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‘300: Rise of An Empire’ – Review

‘300: Rise of An Empire’ – Review

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The price of freedom is paid for in blood, and much is spilled in 300: Rise of An Empire.

The brave 300 are dead, and the God King Xerxes marches on Greece, with a desire to put it to the sword. At the head of his army is Artemisia, a fiery, devilish witch who harbors a terrible vengeance against the Greeks, and wishes to see them burn. But one man, Themistocles, an Athenian general and politician, who believes in the new ideals of democracy readies to make his stand against the approaching horde. But this battle will not be fought on Greece’s shores, but instead on the monstrous swells of the open oceans, which will run red with blood.

300: Rise of An Empire is a stirring heroic story of absolutely epic proportions that is packed to the brim with violence, blood and larger than life heroics. Director Noam Murro has assembled an incredible cast to tell a film that in my opinion is the equal, if not better than the original ‘300’.

Sullivan Stapleton is Themistocles, a Athenian General and statesman. Just like Gerard Butler’s Leonidas he is possessed of a fiery willpower and rock hard abs, but the two characters couldn’t be more different. Leonidas was first and foremost a king, born to responsibility, and the glory inherited upon him as Sparta’s first son. Themistocles is a different man, he holds no wife or children, and has devoted his whole life to the betterment of Athens, serving as a soldier, and later a politician. Knowing that he has to inspire all of Greece to fight off the monster that is Xerxes army, Themistocles is a man possessed of voice as well as action, and Stapleton is brilliant in the role. He is both raw and passionate in his portrayal of Themistocles, and he carries concerns and troubles that Leonidas did not have to contend with, such as a city state who are more concerned with political idea’s, rather than with one’s of steel. He is also a master strategist, which adds a dimension of difference to Leonidas’s raw warrior strength. Stapleton is pretty adept with a sword, and his physical transformation is very impressive, which adds to his believability in the role. He’s a great heroic character, and it’s awesome to see him cut a path through his enemies on the big screen.

But where you have nobility and courage in Themistocles, none of this is found in his adversary, Artemisia, played with sadistic glee by Eva Green. Taken as a child, and subjected to unimaginable horrors, she was saved by a Persian emissary and trained to perfection as a master warrior. Irreversibly scarred by her ordeals, she craves nothing but the blood of all Greece. As an audience member you’ll come to learn just how twisted Artemisia is in her first five minutes on screen where she makes out with a decapitated head. This girl is twisted, calculating, but most importantly committed to the destruction of all Greece. Green is perfect in the role as she has the gravitas and the range to make a convincing bad girl, and she’s not shy when it comes to dispatching Greeks. Don’t tick this girl off, it could be the last thing you ever do.

Rodrigo Santoro is one of the significant returning actors as Xerxes, the Persian God King, and we get to see his transformation from man to god with the help of Artemisia. Although Xerxes presence is limited in the film you do feel Santoro’s depth of character when he is on screen. I would have preferred more screen time for the character since Santoro is a talented actor, but Xerxes does work as the higher power who is watching over the events of the film.

The supporting players are all good as well, with Hans Matheson providing a voice of reason and a conscious, along with a willing blade as Aeschylus, Themistocles right hand man. Callan Mulvey is fearless as the Greek general Scyllias, while Jack O’Connell is a young man with something to prove as his son Calisto. Finally Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo, acting as the film’s narrator, as well as getting to pick up a blade and dish up her own brand of vengeance for the loss of her husband.

Director Noam Murro throws you into the action, and with the advent of IMAX 3D you can literally taste the blood. Of all the battles I think my favorite was the opening Battle of Marathon, which reminded me of the intensity of the D-Day landings in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, only with swords instead of bullets, and a few more gallons of blood. The cinematography in this battle is excellent, and is paired well with the brutal rain and swells of the open sea in successive battles. For those wanting a good fix of adrenaline, you won’t be disappointed.

300: Rise of An Empire is also impressive as the filmmakers have framed the story from both the Persian’s perspective, which presents another side to the war, as it’s battles take place at the same time as the Battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartans perished. It’s a companion movie, which I think is more interesting to the story than just your typical action sequel. It’s also a darker movie, and has an atmosphere that is reminiscent of film noir.

300: Rise of An Empire is a worthy follow up to ‘300’, and takes the action to a whole new level. If you want an adrenaline rush, then this is the movie for you.