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300: Rise of an Empire (3D) (AF)


Stars: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Igal Naor, Callan Mulvey, Jack O'Connell, Andrew Tiernan

Director: Noam Murro

First came cartoons and caricatures, then comic strips and comic books (the latter a fertile source for superhero movies) many of them giving birth to family films.

Then came graphic novels, described as “A novel in comic-strip format”.

And so a popular new sub-genre was born with gaudy comic strip inspired stories aimed at adults and, appropriately packed with lashings adult action, sex gore and violence. Such films as V for Vendetta, Kick Ass, Road to Perdition and, of course, 300 established a profitable international audience.

In 2007, the Spartans vs Persians graphic novel (by Frank Miller) inspired epic, written and directed by Zack Snyder made a fortune at the box office.

Now, seven years later screenwriters Snyder and Kurt Johnstad have transformed novel Miller’s Xerxes into another epic of blood, guts and rather too often pretentious slow motion.

Here the Persians are still behaving badly at the expense of the Ancient Greeks with luckless Greek general Themistokles, played with plenty of muscle if little dramatic range by Sullivan Stapleton, pitted against the invading Persian fleet lead by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (once a projected title for the film) and Eva Green’s evil Artimisia who commands the Persian navy.

And, for suspense, will Thermistokles succeed in uniting Greece to send the invaders packing?

If you focus really hard, it’s possible you might be able to follow the general direction of a plot, put over with pretentious mock-stagey fortune cookie-style dialogue that too often sounds as though it has been lifted from a bad English language translation of an indifferent and overblown opera.

Fortunately, there is little need, if any, to try and follow what is happening.

300: Rise of an Empire is far more graphic than novel – blood (dark at the start, and then growing brighter as the assorted carnage continues pours graphically across the screen like a tsunami), limbs are severed with gory frequency, swords halve heads and spears pass vividly through a large percentage of the cast, to say nothing of rapes, burning buildings and scads of severed heads.

Which, of course, is exactly what previous experience has shown appropriate audiences will be looking for and find - in this no-nastiness-barred sword and sandal hokum.

And on a purely visceral level, the film does exactly what is asked of it. Noam Munro’s driving direction, vivid special effects that create fleets of warships in action and, above all, Simon Duggan’s impressive 3D cinematography see to that.

Good acting – unless you consider flexing of the pectorals by the muscular male players is acting - is hardly required while Green and Lena Headey (the latter reprising her role as the Spartan Queen from 300 give it their all and keep impressively straight faces in the face of some of the overblown dialogue.

It may not be art as we know it, Jim, but it’s slickly made and almost certainly destined to be a critic-proof a box-office success among cinemagoers seeking an adrenaline-surging action show that requires absolutely no intellectual input from the audience unless they are desperate to find some.

As long as they like their history skewed, Hollywood-style.


Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Warner. Technicolor.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 03 Mar 2014