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Monday, March 10, 2014

REVIEW OF 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE


About The Movie:

The 300: Rise of an Empire story follows Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in the Battle of Artemisium – while interweaving with the events of 300(i.e., the Battle of Thermopylae). During the first attempted invasion of Greece by the Persian empire, Themistocles and his army successfully defend the Greek shoreline in the Battle of Marathon – mortally wounding King Darius I (Yigal Naor), father of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and mentor to the ruthless Artemisia (Eva Greene).

As the king is dying, Artemisia formulates a plan to seek revenge on the Greeks by turning the naive (and cowardly) Prince Xerxes into a God-like figure for the Persian Empire to rally behind. Ten years later, Xerxes return with a devastating invasion force – engaging King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors on land at the Hot Gates, while Artemisia battles Themistocles and the Greek navy at sea. Like the 300, Themistocles is gravely outnumbered – forced to rely on cunning and the strength of a unified Greece if he hopes to once again defend his homeland and drive back the invading Persians.

What Is Good/Bad About The Movie:


A sequel to this movie where nearly every character died seemed completely preposterous. However, 300: Rise of an Empire is not so much a sequel as it is a companion piece to 300. It aims to surround the story audiences initially embraced, offering an expansion of the first film's world, along with a deeper understanding of the original story. 300: Rise of an Empire does both of these, and offers more, more, MORE in terms of gore, glory and battling brotherhood.

The main plot is serviceable, jumping in and out of scenes previously seen in 300 to help flesh out the larger war with Xerxes, as well as the backstories of Artemisia and Themistocles. Familiar supporting characters –  like Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and Dilios (David Wenham) – return to connect Rise of an Empire to the prior installment, but viewers shouldn’t expect to spend a lot of time with the Spartans, as the sequel is tightly centered on the conflict between Artemisia and Themistocles.

Themistocles is a passable leading man but lacks the same gravity (and quotable lines) as his Spartan predecessor. Where Leonidas was a brash but sympathetic warrior, Themistocles is much more calculating and remorseful – making him interesting and heroic but not quite as engaging to watch on screen. Still, Stapleton is strong in the role, conveying the reasonability (and desperation) that Themistocles feels – while also shining in exciting (and bloody) fight choreography.

However, Artemisia is, without question, the film’s most compelling addition – especially with Green in the part. Despite an over-complicated backstory and an obsessive search for a warrior that is truly worthy of a fight, the character reflects what’s great about 300 - taking larger-than-life historical figures, setting them in a heightened series of real events, while making them relatable and enthralling in a modern movie experience (in spite of the twenty-five hundred years in between). Green commits to the role entirely, presenting a layered villainess whose tongue is just as quick as her sword – capable of fighting toe-to-toe with brawny greek warriors while also manipulating powerful Persian commanders into doing her bidding

There will obviously be another sequel as we didn't get much Xerxes in this one. There is a battle that must come and I will be right in my theater seat taking it all in.

Overall Grade: B



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