I recently watched 300: Rise of an Empire... actually it was just yesterday, and it was for a pre-birthday celebration. And much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. So I thought I’d attempt to write my own review (or rather an endorsement article as to why people should go and watch it)
I think the important thing to remember when going in and watching this film is that this is not 300 (meaning the original, because technically it is since it is part of the series). The film in itself probably stands better alone as opposed to being a Prequel/Sequel/Sidequel? Simply for the following reasons;
MURRO IS NO SNYDER!
Now I am an avid fan of Zack Snyder and all things Snyder-esque.
What makes 300 almost seem like a classic next to this film, are the quirks and traits that Snyder integrates into his film.
YES! I am talking about the extreme violence, gory blood splatters , Slo-Mo/Fast-Fo choreographed fight scenes, as well as the overuse of colour and highly saturated CGI/Bluescreen/Greenscreen combination. Name me a Snyder film that doesn’t employ the aforementioned effects? These have been his trademark since Dawn of the Dead. It especially worked to convey the aesthetic set by the graphic novel of the same name and basis of the film. And whilst technically these were not ground-breaking methods on film, 300 did spawn alot of copycat-ish films and scenes for years to come.
Back on track – whilst relatively NOOB director Noam Murro did a great job at imitating and continuing with Snyderness of it all, Rise of an Empire comes off as exactly that – an imitation.
And of course in terms of the story you still have the basic formula that made 300 work - the Leader, the woman as the driving force of the man (more of this later), Father and Son warrior combination, etc… but unlike the aesthetic quality of the film, the quality of the plot does not come off so much as a clone, but a twin brother providing insight on the parts we don’t get to witness. So *thumbs up* to the writers and director for this feat.
As per the title of this review; The Athenian BLUE is no Spartan RED. It is evident that Murro is trying hard not to be the same even when employing the same formula as its predecessor.
P.S. Kudos to Warner Bros. and Legendary for investing and taking a risk in an almost unknown filmmaker and nurturing him into stardom.
THEMISTOCLES IS NO LEONIDAS!
After watching the first film again... YES! I watched it as soon as I got home from the drive in cinema... I noticed the difference between the two instalments.
Themistocles is NO Leonidas, and subsequently Sullivan Stapleton is no Gerard Butler, nor do they try to make it so.
Leonidas, King of the Spartans, is a valiant and noble leader, while Themistocles is portrayed, for story’s sake, as a weaker minded Athenian Politician and General desperate to right the wrong he caused in the Battle of Marathon. You really notice the difference between the two leaders and their leadership styles aswell as the two actors with their approach to each character – but I get the feeling this is exactly what Murro wanted to do.
SIDENOTE: DANG! I wish Gerard Butler/Leonidas would give me a pep talk every time I had an inkling of a doubt. I mean Stapleton was good, but his speeches were so-so. Few good quotes but nothing as stand out as – “THIS IS SPARTA!”
Just to add to that regard, Athenians (and the rest of the Greeks) themselves are no Spartans. This is evident by the tone set in the narration about the characters in this installation. Not to mention the moment towards the end of the film, where you see the difference between the two or rather the difference between the six packs. It is then made clear that Spartans are a ‘Superior race.’ As a friend of mine accurately put it (right at that moment) – Spartans are “NICE”-ly toned!
Without revealing too much from the plot, the story focuses much of its 120 minute runtime in the ‘weaker’ but yet equally intense, Athenian’s battle against the myriad that is Artemisia’s army.
And although we never had to ask for it, the audience is given the WHY behind the WHAT HAPPENED in the first film and WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
DIFFERENT FEELS FROM DIFFERENT SOUNDS
I don’t know why this is one of the first things I noticed, but the soundtrack of the original differs greatly from this film. I am not sure this is such a bad thing considering the controversy surrounding it all. Long story short – Composer Tyler Bates used elements of Elliot Goldenthal’s score for Titus which aroused some backlash from the composer community.
However I did notice that whilst the soundtrack for the first film was very Neo-Spartan (is that even a thing?), the second film employs a more traditional epic score in the same vein as Gladiator and the likes. Not only are the epic grunge electric guitar sounds absent, so are the wailing cries of who I thought was Lisa Gerrard, but is actually Iranian born Azam Ali. But again, this is not necessarily a bad thing because the score composed by Junkie XL for Rise of an Empire works really well to portray the ‘feels’ you’re supposed to have when watching this story.
But let’s stop talking about all the ways 2 is not 1. Let’s focus on the ways 2 is such a good 2!
AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE! OI OI OI!
As a fellow Aussie, and you may already know this by the dry jokes I employ in writing this as well as the misspelt words, it certainly did not hurt to see great performances from Stapleton, Mulvey, and Wenham. Who apart from Lena Headey, were the real scene-stealers of the film.
I need not say much on this! Because then it’ll just be about all the ways Aussies rule the screens.
HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A WOMAN SCORNED
Many have come into the movie expecting Eva Green's portrayal of Artemisia, would be so ground breaking and kick ass. But I actually thought Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo was the standout performance here. If you were quaking in your boots at her chilling performance in the first film, then you will piss your pants even in the very minimal amount of time she’s shown here. I guess all that time on the GOT set made her freakishly intimidating? But what looks ridiculous here is that she’s about 5 levels of muscle mass over and above what she looked like in the first film. Whilst I understand that it’s been 8 years between the 2, the filmmakers could’ve somehow taken a look at her and said “Hey! Maybe we should cover those Leonidas-like guns she’s sporting for continuity’s sake”
Don’t get me wrong, Eva Green holds her own as tough and broken and rightfully agro Artemisia, but that girl don’t look like she’s trained a single day in her life. Or more accurately, eaten a day in her life. I almost wanted to scream at the screen “Ever heard of KFC?” And we’re supposed to believe that everyone is scared of her? The only thing scary about her are the piercing Racoon eyes (seriously though, Racoons are scary. I saw one at San Fran that could’ve easily taken me out!) But yet we’re supposed to believe gym junky warriors are scared of this? (let the “You’re so sexist” comments begin) Nevertheless, for a very testosterone driven film - the women here are BAD ASS!
Overall, it's a same same but different deal. Graphics are a step up but same setup from the first! Story is different but accompanies the first very well!
VERDICT: I give it a 4 stars out of 5!
What did you guys think of the film?