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300: Rise of an Empire (2014) bad movie
USA, 102 min, Rated 18A (ON) 13+ (QC)
Reviewed 03/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca
www.ofrb.gov.on.ca | www.rcq.gouv.qc.ca

Noam Murro - Director
Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad - Screenplay
Simon Duggan - Cinematography


"The story pits Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy. Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian armada will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles ultimately leads the charge that will change the course of the war." - 300themovie.com


Heroic Athenian general Themistocles (played by Sullivan Stapleton) rallies Greece's armada against Persian god-king Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) formidable naval attack at Artemisium while Spartan king Leonidas' 300 brave suicidal odds against Xerxes' land assault at Thermopylae, in director Noam Murro's clunky, knuckle headed addendum to the far superior, multi-award-winning film, 300 (2006), starring Gerard Butler as Leonidas. SHPARRTAAA!!! Reportedly adapted from Xerxes, comic book legend Frank Miller's as-yet unpublished prequel to his 1998 comic book series, 300, 300: Rise of an Empire co-stars Eva Green, and Lena Headey, as Xerxes' malevolent right hand and naval commander Artemisia, and Leonidas' sharp-tongued widow Queen Gorgo, respectively. Film fans might recognize Stapleton from the Oscar-nominated Aussie gangster drama Animal Kingdom (2010), and Green from Casino Royale (2006) and Dark Shadows (2012).

The closing credits of this feature do state that the events and characters it depicts are fictional, but the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium did happen in 480 BC, during the Greco-Persian Wars. King Leonidas I (540-480 BC), politician and naval general Themistokles (524-459 BC), and King Xerxes I (518-465 BC) actually were major players in those struggles locking Greece's sovereignty against the world's first superpower: Persia. The Persian Empire stretched across thousands of square kilometres during the reign of Xerxes I, encompassing modern-day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India. Themistokles' forces did defeat Xerxes' father, King Darius, at the Battle of Marathon ten years before Thermopylae and Artemisium. In a strange twist of fate later on, Themistokles ended up living his last years in exile as a Persian governor. However, because other figures and specific situations presented are fictional within the context of that documented era, 300: Rise of an Empire falls into the genre of historic fantasy. Like Pompeii (2014), or Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

Wow, what a hugely disappointing rehash this much-anticipated sequel turned out to be. Heavily reliant on replays of - and key references to - its wonderfully compelling, visually astounding big screen predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire is little more than a live-action puppet show of surprisingly dreadful story telling populated by a desperately uninteresting cast. Its starring lead, Sullivan Stapleton, brings absolutely no screen presence to his role as war-tested Greek general Themistokles. Stapleton's character is so macho that even his name looks like it rhymes with testicles, and yet it's a chore noticing he's on-screen in most of his scenes. He's boring! A mouse, far removed from the thunderous gregarity of Leonidas. In contrast, Eva Green's performance as blood-thirsty, perpetually bitchy Persian weapon personified Artemisia is laughably hammy as she flails and gnashes through her nutty, over-the-top dialogue. She's like a younger, armoured and blade-wielding version of Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1950), all teeth and crazy eyes, slicing and dicing anyone who gets in the way of her treasured close-up.

The core story this hot mess revolves around is the naval Battle of Artemisium, fought on the Grecian shores of the grey and choppy Aegean Sea, between General Testicles, uh, General Themistokles and his combined militia of half-naked seamen and Xerxes' mighty armada led by hot-tempered killer Artemisia. Hugely out-numbered in men and ships, Themistokles relies on strategic use of the sea and weather in his efforts to stop Persia's invasion as he did a decade earlier. Ships crash and smash apart. Blades and blood fill the air in aching slow motion. Stuff blows up, in aching... slow... motion. Apparently fresh off the set of the recent Pompeii movie, a white horse randomly appears and runs through feiry wreckage. In. Slow. Mo. Yawn. We weep for the glory days when 300 was a new and awesome movie, eight long years ago. (Read more)

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