You don't always have to over think a piece of cinema for it to be a good time, sometimes those simple things are more than enough to get a story over the hump. "300: Rise of an Empire" is a prequel/sequel of sorts that takes place side by side with the events of the first one and while it will never be mistaken for high art it is a decent enough companion piece as the blood flows and the violence reigns across the screen.
In this new chapter, the battle and the blood have moved to the sea as the Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) battles an invading army of Persians led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Artemisia (Eva Green) commander of the Persian navy who offer as formidable and strange a threat as these warriors have ever seen.
To be perfectly fair this isn't a movie franchise where you have do a great deal of over thinking as the bus more or less drives itself at this point and "300: Rise of an Empire" is a perfectly acceptable graphic novel adaptation as it leans on its oodles of style over any genuine substance.
Producer Zack Snyder handed over the directorial reigns to the relatively inexperienced Noah Munro and the results were fine, as Snyder still had a hand in the script and it matches the Frank Miller style that has become synonymous with these stories over the years. The film looks great but from a directorial standpoint he is basically a place holder as Snyder's over the top style and Miller's unique pastiche take over the visual flare of the movie. The initial half prequel/half sequel of the narrative takes a few minutes to buy into but once it finds its groove it all unfolds at a reasonable pace and while the dialogue doesn't quite match the over the top vigor of the first film, it has enough moments for us to get by with. It's an R rated graphic novel for us to play out to our amusement and the ensemble at least buys into that idea.
Sullivan Stapleton has developed himself thanks to his work on the show "Strike Back" to be believable as the iron jawed no nonsense hero and he carries the film well enough. Eva Green simply goes for broke as Artemisia and plays with a highly entertaining and bombastic sense of scale in the proceedings. Her character is larger than life, dead sexy and scary as hell, all of which come across on the screen in spades. Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro and David Wenham all return in their respective roles to add the appropriate colour to it all but it boils down to the ultimate duel between Stapleton and Green's characters as they try to out maneuver each other at every turn.
Picture and sound quality are top notch as expected and there are 5 behind the scenes featurettes about the making of the movie.
At the end of the day, "300: Rise of an Empire" is a perfectly acceptable swords and sandals affair for anyone who likes there violence, blood, stylish and more than a little over the top.
3 out of 5 stars.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital Download and On Demand from all major providers and retailers.