300: Rise of an Empire has some things to be admired from the visuals, which director Noam Murro copied from Zack Snyder and Eva Green who is the only one that gave anything resembling a memorable performance and her alone is the only reason one should bother with this sequel.
300: Rise of an Empire
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Warner Bros. | R – 103 min. – $35.99 | June 24, 2014
THE MOVIE – 2.25/5
300: Rise of an Empire, the follow-up to the smash 2006 hit, comes many years later after numerous copycats not only in story but also style, especially parodies. Now eight years later this serves as a semi-sequel, most of it taking place during the Spartan battle, just on a different front and a more dangerous, and notably sexy, opponent.
Greek general Themistocies (SULLIVAN STAPLETON) attempts to unite the nation against an advancing Persian forces led by Xerxes (RODRIGO SANTORO) – despite this being based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes”, he plays a minor supporting role – but has trouble convincing others to join in the fight. The film also gives us a background on not only Xerxes and the death of his king father, at the hands of Themistocies, but also Xerxes’ ruthless Persian navy commander, Artemisia (EVA GREEN).
The film, along with seeing Xerces’ interesting origins of becoming a god-like ruler, Artemisia as a better and more interesting origin being a Greek woman, raped and sent on a slave ship eventually landing in Persia and raised by the king, and Xerxes’ father, to be the stringent and ruthless leader she would become, a fierce and fiery opponent to Themistocies… oh, and one hell of a violent lover in one scene as the pair meet in one of the more… interesting scenes that is probably Rise of an Empire’s version of the oracle sequence in the first film.
It would be too simple to merely say 300: Rise of an Empire is style over substance but for all the fighting and, considering the budget, some decent visual effects, there’s not a whole lot here here and that includes characters who, save for one, do not and cannot hold a candle to the performance Gerard Butler brought, hell, his appearance in this movie, a clip from 300, was far better than anything star Sullivan Stapleton (“Strike Back”, Gangster Squad) could muster despite some uproarious battle speeches. Yeah, he’s a good looking fella but doesn’t possess the charisma to carry the film; it’s only when Eva Green is on screen that the movie comes to life, unfortunately it’s not nearly enough to make it worthwhile… well, there is the sex scene so it’s not a complete waste.
The supporting players are more or less background to Stapleton and Green with Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo — as does David Wenham playing Dilios in an even briefer appearance — and her few scenes she’s quite good though she’s not given a whole lot to work with but the ending does seem to set up to a larger part in a third film. Rodrigo Santoro is, outside of his look, is merely dressing and doesn’t get many lines despite this film being inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel.
300: ROAE was helmed by Noam Murro marking only his second feature following 2008’s Smart People an apparently (since I never saw it) quirky comedy starring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker. Not sure how he got this gig but he does well enough more or less copying what Zack Snyder did for the first film and since the bulk of the problems stem from the screenplay by Snyder and Kurt Johnstad (300, Act of Valor) and the star.
In the end, Rise of an Empire is hardly a terrible film and perhaps an OK time waster, but I suspect those who adore the first movie, and I did not, might get something out of this overdue sequel. Outside of Eva Green and some of the visuals, there’s not much to admire.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy and semi-reflective slip cover. Inside the case are the standard DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital Copy.
The 300 Effect (29:57; HD) is a four-part behind-the-scenes featurette (“3 Days in Hell”, “Brutal Artistry”, “A New Breed of Hero” and “Taking the Battle to Sea”) mostly covering the look of the film and how it connects with the first film and has interviews with various members of the crew.
Real Leaders and Legends (22:52; HD) – This looks at the basis for the historical elements with, of course, a fantastical twist on it and has more sound bites with the crew.
Women Warriors (12:22; HD) examines the strength of the women featured in the film, namely played by Lena Headey and Eva Green.
Savage Warships (10:36; HD) covers the basis and building the ships in the movie.
Becoming a Warrior (4:39; HD) is about the training to become a Greek and Persian fighters.
Preview – Jupiter Ascending
VIDEO – 5.0/5
300: Rise of an Empire marches onto Blu-ray presented in 1080p high-definition transfer and show in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. As one would expect, the picture here looks amazing with excellent detail levels and, of course, it pops off the screen given how overly stylized it is. Since it was probably shot digitally, and mainly for 3D, it is a clean transfer free of artifacts and no obvious compression issues either. There is some graininess but it only adds to the home theatrical quality.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
Thankfully Warner has given this action-fest a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track which serves the movie well between the ship warfare, the strong sex scene (tip: don’t have any windows open) and the few quieter dialogue moments. It’s an expansive track that with excellent depth throughout and will definitely wow anyone within ear range.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, 300: Rise of an Empire has some things to be admired from the visuals, which director Noam Murro copied from Zack Snyder and Eva Green who is the only one that gave anything resembling a memorable performance and her alone is the only reason one should bother with this sequel. The Blu-ray released by Warner does have incredible audio and video transfers while the features are at best average.