IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 105 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
King Darius of Persia is killed by General Themistocles of Athens during the Battle of Marathon, a sight witnessed by his son Xerxes, whom Themistocles decides not to kill. Xerxes is advised to not continue the war, since “only the gods could defeat the Greeks”. Darius’ naval commander, Artemisia, claims that Darius’ last words were in fact a challenge and sends Xerxes on a journey through the desert where he finds a cave and bathes in an otherworldly liquid, emerging as the “God-King”. Returning to Persia, he sets out to conquer Greece. First on the path of the invasion is the democratic city of Athens, which bases its strength on its fleet, led by Themistocles. Themistocles is forced to into an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta whose might lies with its superior infantry troops….
Working as I do for this website, trying to review three or four films a week but also having to hold down a day job, I often find myself unable to spend as much time on some reviews as I want to and therefore the resulting write-ups are sometimes quite brief. However, some particular films just don’t inspire me to write much anyway. The 2006 300, with its mixture of bloody sword and spear action [often in slow motion], homo-erotic muscle porn, CGI backgrounds and bleached colours replicating the look of the graphic novel on which it was based, didn’t really impress this critic despite its striking carnage, the best thing about the movie’s success being that the far superior 1962 film version of the same true-life story, The 300 Spartans, got a DVD release. This sequel, which isn’t technically a sequel since it covers events before and during the battle of Thermopylae that dominated 300 as well as after, is basically more of the same, except that they’ve proceeded on the principle that bigger is better. If you loved 300, you’ll probably love this, though the earlier film did have more memorable characters. If you hated 300, I wouldn’t bother seeing this follow-up.
Based on another, though so far unpublished graphic novel by Frank Miller [whose unaccountable popularity far exceeds his qualities as a writer], 300: Rise Of An Empire sees its director Noam Murro and his team do a good job replicating the look, feel and attitude of the original, though thankfully with less muscles. The film is basically one big battle, with little time for characterisation or even to care, but the action, which mostly takes place at sea, is often exciting, though the endless crappy CGI blood being splashed onto the camera eventually gets tiresome in a film which might very well be the most vicious ‘15’ rated film ever and proves that the BBFC really have lost their mind. Rather than the first film’s muscle porn, this one is more like decapitation porn. Only Eva Green really makes an impression out of the cast, playing the sexiest, deadliest female villain in ages, a woman who will chop off someone’s head and then kiss the head, though she’s saddled with one of the worst, most hilarious movie sex scenes in years. There’s been much criticism about historical inaccuracy, and it’s often a bugbear with me in movies, though I think it’s unwarranted here: the whole approach is larger than life and fantastical. Overall though this is pretty mediocre stuff, both stupid and stupefying, but admittedly kind of fun if your switch your brain off. The 3D, though as usual rarely convincing, is sometimes used well and does go with the stylised look of the piece.