Zack Snyder’s 2006 fantasy action film 300 set a milestone for how good a VFX-centric movie can get. It was nothing short of epic and its adherence to its source material, Frank Millers’ 1998 graphic novel 300, was unsurpassable. Just like Sin City, each frame from the graphic novel was adapted to the movie flawlessly. In many ways 300, the movie, helped Snyder’s footing in Hollywood as a visual director and along with Frank’s story it was one of the best movies of the year. It has been 8 years since 300s release and the studios noticed that the franchise still had some juice left in it. Time to milk it dry!
Enter 300 Rise of An Empire, a sort of side-quel for the masterpiece that was 300. Based on an unreleased graphic novel by Frank Miller, Rise of an Empire unfolds a story that happened parallely and beyond 300. It takes place in the same quasi-fantasy Greece that 300 brought to life, taking into account the events of 300 and the demise of King Leonidas. Its difficult to tag it a sequel as it touches upon everything from the origins of Xerxes to the death of Leonidas and events that happened in between. Drenched in a blue hue, as opposed to the original’s golden hue, Rise of an Empire tells the story of Themistocles and his battle with the Persian forces, how his failed attempt at uniting the self-preservation-centric Spartan forces and leading on the battle himself with his small group of soldiers.
Sullivan Stapleton aint no Gerard Butler but he does a decent job. But the speeches and pep talks that he gave wouldn’t even come close to its predecessors’. Having Leonidas pack that much wanted energy in 300 could be at blame for Stapleton’s rather less charismatic role here. The imminent comparison cant be overlooked. A lusciously evil Eva Green plays Artemisia, the ruthless warrior and the Persian king’s most trusted. There’s one particular scene where she makes out with a severed head and if that aint enough of her nefariousness, I don’t know what else counts as EVIL. I felt she was the character the kept the narrative moving. Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes makes a comeback and his origins was one of the more novel sequences of the movie.
300 Rise of an Empire does a solid job with its direction and narrative. Visually the movie was as arresting as the original. It makes for a great IMAX experience as I had missed 300 at the time of its release. But I don’t know if it was the casting or the forced-sequel storyline, Rise of an Empire felt more like a TV movie albeit shot on ARRI and Panavision camera and allotted a generous budget for VFX. While the gratuitous blood and gore was retained, thanks to the Indian censor board, many scenes were mercilessly chopped off. These scenes were essentially, what would have made a 300 movie and to watch it without it, makes it kind of bland.
Initially what felt like taking cues from Man of Steel, the score’s thumps and drumrolls were instantly familiar. It was only after the credits rolled in, I realized that it was Junkie XL who composed it. I suppose the choice was obvious as this guy previously worked in God Of War series as well. Who else would fit best for a Greek epic? It was enjoyable as the the music felt intensely pumping along with the visuals.
Directed by a lesser known Noam Murro, 300 Rise of an Empire is a well made movie, true to its predecessor but does it push the envelope? No! Instead it treads on the fine path that the original laid out. And it rather tries too hard to be so. Was it disappointing? Given that I went in with less hopes of being entertained, I was surprised at how much I liked it. I may forget 300 Rise of an Empire in a couple of days but thats where 300 had won.