I went in with pretty low expectations, but came out actually fairly impressed. Keep in mind that this movie is exactly what you expect. It’s a 102 minute gore fest. Noam Murro, taking over the directing duties, does a great job of faithfully recreating the original film’s feel throughout the movie. The battles are all just as over top as you remember from 300, and lend themselves very well to a 3D IMAX screen.
Sullivan Stapleton takes over the lead role as the Athenian leader, Themistokles. He isn’t as much of the chest beating, screaming leader like Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas. He is more interested in uniting the city states of Greece into one nation to fight of the Persian invasion. During the beginning of the movie, he is shown as the hero of the Battle of Marathon, killing the Persian King Darius I. Darius’ son, Xerxes witnesses this, and he ascends to become the God-King that we see in 300.
Rise of an Empire wasn’t so much a sequel to 300, in that it’s story for the most part takes place simultaneously with the story of King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae. While Leonidas and his 300 Spartans defend the north against Xerxes, Themistokles leads a nautical defense in southern Greece. He matches wits with the commander of the Persian navy, Artemisia (portrayed by Eva Green).
The move to sea for the battles helps this film keep things fresh, and gives us a different perspective from the first film. We are treated to the much smaller fleet of the Greeks out maneuvering those of the Persian war ships. This is the first time I’ve seen a nautical battle take place without any firearms at all. Instead of cannons doing damage, the ships ram into each other.
I enjoyed the overall feel to this movie more than the original, as Themistokles seems to be more relatable. He’s more compassionate than the Spartans that are portrayed. He is more than just a warrior. He’s a leader of men, men who are not trained killing machines, but farmers and craftsmen thrown into battle.
The acting in the movie is passable. Everyone is a little too deadpan when not screaming at the top of their lungs. Eva Green does a good enough job as the villain to make you almost forget that Xerxes isn’t anywhere to be seen for the majority of the film, despite it being based off of Frank Miller’s graphic novel entitled Xerxes. The secondary actors, who are all relatively unknown actors, also do a good job of making you feel the humanity behind the battle.
The movie also lost me for a few minutes with an obligatory sex scene that really didn’t make any sense in the context of the story. It seemed like it was thrown in there just to show some T&A and not much else. This and a few other moments weren’t needed in my opinion, such as the return of the humpback traitor, who serves an no more than a messenger in the film.
Overall, the movie did just what I wanted it to do, entertain me. The story and setting are just different enough from the first 300 that it didn’t seem like too much of a retread. There was more character growth here as well. The action scenes were fun, and even though there are decapitations and severed limbs flying everywhere, it’s not gut wrenching at all. Running at just 102 minutes, it doesn’t run the risk of wearing down it’s audience, and is quick and to the point for the most part.
Score: 6.5 spears out of 10 decapitations.
Cinematography/overall visual: A