300: Rise of an Empire Review
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.
The extras for 300: Rise of an Empire consist of various featurettes and makings of, which go into detail on how the film was made, and how the actors prepared for their roles.
Becoming A Warrior is a short, 5 minute, featurette focusing on the cast members as they train for the film. Savage Warships is slightly longer, at 11 minutes long, and focuses on the set building for the film as well as the strategies the real Greek navy would have used. Women Warriors, 12 minutes, looks at the strong female leads in the film and focuses on Lena Headey and Eva Green. Real Leaders & Legends takes a look at the real battles that took place between the Greeks and the Persians during the Greco-Persian war. While,The 300 Effect is a series of four short features that run for a total of 30 minutes and take the viewer behind the scenes of the film, from its original inception to casting its leads and filming its biggest scenes.
The quality on offer here, both in the films audio and visual quality is really quite stunning, and has to be one of the best looking Blu-Rays I have ever laid eyes on. I was very impressed with the way the film is represented in high definition, and if you're thinking of buying the Blu-Ray copy, then you should watch it on the biggest and loudest TV set available.
While the transfer to Blu-Ray is impeccable, the film itself is a disappointing mess, which will only impress those looking for some big dumb fun, while others will be longing for the days of Gerard Butler and his 300 Spartans.