300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire Movie Review

R, 102 m., 2014

Sullivan Stapleton (Themistocles), Eva Green (Artemisia), Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo), Hans Matheson (Aeskylos), Callan Mulvey (Scyllias), David Wenham (Dilios), Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), Jack O’Connell (Calisto), Andrew Tiernan (Ephialtes), Igal Naor (King Darius), Andrew Pleavin (Daxos), Peter Mensah (Persian Emissary), Ben Turner (General Artaphernes), Ashraf Barhom (General Bandari), Christopher Sciueref (General Kashani). Directed by Noam Murro and produced by Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, Gianni Nunnari, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, and Thomas Tull. Screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel Xerxes by Frank Miller.

Zack Snyder more or less made his reputation with his sophomore effort, 300 (2006), a glossy, stylish and hyper-violent take on the historical gladiator epic. It was long, bloody and tedious. Snyder returns as co-writer/producer of Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire, a simultaneous sequel, prequel and parallel storyline which, by contrast, is kind of a blast.

The film opens in a torrent of exposition, alternating slow-motion and sped-up cinematography, soaked in a tide of CG bloodshed as Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) relates the story of how Themistokles (pronounced The Mystic-lees, portrayed by Sullivan Stapleton), a Greek general, killed King Darius I of Persia at the Battle of Marathon. This was witnessed by a young Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who was subsequently sent through a desert to become a “God-King.”

The woman who sent him on his merry way is a real piece of work. Artemisia, played with great zeal by Eva Green, is a Persian Naval commander with a style and personality which lie somewhere at a crossroads between those of Lady Macbeth, a goth sea witch and a dominatrix. Any woman who can both sever a man’s head and subsequently French kiss him, as well as deliver lines like “You fight harder than you fuck” with equal relish is going to be formidable, to say the least.

It is Green’s campy, scenery-devouring performance which, along with the moody visuals (dark skies and darker waters mostly replacing the gold and dusty look of the original), makes this stuff (arguably) worth watching. The film leads up to a climactic battle which gives way to a potential final chapter. Unless Snyder’s insane brand of imagination makes room for Artemisia to miraculously appear in the plot somehow, I don’t look too forward to it.

300: Rise of an Empire Movie Poster

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