Warner Bros.(NEW YORK) — You walk out of 300: Rise of an Empire feeling like you were just at a Gallagher show, only swap the watermelon remnants for fake movie blood. When the original 300 came out in 2007, the fancy 3D technology of today didn’t exist, so this time around the filmmakers use every possible opportunity to make that blood fly right at you. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of the film’s budget was for red dye and corn syrup. Even the film’s poster is a blood-red tidal wave enveloping the main character, Themistokles. Let that be a warning to all: the subtitle to this film should have been There Will Be Blood.
Not that the target audience of 300: Rise of an Empire will be complaining. They’re going specifically for all of the blood, and severed limbs, and killer horses that graphically crush skulls beneath their hooves. And that crowd won’t be disappointed, oh no. This orgy of battle-porn panders right to its audience without shame. But it’s not a one-trick skull-crushing pony — there’s enough here even for the friends or dates dragged unwillingly to see this sequel to enjoy.
300: Rise of an Empire doesn’t pick up where 300 left off, after the battle of Thermopylae. It focuses on another conflict happening at around the same time, involving clashes not between Spartans and Persians, but between the Greek and Persian navies. The story focuses on two new characters: the aforementioned Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), who commands the Greek ships, and his beautiful but deadly Persian counterpart, Artemisia (Eva Green, last seen in Dark Shadows).
We’re meant to be rooting for the Greeks here, but Artemisia is by far the most interesting character in the story. She’s a woman hell-bent on revenge, and Green does a great job portraying her as a dark, manipulative warrior who uses her sword, not her sexuality, to crush foes. In the hands of a less skilled actress, Artemisia probably would have devolved into an overly sexualized cliché. The same could be said of returning Spartan Queen Gorgo, played again by Lena Headey. Though they’re the only two women in the film, these ladies aren’t relegated to the meek damsel-in-distress roles you normally find in movies like this.
Director Noam Murro also deserves kudos for being able to deliver Zack Snyder’s trademark look and feel. Snyder wrote and directed 300, and serves as writer/producer this time around. But fans of the visually stunning and innovative original won’t notice Snyder’s absence from the director’s chair — which is pretty impressive, considering this is only Murro’s second feature film (his first was the 2008 comedy Smart People).
There’s a lot to like in 300: Rise of an Empire. It looks great and delivers on the action, though personally, I would have enjoyed a little more heart to the story. I didn’t really find myself emotionally involved at any point and some of the plotlines fail to connect, like a father and son we’re supposed to care about. But this isn’t Gladiator, nor do I think that’s what this is aspiring to be. 300: Rise of an Empire is all about blood, battles, and strong babes, and on that level it doesn’t disappoint.
Oh, and for maximum enjoyment, see it in 3D. While I’m not typically a fan of the technology or the higher ticket prices, it’s worth it here. The battle scenes are crisp and clear, and it’s not hard to follow the action. Arrows and spears flying at your face, blood squirting past your head every couple of minutes — this is what 3D was made for, right?
Three-and-a-half out of five stars.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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