300: Rise of an Empire – Movie Review

An epic sequel with a show-stealing female villain!

Thanks to Roadshow Films, we had the chance to experience Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire in glorious full IMAX 3D before its Australian release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!

300-rise-of-an-empire-1300: Rise of an Empire follows the story of Greek general Themistokles (Australia’s Sullivan Stapleton), who leads an army that should stop the Persians from invading Greece by Sea. The Persians are under the command of the cold-blooded Artemisia (Eva Green), who was also responsible of the transformation of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) into a God. Aertmisia did so in order to avenge the death of Xerxes’ father who got killed by Themistokles. All these events are happening around the same time as the epic battle of Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartan warriors against the evil Persian invaders, which we saw in glorious bloody gory detail in the previous ‘300’-film.

Themistokles must find a way to convince his neighbors, including Leonidas’ wife Queen Gorgounify (Lena Headey), to support his army and unify Greece into one democratic nation against its enemies, something that won’t be easy due to the pride of the Spartans.

300-rise-of-an-empire-2This sequel to the epic blockbuster hit 300, once again based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, differs from its predecessor in several ways. First of all Zack Snyder stepped away from the director’s chair, being only attached to this follow-up as a producer and writer in order to have more time to work on Man of Steel  and the other upcoming DC cinematic releases. His departure left the door open for Noam Murro, who was selected to take over the 300-franchise, despite not having major cinematic experience. The new lead character of Themistokles had the daunting task of being as impressive as Gerard Butler’s Leonidas within the same ‘300’-universe. Unfortunately the new hero does not live up to its predecessor, and this is not because Sullivan Stapleton would not be up to the challenge, but because Gerard Butler’s performance as Leonidas was so memorable and iconic, that it seems impossible to think that somebody would be capable to make that same level of impact, especially for a sequel. Just imagine if Christopher Nolan would have attempted to recast the Joker for The Dark Knight Rises after Heath Ledger’s performance, this feels quite the same.

300-rise-of-an-empire-3Speaking about strong and iconic performances, Eva Green‘s Artemisia is definitely the character that steals the spotlight in this movie, with a solid, twisted, creepy and sexy performance with a great level of expressiveness through her eyes, effectively making the viewer forget that Xerxes is supposed to be the main villain behind the story.

Visually 300: Rise of an Empire is as impressive as its predecessor, with colorful scenarios, slow motion fight scenes, and a ridiculous amount of action and gore, with blood and body parts jumping off the screen thanks to the 3D-technology. As this tale mostly set on water, expect some amazing aquatic and stressful battles, where the first rule is “Don’t die”. These water battles are filmed mostly in cold tones, something that makes 300: Rise of an Empire  different from the first film which mainly featured warmer tones with saturated yellow and red most of the time. This deliberate tonal difference is a clever difference in the production design of both films.

300-rise-of-an-empire-4Narrative speaking, the film manages to link itself to the events of 300 in a correct way. It could perfectly work by itself as a standalone film for viewers unaware of the events of the first film (as if there are any), who will get some key glimpses at what occurred. Moreover, it is great to see returning actors David Wenham as Dilios and Lena Headey as  Queen Gorgounify in some key scenes, that even leave the door open for a final chapter in what could become the 300 –trilogy. We personally think that one might be “The Return of the King” of the franchise, as the final battle against Xerxes’ forces is about to begin!

300: Rise of an Empire opens in Australian cinemas 6 March, 2014
Experience it in IMAX if you have the chance!