Zack Snyder’s “300” is without a doubt one of the best action films released in the past decade, boasting not only grand and exciting battle sequences, but also an inspiring storyline and lots of great dialogue. With its massive success, it was inevitable that the studio would make another film, despite the fact that there wasn’t really anyone left at the end of the last film to continue on with. However, graphic novelist Frank Miller solved that problem for them by authoring another book that focused on the events that surrounded the Battle of Thermopylae, and so now we are faced with the film adaptation of “300: Rise of an Empire.”
In present day, we are told of events that happened a few years before the events in the previous film. The Persian King, Darius (Igal Naor), had tried to take over Greece, but was repelled by their army, which included the mighty warrior Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). This young warrior slayed Darius with an arrow, but little did he know that this was an action that would have massive consequences in just a few years. Although Darius tells his son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) not to attack Greece again, he does so anyway with the help of one of his generals, Artemisia (Eva Green). With war once again facing Greece, Themistocles must attempt a unification of the city states so that they can fight off the Persians together, but finding no help from Sparta, he and his men must do their best to fend off their enemy in a massive naval battle that will determine the fate of all Greeks.
“300: Rise of an Empire” is a simple case of a film trying very hard to be like its predecessor, but not being able to come anywhere close. It follows many of the same beats (rousing war speeches and battles) and contains many of the same elements (characters, production design, and plenty of slow motion), but what it lacks is the heart and soul of the original. Because of this, we end up with a pale, superficial imitation that’s dull, tedious, and emotionally empty. You may recall that the original “300” had a large emotional impact because it was all about a relatively small group of 300 soldiers going off to fight the gigantic army of Xerxes, knowing that there was pretty much no chance of them surviving, and yet they did it all the same. In this prequel/sequel, there’s never a larger sense of purpose, nor is there any true feeling of danger because both armies always seem to be on equal footing. The original film also contains grandiose themes of honor, duty, and loyalty, which are touched on a little here, but not nearly as well as they had been before. The whole project basically comes off as an attempt to recreate what had been so successful before, but without the most important ingredients. In the end, “300: Rise of an Empire” has the same cool look as its predecessor, but beyond that, it’s merely a hollow shell of a film.
“300: Rise of an Empire” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of impeccable quality. Nearly the entire film has a very dark, gritty production design, but the picture always remains perfectly sharp without a trace of blurriness in sight. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise flawless, allowing you to hear the score, sound effects, and every bit of dialogue in crystal clear quality. Overall, there are no complaints to be had in either department.
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The special features provide a wide range of behind the scenes looks at the production that include interviews with the cast, crew, and historians. They take you through different areas of the film including the story, production design, costumes, and training, in addition to putting the film in a historical perspective. All totaled, this is about an hour of informative extras that are all worth taking a look at, especially if you’re interested in learning about how specific elements of the film came together.
“300: Rise of an Empire” is nothing but an attempt at recapturing the glory of its predecessor through imitation. However, without the thematic substance and a thrilling (and very quotable) screenplay, it merely becomes a flat, joyless film that has very little to offer in the way of entertainment. If you’re looking for a great action flick, simply skip this drudgery and rewatch “300,” a film that never had any need of a prequel/sequel in the first place.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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