Hopelessly outnumbered by a vengeful Persian armada, Athenian war hero Themistokles (Stapleton) unites the Greeks, forms a ragtag navy and heads into the Aegean Sea.
In a portentous opening voice-over, Lena Headey’s Gorgo warns of death and war and “a tidal wave of blood” — a rare moment of understatement, as it turns out. What Headey fails to notice is the tsunami of camp poised to thunder through this hack-and-slash spectacular. Fearlessly reviving prehistoric zingers like, “Seize him!”, the heat of battle eventually turns the cast to fondue. This is epic cheese, feta from the gods, and clearly proud of it.
Based on Frank Miller’s still-in-the-works graphic novel Xerxes, Rise Of An Empire is not a follow-up but a ‘side-sequel’. Set before, during and after Sparta’s last stand, this is the same war on another front — a maritime duel between Sullivan Stapleton’s heroic Themistokles and Eva Green’s psychotic Artemisia who, in a scene of breathtaking gratuitousness, seduces her rival with a pre-battle revenge shag.
From the first naval campaign, it becomes clear that Zack Snyder’s 300 is, in comparison, a model of restraint. The increase in scale results in a shift in genre: this is a superhero movie in a different cloak. Noam Murro, a commercials director, sets the action at ramming-speed with great visual confidence but little personality. He is, for the sake of franchise continuity, a proxy Snyder, connected to an intravenous drip of Snyder juice, Snyderfying scenes with billowing slo-mo and gory overkill. This is an exaggeration of 300, in body count, style, size and violence.
300’s hyper-style universe, where the moon looks like the Death Star and the Persian base like Mordor-On-Sea, is just asking for hyper-style performances. Yet, in the manliest man-world imaginable, it’s Eva Green’s film. Elevating the art of scenery-chewing to devouring entire cities, Green’s dominatrix Cleopatra is a gloriously unchained creation. Artemisia is the full package: mad, motivated, flamboyant, sociopathic and fond of collecting heads like she’s bringing in the groceries.
As with its predecessor, Miller’s words, so effective on page, are clunkily adapted into rousing monologues — cut Themistokles and he’d bleed hot air. But visually, there’s a genuine 3D experience on offer here, one that’s both immersive and interactive. The 3D is, admittedly, its sole ambition in terms of depth, but treat it as a gargantuan B movie and you’ll have a blast.
300, up to 11. The foot-in-mouth direlogue is an Achilles heel, but this campy gore-opera is bursting with guilty pleasures. See it large: the 3D is killer.