Film: 300: Rise of an Empire
Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey
Age Rating: 15+
Release Date: 7/3/2014
When Zack Snyder made the first 300 film, it was always clear from the outset that it was something delivered with tongues firmly placed in cheeks. Upon the film's release to the mass public this turned out to be one of the most favourable things about it; stylish, intensely homo- erotic (though it can be debated as to how far Snyder would have perceived it as so) and action packed, it somehow managed to balance an OTT fanaticism for the modernism that engulfs special effects in cinema in the 21st century as well have a fairly level headed approach to entertainment.
When regarding its sequel (or indeed, prequel; yeah, it's THAT question again) 300: Rise of an Empire, one begins to wonder where the lines between entertainment and sheer self- indulgence become blurred. Directed by Noam Murro, there's a slight switch up certain aesthetics here, admirable in the way that it tries its hardest to draw a concrete distinction between itself and its predecessor. The action scenes are still largely extra-ordinarily choreographed; they're not so much based on the male physique as they are on actual swordplay.
Murro's ambition for special effects pales in comparison to Snyder's however; the blood effects are supposed to be more gruelling and perhaps less unrealistic, though they only succeed in being less watch-able. Although the fight scenes are to an extent always enjoyable, they just don't have the same purposeful vigour that made those in 300 so perpetual.
The next point of contention is the story line. The premise of a second 300 film always seemed slightly questionable due to the fact that they all the protagonists died in the first one, however it was also obvious that this would probably have a limited amount to do with its predecessor. The links betwixt the two are heavily imposed enough to make sense. However, the back story here of transformation into a God and an entirely naval- based campaign, although fabricated, still seems somewhat half- arsed. It seems the film falls into the trap of valuing flashy and fleshy occurrences over actual substance, only those said flashy scenes aren't enough to hold the film up.
And then there's the acting. Sullivan Stapleton takes centre screen as the Greek warrior protagonist Thermistocles, and if you can get past the occasional dip into his native Australian accent then he's merely wooden. Eva Green is playing the role she was supposedly born to play as the villainous sea commander Artemisia, but she brings so little charm to the performance that rarely is she enjoyable. And Lena Headey's slow- burning, clunky delivery of clichéd philosophy and historical narration does little to redeem her just as troubling performance in the first film.
If there is something positive to be taken away from 300: Rise of an Empire, it's that not at any point does it attempt to ram down your throat any notion of historical accuracy, or even morality. The film knows it's ridiculous, and wears this like a badge of honour. However it's hard to value that above the fact that the film is, more than anything else, hackneyed and shallow.