I expected nothing but brutal violence, stunning visuals, beefy oiled men and a hint of homoerotism from Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire, and in a slow motion tidal wave of blood, sweat and pathetic fallacy, it delivered. For an hour and 42 minutes we endure two armies of anonymous waxed meat men in leather skirts and sandals pummel each other in slow motion with accompanying roars of ‘revenge!’ and litres of blood being flung at us in 3D from every angle. 300: Rise of an Empire sees the rebirth of evil King Xerxes and a battle between the Persians lead by Eva Green’s Queen Artemisia and the outnumbered Greeks led by our hero Themistocles in a final attempt at democracy for Greece.
Visually it is great to look at, with elements reminiscent of a computer game. The blood is thick and gloopy, and occasionally left splashed on the corners of the screen as the camera dashes through the battle in a computer game fashion. The CGI backdrops of classical-era Greece, an impossibly huge moon and even a hunchbacked troll character reaffirm the films fantasy-action genre. Undeniably the 3D effects are very impressive which has warranted the film an extra star and director Noam Murro’s battle scenes are as expected, gloriously graphic; he finds fairly creative ways of killing aside from the conventional slow motion shots of throats being cut and eyes being gorged. A shining moment of 3D that stuck with me for example was the crunch of a victim’s face under the hoof of a rearing horse whose blood is then projected at the audience- and all in slo-mo of course!
But the 3D can’t save the film and nor can the superb casting of Eva Green. She gives an incredibly reptilian and calculating performance as the villain Artremisia, which overshadows the faceless and utterly unmemorable male performers. The films fundamental flaw is that the storyline lacks any depth- although screenplay writers Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad certainly attempt to by including not one but two powerful female figures in a lazy stab at gender equality. For our benefit there is also a tedious voiceover narration designed to give the unyielding gore a justifiable explanation- but it goes on for so long that it seems we are halfway into the movie before I can settle down. After a while I lost track and was left like (a seemingly useless) King Xerxes to simply spectate several hundred extras maul each other. Nevertheless this is what one expects from a 300 movie and it does what it says on the tin- provides immersive gory conflict on land, water and even in the form of a brutal, acrobatic and slightly hilarious sex scene! 300: Rise of an empire is an exempt example of visual spectacle; just don’t expect a worthwhile storyline.
300: Rise of an Empire (2014), directed by Noam Murro, is distributed in the UK by Warner Brothers Pictures, Certificate 15.