300: Rise of an Empire Blu-ray Review
300 was a huge hit when it came out in 2007. It extensively used green screen to recreate The Battle of Thermopylae fought in 480 BC. Much of the action focused on the 300 Spartans tasked to fight off an army that numbered over 100,000 Persians. There was much bloodshed and glistening abs to please both men and women alike. I personally was lukewarm with the film. There was little story and endless fighting that became monotonous. Some of the scenes seemed right out of a wrestling match with a hero and a heel shouting at each other with grand statements. But clearly I was in the minority as it made over 450 million at the worldwide box office. Now we have the follow up coming out seven years later with more blood to be spilled.
You can really tell that 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE was filmed in 3D. Blood spurts on to the camera and right at the audience. Body parts are severed and seemingly jump at you. The film is not really a sequel. The events take place before, during and after what took place in 300. Instead of a land terrain that the Battle of Thermopylae consisted of, we get on the water for the Battle of Salamis.
We first jump back 10 years to the Battle of Marathon. The Greek city-states led by Athens rose up and defeated the Persians. This showed the Greeks that the Persians could in fact be defeated and they weren’t invincible. King Darius I, the Persian king, (Yigal Naor) is mortally wounded in the battle by Athenian General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) with one of the best arrow shots in recorded history. Of course this didn’t happen in real life, but it sure does look good on screen. The son of Darius I is the charismatic King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who we know about from the first film and who stews about this battle for 10 long years. He wants revenge and doesn’t care how it gets done.
As time passes Xerxes gets guidance from Artemisia (Eva Green), a brilliant naval commander who had the respect of Darius I. Artemisia is a Greek woman who switches allegiance because of what happened to her family and herself. Eva Green chews the scenery with such veracity and conviction. She is simply a force of nature. Artemisia shows her ruthlessness by cutting off a head of a prisoner and throwing it overboard. It was refreshing seeing an actual historical female character in battle. The movie gets elevated because of this.
Meanwhile Themistocles puts on his politician hat and tries to prepare Athens and the other city-states for the war ahead. He correctly positions them by building more ships and making them better than the bigger Persian vessels. The ships are smaller and lighter. They can maneuver the seas with more ease.
This sets up a battle of wits between the three players. The strength of the film lies in the battle preparations and the strategy that was used. Xerxes thought he could win just by sheer force. It is this folly that cost him in the first film and pops up again here. Artemisia is more thoughtful in her thinking and makes her admire the cunning of Themistocles. This admiration is put on display on her ship as she tries to sway Themistocles to her side. What happens next is more of a contact sport than a sex scene. Each participant is trying to get the upper hand. It is riveting and a bit amusing.
If Saw was described as torture porn, then these 300 films should be described as blood/severed limb porn. You get numb to it after awhile. There isn’t any rhyme or reason to the action. Guys and gals jump around and cut people open. All manners of limbs are cut off. We also get at least five rousing speeches. That’s about three or four too many. Sports movies don’t have as many. During the speeches, my mind wanders to how everyone could hear the speakers. There were no speakers or microphones to think of back then. What happens if the speech gets lost in translation when it is relayed to the people in the back?
Anyway, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is passable entertainment. I thought it was a little better than 300 mainly because of the presence of Eva Green.
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The film looks great in the transfer. The blood red really stands out as it should.
Audio: You hear all the bones cracking, heads splitting and various body parts coming undone quite clearly and succinctly.
Behind the Scenes: The 300 Effect
3 Days in Hell (7:08): This touched on how this film was connected to the first one and how they expanded on it.
Brutal Artistry (9:08): There was a bigger scope with the film. More technical stuff was at their disposal.
A New Breed of Hero (4:49): This feature explained the differences between Leonidas and Themistocles. Leonidas reveled in a glorious death, while Themistocles was a bit more pragmatic. The choice of Sullivan Stapleton is also discussed.
Taking the Battle to Sea (8:52): The green screen is talked about more in this feature. The fighting sequences and the use of hand held cameras are also taken up. It is interesting to note how much post production work is done here.
Featurette: Real Heroes & Legends (22:52): Awesome feature about the history of the Persian Wars. History buffs will love this. Historians and the filmmakers go into great detail on what happened in the 5th Century B.C. and the actions that took place. The Greek historian Herodutus is brought up and his methods discussed.
Featurette: Women Warriors (12:22): Artemesia and Queen Gorgo are gone over in detail. The filmmakers and historians say what was fact and fiction.
Featurette: Savage Warships (10:36): Another fantastic feature about how they built the ships and the great detail they put into especially the Greek ships. Interesting facts abound on the maneuverability, how far they could go out and crews of these ships.
Behind the Scenes: Becoming a Warrior (4:39): This was a short feature on the training involved for the film. Different characters required different methods of training. The filmmakers learned from the first film. Nutrition was put more in the forefront here.