300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
“The battle of glory continues”
300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Director: Noam Murro
Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey
Synopsis: Greek general Themistocles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
Six-packs abound once more in 300: Rise of an Empire, Noam Murro’s dull follow-up to Zack Snyder’s violent but crowd-pleasing 300 (2006). Apparently Sullivan Stapleton and the rest of the cast trained intensively to get those prominently displayed and perfectly sculpted abs, but part of me can’t help wondering whether, given how heavily 300: Rise of an Empire relies on CGI effects, at least some of those six packs aren’t as fake as the copious amounts of blood that sail through the air in loving slow-motion every time things need livening up a bit.
The story picks up immediately after Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santoro) defeat of Leonidas’ original 300 Spartans in the first film, although it then jumps back in time to show how Greek Admiral Themistocles (Stapleton – Gangster Squad) took out Xerxes father during the Persian’s first unsuccessful attempt to invade Greece with a meticulously aimed arrow shot from the shore while the Persian king observed the massacre of his troops from his ship. Xerxes, spurred on by his warrior sister Artemisia (Eva Green), vows revenge and, having defeated the Spartans, marches on Athens and the hopelessly outnumbered army commanded by Themistocles.
Xerxes might be leading the troops, but it’s his wicked sister Artemisia who is the driving force behind the invasion. This kind of fits in with 300: Rise of an Empire’s two main pre-occupations, which, despite its air of ominous gravitas and its pretentious narration, is blood and boobs. There is a plot of sorts, but it feels as though it’s something of an inconvenience, in fact almost an afterthought which is poorly conceived and badly written. The men of Greece don’t have a lot to do when they’re not charging into battle, roaring like crazed animals. They sit moodily around their fires, talking of fighting while motes of dust and embers drift maddeningly across the screen for the benefit of those wearing 3D glasses. When they are fighting, their blades slice through their Persian counterparts as if they were made of paper, dismembering limbs while releasing curiously beautiful patterns of blood that hang in the air as Murro slows the shot. The film glories in its violence; at one point it treats us to a slow zoom-in on the blood from a man whose head has been hewn in two as it drips from the chin and helmet of his assailant.
A fair proportion of male teenagers and young men with more testosterone than critical acumen will love it. They’ll experience a vicarious thrill each time another limb is severed, another head split in two, another breast bared. They might even feel a little shiver of delight at the sight of Artemisia – a kick-ass female if ever there was one – wielding a blade while topless, her black mane of hair still tousled from her violent bout of lovemaking with the man at whom the blade is pointed. The rest of us will feel a little dispirited by the transparency of the filmmaker’s motives and the thought that a dozen decent movies could have probably been made for the cost of this one.
(Reviewed 27th April 2015)