tue 16/07/2019

300: Rise of an Empire | reviews, news & interviews

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire

A second dose of vaguely historical, highly hysterical action - with added warrior women

Eva Green is Artemisia: formidable naval commander, kick-ass swordswoman and romancer of severed heads in '300: Rise of an Empire'

300: Rise of an Empire is the follow-up to perhaps the most homoerotic film of all time, 300 - a film whose obsession with the well-lubricated muscularity of the male form was matched only by its unabashed exaltation of ultra-violence (rendered endlessly and often tediously in slow-mo). It was hardly high art or sound history, but it had aesthetic bravado and a certain logic, with the strangely sexy battles effectively evoking the Spartan idea of a glorious death. 300 was less swords and sandals, more pants and posturing and its sequel delivers (too) much of the same.

The original's director Zack Snyder was behind the recent Superman reboot, Man of Steel, and is currently in preparations for the upcoming Superman vs Batman movie, so stepping into his shoes is Noam Murro, whose only directorial credit is the little-seen indie comedy Smart People. The screenplay is provided by Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel "Xerxes" by Frank Miller.

Largely taking place alongside the events of the previous film, Rise of an Empire is once again very loosely based on historical happenings. This time the focus is on Themistokles (Animal Kingdom's Sullivan Stapleton, pictured below right with Lena Headey - only fractionally as furious as Gerard Butler was in 300), an Athenian warrior and politician determined to unite Greece. He's the man who a decade earlier fired the arrow which felled King Darius (Igal Naor) and set into motion a chain of events which would lead to Darius' son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) ascending to the status of God-King. As the Spartans take their heroic stand, Themistokles leads a sea-battle against the Persian forces, led by the naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green).

Murro emulates Snyder's visual histrionics and there's lots of slow-mo sword slashing, with our heroes clad, of course, in that classic cloak 'n' pants combo. But without Snyder's chutzpah it feels like a cheap imitation (as opposed to rankling with its misplaced arrogance). The dialogue flits between plodding and pompous and feels overly familiar, as does the story, which is unsurprising considering it's a related battle against the same foes, with the Greeks once again hopelessly outnumbered. So 300: Rise of an Empire never really feels like more than a lazy retread, a fact not helped by the fact that we see Butler, Fassbender and co again, on the march and as they lay slain.

Thankfully the glorious Green is on hand to save us all from total boredom with a well pitched performance which oozes venom; Artemisia has men both bowing down to her beauty and trembling in her wake - especially after they've seen her snog a severed head. She's a Greek by birth but her family's cruel treatment at the hands of their own countrymen has caused her to align herself with the enemy. Raven hair flowing, eyes like daggers, she's one mean madam. And although her disrobing (during a hot-headed sex scene) might make waves, it's a mere drop of pale female flesh in an ocean of bronzed male skin.

And we don't just get one warrior woman we ultimately get two, as Headey (who's carved herself quite an interesting career playing an assortment of action heroines and schemers) returns as Gorgo, Queen of Sparta. Although she's mostly on hand to provide the overly explanatory and intrusive narration, Gorgo gets to wield a sword convincingly herself when the time comes. It's great to see these women front and centre but the rest of the cast (including Hans Matheson, Jack O'Connell and a returning David Wenham) are utterly squandered.

There are lots of smouldering looks exchanged across miles of sea and arrows fired at targets which could not possibly be seen and all that stuff at least is splendidly silly. The film is screening in both 2D and 3D versions, and if you're torn between the two then do bear in mind that the 3D is a not very impressive post-production conversion (ie it wasn't shot in 3D) and the only significant effect is that the discolouration caused by the glasses dulls an already moody film, rendering it occasionally visually incoherent. Unfortunately, dull is the key word here; the original was at least its own (albeit fairly hideous) beast but 300: Rise of an Empire is worse - it's a pale imitation of a movie that was, for the most part itself, a pile of shite.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

 

There are lots of smouldering looks exchanged across miles of sea and arrows fired at targets which could not possibly be seen

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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