Thursday 13 March 2014

Dark Review - 300: Rise of an Empire

Review of 300: Rise of an Empire

By Casey Douglass


Image © Warner Bros. Pictures

I came to the first 300 film (2007) oblivious to both the background history it is loosely based on and the graphic novel by Frank Miller. While I now know some of the history, I have yet to pick up the novel, but none of this really matters. Like its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire is extremely enjoyable in its own right.

Its story runs parallel to the events happening in the first film, some starting a little before it, others carrying on from where the original ended. I really liked this as it was a great chance to find out some of the back story of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and other key players in the conflict.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
300: Rise of an Empire focusses on the travails of Thermistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his naval strategy genius whilst his fellow countrymen are defending the Hot Gates with King Leonidas. Basically, 300: Rise of an Empire is the first film but at sea on big ships. In my opinion, that is a good thing!

What I did find surprising was that Xerxes was not in the film a great deal. I don’t know why I thought he might, as thinking back he hardly stole the show in the first. Maybe it was just a hope that he would get his hands dirty this time. He had a flashback which did give some great insight into his path to becoming “a god” but the Persian side of the show was very much run be Eva Green’s Artemisia, commander of the Persian fleet. 

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
I’m also not a great lover of naval warfare. Too much sea and choppy waves just bores me as a rule but I did find the ship to ship combat as riveting as the land based face-offs in the first film. That is the crux of the matter really. Both films are built around stand-off, clash, victory, clash, slight defeat, escalation, bigger clash, until they culminate in some grand-standing finale that would need some kind of mathematical savant to calculate the number of dead and the pints of blood spilt. That is what I watch them for! To get those goosebumps when brutal shit happens and to enjoy the chaos of battle in the safest way possible through a cinema screen.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
Talking of screens, I was lucky enough to watch the film in IMAX 3D and it was excellent. There were some scenes blatantly designed for the 3D, like the swing of Xerxe's massive axe but for the most part the 3D was functional without being distracting. I think I value IMAX for the extra size and the sound quality. I always feel like my trouser cuffs are flapping around when the bass hits in our local screen. If a film won’t move you in an IMAX, it never will.

I give 300: Rise of an Empire 5/5, purely because it gave me what I myself wanted. A shitstorm wrapped in the dressings of comic style brutality and with a tremendous soundtrack that accompanies the action like the trumpets of hell.