300, released back in 2007, was sort of a benchmark for comic book movies. It was a triumph of style over substance, but showed that not everyone who wore a cape was a clean cut boy scout, and that not all of the raft of adaptations of graphic novels were squarely aimed at a tween audience.
Now, seven years on, audiences are less inclined to be wowed by slow-mo violence, and showy effects. It takes something truly spectacular to win over the crowd and 300: Rise Of An Empire, is a visually stunning movie that aims to deliver the same gut punch as it’s predecessor.
In a narrative taking place before, concurrently and soon after the events of 300, a Persian army led by the vengeful, bloodthirsty Artemisia (Eva Green) closes in on Greece as Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors fight up north. A protégé of the late King Darius who was killed by Athenian soldier Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in a stormy battle along the Greek shores, Artemisia makes it her personal mission to see the whole of Greece turned to cinder in a cutthroat naval invasion. Urged to defend their city-state by the Queen of Sparta (Lena Headey), Themistocles and an army of thousands prepare to fight for their freedom – no matter the cost.
Though Sullivan Stapleton struggles to escape the shadow cast by Gerard Butler, he still proves capable in stacking up a body count of his own. The stand out here though is Eva Green’s wickedly cruel Artemisia, a vengeful and manipulative warrior, hell bent on seeing her quest through to the bloody end. The bulk of the cast are there solely for the purpose of shedding buckets of on screen blood, and even though the story can seem a little silly and camp at times, it manages to stay just the right side of tongue in cheek to stop itself descending into parody.
Where this movie shines is in gruesome battle scenes. From start to finish it is genuinely jaw-dropping on the big screen, and the 3D is put to good use here to make the most of the limbs and that end up hacked off and chopped up for your delight. It is every bit as ass-kickingly brutal and insanely bloody as you would expect.
300: Rise Of An Empire isn’t going to win any Oscars next year, nor will it convert people who don’t love the original. What it will do though, if wanton death and destruction on an epic scale is your cup of tea, is entertain the hell out of you, and for that alone, it has my blessing!
(Images courtesy WarnerBros, Collider)