REVIEW: 300: Rise of an Empire
The Blu-ray edition of 300: Fall of an Empire comes out on Tuesday from Warner Home Entertainment and there’s still no sign of the source material. Nearly four years after promising Xerxes, the sequel to his acclaimed 300, Frank Miller is apparently nowhere near done. As a result, it’s very hard to tell how well director Noam Murrow did. Instead, we have Zack Snyder’s visual feast adaptation of 300 to compare this with and the bottom line is that Rise is a pale comparison.
The Greeks who died at Thermopylae holding off the Persians have inspired story, song, and film in the past but Miller returned it to the public consciousness with a stark artistic retelling that Snyder lovingly reworked for film, helping create a new vocabulary for cinematic storytelling. It also had Gerard Butler and an army of incredibly fit men, brutal bloodshed, and the rallying cry of “We are Sparta!” This time around, Butler is gone, replaced with Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles, an Athenian who happens to have killed God-king Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santoro) father.
The problem is, we have nothing new to offer. More six-pack abs, Eva Green and Lena Headey, more bloodshed, more of the same sort of storytelling. Told from the Athenian side of the fight, Themistocles and his navy take on the Persians, knowing Leonidas was holding back the towering Xerxes,. Miller tends not to repeat himself,, adding something fresh to his sequels be it the resurrection of Elektra, the Dark Knight Strikes Again, or Sin City. What he brought to Xerxes remains to be seen so it’s hard to say if screenwriters Snyder and Kurt Johnistad had much to work with.
Watching the film, it has a familiar feel and not a pleasant one because the first was fresh and exciting. Less so the second time around without a new ingredient. Stapleton is not Butler and it robs the army of a charismatic leader. There is no nobility to the battle, no poetry to the dialogue, and no acting to make you root for the Greeks.
The video transfer is just fine and needs to be since this is visual interesting despite the repetitive feel. Colors are rich, blood soaks into sand quite nicely. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is up to task so every effect, every grunt, every musical note is clear.
There are a fine assortment of Special Features, including Behind the Scenes: The 300 Effect (30:00) which traces Miller’s idea for a sequel to film production; Real Leaders & Legends (23:00), which compares fact to fiction; Women Warriors (12:00), spotlighting Green’s Artemisia and Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo; Savage Warships (11:00), giving us a look at the actual Naval vessels and strategies employed in our world; and, Becoming a Warrior (5:00), the obligatory training segment.