300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Sullivan Stapleton as THEMISTOKLES
Eva Green as ARTEMISIA
Lena Headey as QUEEN GORGO
Hans Matheson as AESYKLOS
Callan Mulvey as SCYLLIAS
David Wenham as DILIOS
Rodrigo Santoro as XERXES
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Noam Murro
BY KEVIN CARR
When “300: Rise of an Empire” hit theaters earlier this year, I’ll admit I was somewhat skeptical. However, after finally seeing the film and digesting the more complex story that actually attempted to be more than a rehashing of the first movie, I did enjoy it quite a bit. Revisiting it on Blu-ray allows the movie to grow on you a bit.
“300: Rise of an Empire” serves as bookends to the original “300.” It features a broader, sweeping story that not only presents the aftermath of the first film in Sparta, but also how it impacts other areas of Greece, particularly Athens. We also see a prequel of sorts, which explains the origins of Xerxes the God King (Rodrigo Santoro) and how he was manipulated by the tragic but wicked Artemisia (Eva Green).
“300: rise of an Empire” tells of the naval battle between the Greeks and the Persians, with Thermistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) leading the charge. There’s also a chance to see Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in battle action, though this is a somewhat overly pushy feminist anachronism. Still, with the more complex motivations of the people of Athens, and a change in location from the Hot Gates to the seas offers enough difference from this film to its predecessor.
Like “300,” “300: Rise of an Empire” is a visual spectacle. Watching the film with a 2014 set of eyes makes it seem less original, but only because Zack Snyder’s “300” revolutionized the visual style. Since then, so many other films have ripped off the slo-mo ramping shots and digital blood that it’s become tired. So, while my gut reaction is to cringe at these moments in the film, I have to remind myself that this was the movie’s attempt to rightfully pay homage to the first film rather than shamelessly copying it.
Overall, the cast isn’t as strong as the first film, but there are some great highlights. Sullivan Stapleton is fine as Thermistokles, but he’s no Gerard Butler in form or spirit. Lena Headey is fine in her return to the screen, and she carries her own gravitas to this film.
However, the real star of the movie is Eva Green as the deliciously villainous Artemisia. She’s such fun to watch on screen – and not just during her pretty amazing topless scene, I might add. Green is what makes this film worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.
When it comes to special features, the “300: Rise of an Empire” Blu-ray bonus features earn more points for volume than for diversity. If you enjoy behind-the-scenes featurettes and edited interviews, you’ll get plenty in this disc with more than an hour’s content.
However, there are only these featurettes to speak of. Sure, they have various discussions with the stars and the director, as well as history experts to examine the real story behind the film. However, the bonus features menu doesn’t even have basic features like deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers or a commentary track. While the original single-disc release of “300” seven years ago didn’t have the amount of featurettes, at least it had a commentary track.
Still, there’s plenty to learn from and enjoy in the featurettes, which include: the multi-part making-of series “Behind the Scenes: The 300 Effect” includes “3 Days in Hell,” “Brutal Artistry,” “A New Breed of Heroes” and “Taking the Battle to Sea.” Additional featurettes include “Real Leaders & Legends,” “Women Warriors,” “Savage Warships” and “Becoming a Warrior.”