Why 300: Rise of an Empire is Awesome

"Pretty bloody awesome”

2014 seems to be the year of belated sequels to cult favourites. Later this year we have Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (which will also feature Eva Green, and is also based on works by Frank Miller), while now we have 300: Rise of an Empire – the follow up to the 2006 hit 300. Both this film and its predecessor are based on graphic novel works by Frank Miller (the basis of Rise of an Empire hasn’t actually been released, though it is listed in the credits). Many have probably questioned the reasoning behind a sequel to 300 - that doesn’t matter any more, as it’s here and it’s awesome.

Firstly, just to clear up something: this film is a mixture of a prequel, side-story and sequel to the first 300. By that I mean there are parts of the film which are set long before the first, the majority running alongside it and some parts set afterwards. This actually works perfectly for this film, as it shows what everyone else is doing while Leonidas and his 300 are at Thermopylae, as well as what caused the onslaught by the Persians. Without giving away too much I can tell you that nearly everything in this film is set to the tune of bloody vengeance. Almost every character has a reason for wanting vengeance, in the deadliest way, against their enemy. Some characters gain reasons for revenge within the film itself, while others have their reasons preceding the main events of the film.

There is no love lost between Sparta and the rest of Greece

The film tells the story of the Battle of Salamis and depicts the Persian navy facing off against the Greek navy for much of the film. This doesn’t change the formula set in the first film too much: just think of 300 but set at sea. Before these events take place it tells the story of how Xerxes went from a mortal man to the God king he is in 300 (hint: it involves vengeance). While Xerxes is leading his men against the Spartans at the Hot Gates, Artemisia is leading the Persian navy against the Greek navy, captained by Themistocles. Both are brilliant tacticians and put each other to the test, and not just on the battlefield. The film also depicts well how the Greeks viewed Sparta and its citizens, and how they viewed the other Greeks, but overall this is another tale about insurmountable odds and the men that choose to fight against them anyway.

The main characters of the film are cast very well, each having a good amount of screen presence and gravitas. While the rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well, they are all decent and serviceable, with a couple not quite hitting the mark perfectly, but not film-ruining in any way. Sullivan Stapleton and Lena Headey – who reprises her role from the first - are stand outs as Themistocles and Queen Gorgo, respectively. The only negative to Stapleton is that he is following Gerard Butler - while he’s undoubtedly fantastic in his role and brings a lot to it, he is no Gerard Butler, with his screen presence, speech giving and perfect enunciation not quite reaching the dizzying heights set by his predecessor. Making up the last of the primary cast, Eva Green is on absolute scene-stealing form as the genius - and mentally unhinged - Artemisia. She seems to revel in the brutality, dominance and sexuality of the character, really looks to be enjoying herself, and you’ll find yourself joining her in the entertainment whenever she’s on screen.

Eva Green is terrific every time she’s on screen

The action in the film is just as glorified and bloody as you’d expect. In fact, there is arguably a great deal more blood in this film, as the director makes liberal use of CGI for it. (Rise is directed by Noam Murro, while 300 was directed by Zack Snyder). The only unfortunate thing about the CGI blood is that it is obviously CGI. This is easily overlooked, however, especially when the action moves at such a fast pace. Much like the first, this film employs use of slow-motion to capture particularly violent moments – and there's a lot of violence. Man after man after man die, many going through what looks to be very painful deaths. I can safely say that those wanting blood, violence and testosterone-fuelled carnage will not be disappointed; it’s like a ballet of brutality.

Perhaps one of the few true detriments to the film is that it’s just not as quotable as the first. In fact, having just seen this film I can’t think of any stand out lines. I can still quote much of the first 300, but this one just doesn’t have the same resonance with the script. Everything in it is exactly what it needs to be, but don’t expect any lines to become known in the public consciousness like “This is Sparta!” did.

Overall, this is pretty much more of the same - but that is definitely no bad thing, and if you enjoyed the first film then you’ll also like this one. It’s a fantastic film that falls just short of the true greatness its predecessor obtained.

Final Score: 8/10

‘Til next time, this has been Jubby writing for The Awesome Update.

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