300: Rise of an Empire Review
By Rich Cline
Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is even more chaotic and much murkier to look at. It still features armies of scantily clad muscle men grunting idiotic declamatory dialogue as they charge into cartoon-style battles against all odds. No, this isn't particularly subtle filmmaking: it's loud and brutal. And good for an unintentional laugh.
At the same time as Spartan King Leonidas (a briefly glimpsed Gerard Butler) is leading his 300 men to battle against Xerses (Santoro), Greek General Themistocles (Stapleton) approaches Leonidas' wife Gorgo (Headey) for help facing Xerses vengeful military commander Artemisia (Green) on another front at sea. Themistocles' main officers are Aesyklos (Matheson) and Scyllias (Mulvey), whose son Calisto (O'Connell) secretly joins the army as they set sail for an epic ship-based battle against Artemisia's fearsome forces. And there are two more watery conflicts to come, each more outrageous than the one before, as Artemisia taunts Themistocles seductively while dispensing fiery death and destruction at every turn.
The addition of two strong women adds a bit of interest here, but the focus is still on the bare-chested men, even if only three or for of them actually emerge into proper characters. Headey's chief contribution is a rambling voiceover narration explaining everything for us, while Green's wry smirk and momentous glower let her steal every scene. By contrast, the men seem rather feeble. Stapleton is manly and commanding, but not hugely charismatic. Rising-star O'Connell barely gets two decent scenes. Santoro is hilariously grouchy eye candy. And everyone else is clearly expendable.
Working against digital backdrops with digital extras, new director Murro's oddest decision is to drain the movie of most colour. Everything is drab and grey, the blood is dark brownish, and the sun never quite breaks through the clouds. This makes the largely water-based action look eerily uninteresting, even when ramped up by relentless slow-motion and seasick shaky-cam. And the main 3D touch seems to be the addition of floating water drops, lint, soot, sparks and of course blood in every shot. But in the end, it's the limp plot and soggy fake-Shakespearean dialog that sinks the movie. Although fans of torso porn will be looking forward to another chapter.
Watch '300: Rise Of An Empire' Trailer
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 7th March 2014
Box Office Worldwide: $331.2M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Nimar Studios, Legendary Pictures, Hollywood Gang Productions, Atmosphere Entertainment MM, Warner Bros., Cruel & Unusual Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Fresh: 72 Rotten: 98
Cast & Crew
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, Eva Green as Artemisia, Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo, Callan Mulvey as Scylias, David Wenham as Dillios, Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes, Jack O'Connell as Calisto, Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes, Ashraf Barhom as General Bandari, Andrew Pleavin as Daxos, Hans Matheson as Aesyklos, Igal Naor as King Darius, Peter Mensah as Persian Emissary, Ben Turner as General Artaphernes, Christopher Boyer as Senator, Fred Ochs as Senator, Price Carson as Senator, John Michael Herndon as Senator, David Pevsner as Senator, Peter Ferdinando as Greek Ambassador