9 March 2014

300: Rise of an Empire - Film

300: Rise of an Empire starts where the last film left off; the King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans have fallen, and the Persian army are still invading. The widow, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headley), tells us the story of the General Thermosticles (Sullivan Stapleton) at the battle of Marathon, where he shot an arrow into the Persian ruler, King Darius, as his son watched. Then the story changes direction as we jump to a time before the 300 died, when Thermosticles is trying to unite Greece to fight the Persians but to no avail. What follows is the story of the battle of Salamis, where Thermosticles is pitted against the beautiful Commander Artemisia (Eva Green) in a bid to keep Greece's freedom.

As you might expect from the second film in the 300 franchise, there is a lot of blood and gore, and a lot of fighting, therefore if you don't like action sequences and faint at the sight of blood, you should definitely not watch this film. If you're watching this in 3D, watch out, because the blood gets literally everywhere, including all over the screen in the first action sequence. After the battle of Marathon is over, the 3D element calms down somewhat, and we get on with the main plot.

The plot is actually quite good, as it is based on real life events, if rather embellished. The way that the film shows you character's back-stories and manages to incorporate them into the plot is very nicely done, and the story flows very well from one element to the next. Of course, the main focus is on the battles, and therefore a lot of the plot is lost amongst all the fighting scenes. One impressive thing is the manner that people die, and you can't help but wonder at the inventiveness of the people who thought them up; one man gets his head smashed in by a horse, another simply gets his head cut off in two simple knife strokes. As stated before, there is an abnormal amount of blood in these scenes, try not to be sick.

As for the acting, although we have suffered the blow of having Gerard Butler's character die, we still get the acting talent of Lena Headley, Rodrigo Santoro and David Wenham, but with the added bonus of Eva Green, who is a very welcome addition. You may also recognise Jack O'Connell (Skins) and Hans Matheson (The Tudors, Les Miserables). The main character, Thermosticles, is quite well played, but given that he seems to have only one driving force, he ends up being a very one-dimensional character and so I doubt Sullivan Stapleton could have done much more to save him from scrutiny. Really, the star of the show was always going to be Eva Green, whose character is interesting, lively and reasonably multi-faceted.

One thing that was particularly stunning about the film was actually the special effects and the costumes. The beauty of the landscape and the attention to detail in the naval ships, the flowing cloaks and the spraying blood was quite acute. Eva Green's ensembles were always flawless; a perfect mix of femininity and harshness that suited her character very well.

This film, although a gorefest and a standard action-type plot, was visually stunning (in a macabre sort of way) and strangely enjoyable to watch when you want a slightly less intellectual film. The history is artfully twisted into a story that turns out to be quite watchable. On that note, it gets a 6 out of 10, and it may even get a second watch.