I didn’t think I would get to see 300: Rise of an Empire at the cinema, but the opportunity arose last night and I need a sufficient reason to procrastinate from my essay about ‘Project Management in a Digital Age’… zzzzz. I hadn’t heard or read great things about this sequel so I went in with my expectations low, I think this was an excellent strategy as what followed came as a pleasant surprise.
Well I use the word ‘pleasant’ loosely. True to some of Zack Snyder’s previous work such as 300, Sucker Punch and Watchmen , this film is dark, gritty, and bloody. What I didn’t realise is that the story line of this sequel actually runs in parallel for the most part with it’s predecessor. What do we call that? It isn’t technically a prequel, or a sequel… a paraquel? Now I’m just making up words… But it did become a lot more intriguing once I saw where the story was heading.
Themistocles is an Athenian General who leads the charge against the Persian army lead by ‘god-king’ Xerxes from 300 (2008). We get to see how Xerxes became the powerful force he is, and what or who drove him to his madness. The story moves along a timeline from before the 300 Spartans set off to face the Persian Army, to what happens after their epic sacrifice. A much bigger story line in this film and with it, a lot more fighting and slow motion blood splatter. Although the story line was much broader for this film, there was something lacking in the way the characters were portrayed. When important characters are killed in 300 I shed a tear, I feel their pain. When characters die in Rise of an Empire, I think I actually laughed out of sheer awkwardness. There was no connection for me there and that is what lets the film down essentially.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic characters. In particular Eva Green as Artemisia, the twisted soul of a Greek turned loyal Persian who plays puppet master with Xerxes. She is INTENSE! The complexity of her character, the outfits, and her air of madness really gripped me into the story more than any of the speeches Themistocles gave to his army… Sullivan Stapleton plays this leading man, and for me he was quite dull, especially next to such a powerful female role. I understand that the Athenians were more diplomatic than the Spartans and technically they are not warriors, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed with their lack of presence.
I don’t think it helped that the Athenian army all had varied accents which weren’t well hidden. (Yes I know Gerard Butler’s Scottish Spartan set the tone there, but he has such a gruffly voice it worked). General Themistocles is Australian, we also have a Scot, a New Zealander, a Derbyshire lad, and a Brummy to name a few. It took me out of the illusion every time another accent was introduced. I would say the well spoken English accent works for the old style dialogue, much like Eva Green and Lena Heady, who is back as Queen Gorgo and really gets her rage on this time.
The cinematography is pretty breath taking in some scenes. The epic battles on the sea are worth seeing if nothing else. A little over kill on the slow motion and the endless amount of blood that seemed to pour out of people. But otherwise, it was really quite beautifully shot and I can see that it would have been great in 3D. The sound track is pretty rousing too!
My POV in the end, I enjoyed 300: Rise of an Empire much more than I anticipated but I am still not raving about it. 300 is a legendary film which can’t be matched in my eyes. The sequel is worth a watch, and I will probably watch it again – but it doesn’t raise the bar very high in terms of character development and compelling relationships between them. Like swords and blood?? Well then, sir this film is for you!!