Whereas most follow-on movies are either sequels or prequels , this movie parallels the original 300 (2006) allowing director Noam Murro (Smart People, 2008) and writers Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad the vehicle to run with Frank Miller’s material from the graphic novel Xerxes. What we see here is a continuation of the style first seen in 300 but a nuancing to actually make the work more watchable. The original scored through the visual effect and mythical character of the story-line while throwing vast amounts of testosterone across the screen.
What we see in this film is the story from “another angle”, Murro looks to the “back –story” of Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santaro, The Last Stand, 2013) attack in to the Greek States. His attack is one of revenge having been manipulated in to the position by one of his greatest admirals, Artimesia, (Eva Green, Casino Royale, 2006) who works her manipulations in the shadows, removing anyone who would or could be of influence to the King. Green makes a worthy adversary to Stapleton
There are a number of “sword and sandals” productions out over the last 12 months, with the majority being rather poor, Noah (Darren Aronofsky, 2014) and Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2014) being two examples. Noah for being too preachy and Pompeii for just being nothing great. Both had vast budgets and both failed to meet expectations, at least from my perspective. What we have with “300: Empire” is a director and writers who knew how not to ruin a work.
There is a good deal less of the mythical in this offering which is more focused on the battles. The movie works to set up the final dénouement from the very start; there is a story. The Greek states are being attacked, The Spartans are defending at Thermopylae, while General Thermistokles (Sullivan Stapleton, Gangster Squad, 2013) has assembled what he can of a Greek navy/army to meet Artimesia and here grand fleet. In to the mix of this Thermistokles is aided by his generals Aeskylos (Hans Matheson, Sherlock Holmes, 2009) and Scyllias (Callan Mulvey, rush, 2008) with an earnest Jack O’Connell (’71, 2014) playing Scyllias’ son Calisto who is more than eager to enter the battle despite his father’s natural reluctance, what follows is the usual plot line, it does not take from the film and adds a slight distraction.
Generally the work feels less theatrical than the original. The graphics and special effects are excellent and carry the film. Indeed the digital and physical staging needed for the naval battles works well. This movie will never stand tall on a plinth when it comes to the history of cinema, but it is not bad. This movie does exactly what it sets out to do; it tells a story in a graphical manner. It should be noted that the graphical nature of the movie is not just for the special effects, there are some gruesome battle scenes which when you consider the movie is 3D offer some gore for those who like their battles bloody.
Speaking of 3D, I am generally speaking not a fan. I have nothing against 3D but for the fact that it is often done poorly. That said, it worked here; adding to the overall effect. Watch the DVD or download, there are many worse things you could do with your time. Noah was barely a ** movie, so it seems a little callous to make this offering a *** star effort. But Noah was barely a ** while 300: Empire is firmly sitting where it should.