September 19, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire Review

            In terms of a good blockbuster you can’t get much better than 300.  Filled with instantly quotable lines, great action set pieces, a unique visual style and momentum that keeps on building until the very end, it seems like 300 was unfairly pushed around by some for not being a smart and accurate take on a historical event.  Yet the impact that the film has had on Hollywood is undeniable.  Numerous films and television shows have copied the style of 300 (STARZ’s Spartacus series being a perfect example).  March (the month that 300 was released in) is now filled with tentpole pictures (Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon and The Hunger Games to name a few) despite being a barren landscape in the years preceding 300.  The film even launched the career of Zack Snyder.  Now seven years later, 300 finally got its sequel in 300: Rise of an Empire.  Despite being an almost all-around weaker link than its predecessor (the acting department is the only aspect in which the sequel strengthens), Rise of an Empire is still a solid blockbuster that once again finds itself without the respect that it deserves.

            Having 300: Rise of an Empire take place along side its predecessor chronologically was an interesting choice.  While the film mostly follows the Battle of Artemisium, we constantly cut to what is happening with the Spartans from the first film.  For the most part director Noam Murro does a good job at handling this as it seems like every character that is brought back from the first one is done so in an organic matter.  The only time where this is jarring at all is when Gerard Butler only shows up in archival footage despite almost all of the other characters from the first film bring brought back.  The format also allows some great work from Lena Headey, who has become a much more respected actress thanks to Game of Thrones since the last time that she appeared in this series.

            However, not all of the elements that are brought back from the first film work so well here.  The visual style can get a tad tedious at points only because it is done to death since the first film (although the inorganic cinematography in this film once again shows that the relationship between cinematography and visual effects has improved rapidly in recent years).  The effects are, at times, noticeably on a lower budget.  The film also struggles to find the same momentum and iconic moments that the original had.

            Yet most of the new actors and characters in the film are quite effective.  Eva Green has never chewed scenery as effectively as she does as the villainous naval commander, Artemisia.  Sullivan Stapleton makes for a sturdy lead and shows potential as a future leading star and Jack O’Connell makes a case for why he is already being molded into a star as a young warrior.

            300: Rise of an Empire is only a slight downgrade from its entertaining predecessor.


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