“300: Rise of an Empire” is a “meanwhile” depiction of the current affairs in Athens while Zack Snyder’s “300” Spartans are about to meet their “beautiful deaths”. This sequel lacks a powerful screenplay.
However, like the first film, it resonates with well-defined torsos; rippling muscles; and a bloodbath filled with severed limbs. If “300” had the warrior instinct of 300 Spartans, “300: Rise of an Empire”, projects women with equal fervor.
Particularly, the film relates the story of the enchanting Artimisia (Eva Green) who, as a young girl, witnessed the horrific death of her family at the hands of a Greek army. She was taken in as a prisoner and sold into slavery. Left dying in the streets, she was ultimately adopted by the King Darius of Persia (Igal Naor), father of King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). Artimisia is Greek by blood, but a Persian by heart and soul.
It could even be postulated that Eva Green is “300: Rise of an Empire”. She is the quintessential Artimisia. She projects a very strong cinematic presence with her fierce fleeting stares and glances; with her strong commanding voice; and with her bravura in combat.
“300: Rise of an Empire” begins with the battle of Marathon, the first Persian invasion of Greece, ten years prior, and narrated by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey). General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the commander of the Athenian army manages to hurl a spear at King Darius while the young Xerxes watches. The King succumbs to this fatal blow, and Xerxes, now becomes the God-King armed with the powers of dark magic. Along with Artimisia, they would then share the same wrath and vengeance on Greece.
As their war strategy goes, the ironclad Artimisia will lead Persia’s assault against Greece by sea, while King Xerxes of Persia fights King Leonidas of Greece (a glimpse of Gerard Butler from “300”) on land. As we have learned from Snyder’s “300”, Xerxes would later be victorious by defeating the 300 Spartans.
“300: Rise of an Empire” does not have a well-balanced screenplay. Xerxes’ and Artimisia’s stories are highlighted more than the stories of the Athenian army who are regular citizens (“farmers”, “artists”, and “poets”), and are not military trained. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the Persians, or are we supposed to applaud the unsung heroes of Greece?
Directed by Noam Murro, the film provides a spectacular visual extravaganza of the sea battles. The cinematography and choreography are exciting to watch. The angular shots and images are well-timed as they are shown in a color palate of ochre for day, and deep blue for night.
In the end, it really becomes a question of a lackluster screenplay versus a visual poetry in motion.
2 out of 4 stars
· Stars: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey
· Director: Noam Murro, Rated R, 102 minutes, Action, Drama, War
· Writers: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Frank Miller
· Opens Friday, Mar 7th, 2014 nationwide, Warner Bros. Pictures
About this column: Beau Behan’s claim to fame is that his last name being the same as that of the Irish novelist, Brendan Behan. He sees himself as a romantic Rudolph Valentino type, but realizes you probably don’t. As a film critic, his work has been featured in NBC Bay Area, NBC News and Boston Globe, and can be seen on the TV show, “Beau’s Flicks & Nix”, on the Comcast Hometown Network, in Northern California. A “Flick” is a movie, and a “Nix” is just an opinion, nothing more. (BeauBehan.com)