UK Release: March 7th 2014
Back in March 2007, Zack Snyder adapted Frank Miller’s ‘300’. Starting off a resurrection in the whole genre of stylish hack ‘n’ slash (if yet camp) films for teenage boys, with the like of ‘Immortals’ etc. Adapted from a unpublished graphic novel comes the ‘’side-sequel’’: ‘300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE’. With Zack Snyder taking a back set by acting as the producer of this, this film gets the title of being a ‘’side-sequel’’ as the events of the first film happen alongside this one, well at very least during the middle of this film. This means it covers the idea of it being a prequel, spin-off and sequel at the same time.
The thing with ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ is the fact that this film is not as good as the other films it has influenced. While the first wasn’t a cinematic classic, it did have some interesting political undertones to it, which caused controversy in Greece (something which is nothing more but mensioned in passing here), and a charismatic lead of Spartan king Gerald Butler (replaced here by Greek soldier Sullivan Stapleton). In doing this it strips the whole ‘300’ formula of making something quotable and memorable in pop culture (which arguably the first film did). Straight away Sullivan Stapleton’s Butler replacement is presented as someone who is a bit crap. A character that isn’t in any sense of the word lives up to the shadow of Butler’s King Leonidas. This is particularly jarring as his character has not been wrote for audiences to really get behind, and thanks to a terrible charismatic free bland performance from Stapleton, is someone you just want to be seen killed on screen. I think another big issue with ‘Rise of an Empire’ is the fact the film is just a remake of the first film. Instead of Xerses (who appears with a Superhero origins story, but disappears midway through the film) we have Eva Green’s Artemisia and her large army taking on the overly camp loinclothed hero protagonists of Stapleton lead small Greek army. With this approach you can’t help but compare this film to the first, which really doesn’t help the film at all, as it almost welcomes criticism. The biggest issue from this is the fact that the film itself leaves in the same place as the first one does and it does make you think what is the point of it all, other than bringing a very set-up-for-franchise film.
There is some positives to take away from the film, Eva Green is clearly having a lot of fun here (the closet to being a true-to-life Greek goddess in ‘300’) and occupies the screen well as a dominatrix, even if she has a gratuitous and cheesy sex scene with Stapleton which jokes about rape. ‘The Great Gasby’ cinematographer does well too, bring some imaginative well light look to the clothing design of armour, and there is some good continuity with how characters fit into the stories of both this and the original ‘300’. Other than that there is nothing else too positive to say, Lena Headey and David Wenham do appear as their past characters, however just seem to walk on screen with a sword in hand (like as if they have done their scenes in one day), Jack O’Connell appears and disappears and there is no real sense of visual coherence in the world presented on screen, which the first film had and did well. Instead you have oceans which stylish design doesn’t seem to add up as in one scene the waves are bigger than the moon itself and use of constant copied and pasted blood slash marks becomes tiresome. In all you do think get the impression that director Noam Murro has created something lazy, unwanted and unneeded. If Warner Bros. wanted to create something which is a new franchise they should really have bothered to at least try and create a good film.