Director: Noam Murro Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green & Lena Headey Synopsis: “Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.” Rating: 15 Runtime: 102 minutes
“Better we show them, we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees!”
300: Rise of an Empire feels like a tribute act to one of your favourite bands. They go through the motions, play the songs and look a little like the people they are impersonating but as we all know, there’s nothing like watching the real thing. That’s exactly how 300: Rise of an Empire feels. It’s a, largely, new cast but one that feels like it’s molded around the ferocious snarling of Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas. While new director Noam Murro feels like he was picked because he can do a really good Zack Snyder impression, and the end result is something that feels like an uninspired rip-off.
The plot, or lack thereof, centres around the Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) who takes the Greek army into battle against the invading Persians led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green). The film is neither a prequel or a sequel to the original 300, and instead fits in before, during and after the events of that film, and creates a fuzzy storytelling technique that perhaps could have benefited from being a little more linear.
For a film that is 102 minutes long (it’s one mercy) it takes an age to get going. The start of the film feels like it is bogged down by an overlong voiceover that is attempting to get the audience up to speed with the different characters and their various back stories, but only serves to eventually frustrate as we begin to wonder if things will ever start moving along. Unfortunately, when things do begin to proceed we are treated to a CGI mess of video game blood-splatter and an intrusive 3D style that may or may not have looked slightly better on the big screen.
The style of the film is similar to that of the original 300, but this time around it feels even more over the top and at times simply comes across as gratuitous. The amount of bloodshed in 300: Rise of an Empire is up there with any Rambo film, but here it feels like it has been added as a way to sell the 3D to the audience, and looks more suited to a Mortal Kombat video game. In fact, a lot of 300: Rise of an Empire’s effects look overly stylised and really take you out of the film. There’s no doubt the picture looks as sharp as any modern Blu-Ray should, but there are certain scenes where it becomes frighteningly obvious that it was filmed using a green screen.
Noam Murro is making only his second effort as a director here, and still seemingly has a lot to learn, but one thing he can do well is action. One of the films few saving graces lies in its action scenes. There are several notable scenes that draw the viewer’s attention. A battle at sea, where the Persians spill tar into the ocean and several boats explode leaving a sea of fire is one. While Themistocles final battle where he becomes a one man army is a showcase in sheer badassery. Sadly, there are not enough of these scenes, and 300: Rise of an Empire ends up feeling like an opportunity missed.
In summary: 300: Rise of an Empire feels lacking in pretty much every regard, especially when compared to its brilliant predecessor. Strong performances from Headey and Green aside, Empire feels flat and dull. Shame.