Property review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros., 2014

300: Rise of an Empire late but bold enough to make impact

The first movie in the possible pantheon of tales about the valiant Spartans who died at the Battle of Thermopylae was a rollicking good time. There were epic one-liners, fighting, sex and death: Everything you could ask for in a movie about ancient Greece and Persia. The second film had a name to live up to and a reputation to uphold. While it manages to recreate some of the fun of 300, Rise of an Empire comes much too late to capitalize and continue to curry the favor that 300 cultivated.

Rise of an Empire starts with the premise that King Leonidas and his brave brigade of warriors from 300 are dead. Taking place during, before and after Leonidas’ sacrificial trip to the Hot Gates, Rise of an Empire shows the beginning of Xerxes I’s reign, his creation of Persian city states, his rise to power and seeming immortality, and his ruthless general Artemisia’s background and eventual lust for revenge and power. With simultaneous story threads, the film moves along at a quickened pace despite being an hour and 42 minutes long. It needs that amount of time to flashback for multiple characters and push the present events forward.

While the look at events in Rise of an Empire are interesting, quite frankly it was too long between movies for there to be much interest in the proceedings. Rise comes seven years after the original, which means there’s plenty of time to forget the original plot, character motivations and reason for most of anything that occurs. There are plot recaps at the beginning, thankfully, but it’s hard to remember a plot from seven years previously and remain engaged.

Despite the passage of time, the film looks good. The chroma key technique used in the original is used again and then given a fuzzy sheen. While slightly jarring, the sheen doesn’t detract too much from the original look that matched the comics. The soundtrack remains the same as well, so not much has changed aside from the focus and some of the stars. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo as does Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes. Eva Green — a former Bond Girl — and Sullivan Stapleton join in new roles to round out the cast. The new additions are great and seamlessly fit the universe. Green and Stapleton sizzle with chemistry and Green, in particular, is a standout. Santoro still commands as Xerxes whenever he is onscreen but the God King seems to take a backseat, which is hard to understand. As he remains the main villain, he should remain front and center.
Despite the long wait and storyline lagging from time to time, 300: Rise of an Empire is still a fun history lesson for the comic book lover and casual moviegoer alike.

Story: 7
Like the comics: 10
Casting: 9

Total: 36/40 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Comic property review: ‘300’

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hot, sweaty, loud: ‘300’ gets it right

‘300’

Warner Bros., 2007

You don’t have to know much about the ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae to enjoy what Frank Miller’s 300 has to offer. You also don’t have to have a lot of testosterone or Y chromosomes to enjoy the slick visuals, fight scenes or lack of clothing that the Spartan faithful wear. This isn’t a particularly deep film but it doesn’t aim to be. It aims to be loud, cool and sweaty. And that’s exactly what you get in the comic book adaptation directed by Zack Snyder.

300 has been faithfully recreated frame by frame by Snyder, the illustrious comic book screen master who has brought forth visions such as The Spirit and Watchmen. 300 was one of his first attempts to bring a comic to life and it’s well done. Because Snyder doesn’t stray too far from the source material, everything has a grimy comic sheen draped all over it. The comic book goop the film is mired in doesn’t betray the direct lift of material; it actually enhances the beauty of the visuals. This film is undeniably gorgeous and it knows it. Even the green screen material doesn’t detract from the beauty of the film. Usually it’s obvious that folks are employing it in a scene but 300 more than covers its tracks and has a grand time doing it.

Also gorgeous are the various actors that make up the principal cast. The abs are fabulous, hair is perfectly coiffed and no one is out of shape or unable to fight. The beautiful people of the world apparently all fought in the Spartan army against the god king Xerxes and only one lived to tell the tale. That previous comic book sheen comes full circle in many of the visual elements, and the folks who kill the Persian army in stylized sequences featuring no less than six gruesome deaths are no exception. The History Channel was actually heavily involved in the costuming phase of the production and that attention to detail is evident throughout.

The actors themselves aren’t bad. While I’d not believe them as Greeks, the enthusiasm that comes across on the screen is infectious. No one phoned it in here and the dramatic portions are appropriately heartbreaking.

There isn’t much to dislike about 300. A small quibble is that the pacing makes it drags near the end. While the end battle is appropriately melodramatic and wrought with tension, it was a little too drawn out. As Elvis once recommended, a little less conversation would have been nice.

We’re action buffs and 300 definitely satisfied that need. Besides, the many quotable scenes such as “This is Sparta!” more than make up for the dragging of feet at the conclusion. 300 has earned its rank among great comic adaptations and action movies alike.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Like the comics?: 10/10
Overall rating: 8.6