It’s time to spray on these fake abs, as the long gestating sort-of-sequel to surprise 2006 hit 300 finally makes its way to cinemas. Whilst it fails to break any new ground it does serve as a relatively enjoyable piece of action-packed entertainment that is likely to please admirers of the first film.
Running parallel to the events of 300, 300: Rise of an Empire centres on Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) who attempts to lead a charge against God King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green), his blood-thirsty second in command.
Newcomer Noam Munro takes over directorial duties from Zack Snyder (who instead serves as screenwriter and producer), yet sticks within similar visual territory to Snyder’s previous entry. That means darkened cinematography, slow-motion swordplay and lashings of vivid red blood-spattering. This as a style felt quite fresh during the first entry, but eight years on lacks the novelty and visual punch that it had several years prior – we have essentially seen all of this before. However, given this Munro still packs his battle sequences with a sense of chaotic tension and visceral energy resulting in more often than not, perfectly enjoyable viewing.
There are moments when Rise of an Empire appears to be harking for the same kind of cult success as 300 with lines like “This is Sparta!” making a comeback (now given to Leonidas’s widow, played by a returning Lena Headey), and a terrifically hammy turn from Eva Green is possibly the closest step to achieving that. The actress dominates the screen as Artemisia, the sort of madcap warrior who likes to decapitate her men then tongue their severed heads. Hot. Green is really the only thing stopping the rampant homoeroticism of Rise of an Empire taking over – this perhaps the sole reason that an unintentionally amusing rough sex scene is added between Green and Stapleton. However with the return of that loveable Queen Xerxes – a man who prides himself on wearing matching gold hot-pants to those worn by Kylie Minogue in her Spinning Around video – we are ensured that homoeroticism is never far away. There is also the expected lingering focus on the muscular torsos of a handsome cast featuring the blandly buff Stapleton and Jack O’Connell for continued reinforcement.
With a plethora of semi-effective battle-scenes and a tried visual style that more often than not still packs a strong punch, 300: Rise of an Empire makes for a relatively enjoyable sequel. With a suitably epic conclusion, a fiery performance from Green, and the amusing unintentional homoeroticism there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros
7th March 2014 (UK)
Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey,,Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O’Connell, Callan Mulvey