300: Rise Of An Empire, Film Review. FACT Cinema, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 7/10

Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headley, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O’ Connell, Andrew Tiernan, Igal Naor, Andrew Pleavin, Ben Turner, Ashraf Barhom, Christopher Sciueref, Steven Cree, Caitlin Carmichael, Jade Chynoweth, Fred Ochs, Price Carson, John Michael Herndon, David Pevsner, Kevin Fry, David Sterne, Clive Sawyer, Christopher Boyer.

If, as an audience member at a film screening, you like to see an abundance of blood splashed liberally across the screen as if somebody has had the most terrific time squeezing all the jam from the middle of a doughnut or if you like to see ancient history in action right down to its gory absolute detail then 300: Rise of an Empire, the prequel, side companion and near enough sequel to the inspired 2006 film 300 is a film that should certainly be making your way to the cinema to see.

Even if those two stipulations don’t float the idea to you then still go along and see it just for the special effects and the chance to see Frank Miller’s yet unpublished graphic novel Xerxes turned into, texturally, a good film, even if at times you do feel as if you have walked into a game in which the controller never does what you want it to actually do.

Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnsta’s screenplay is an enjoyable romp, the physicality of throwing the audience member into the heart of the action, surrounded by the dead, the dying and mutilation of two great powerful armies from classical history is to be admired and again whilst there is that computer generated feel to some of the more languished shots, there is no doubting that the story and dialogue does hold the attention completely.

300: Rise of an Empire is one of those rare films which manages to wrap itself utterly around its companion piece as it shows the bigger picture of the war between Greece and Persia that was denied fans in the original film. The placing of certain moments from 300, the aftermath of the holding of Thermoplyae in which 300 Spartan soldiers held their lines against overwhelming odds, the scene in which the traitor is revealed and the moment after the Persian messenger was quickly dispatched make 300: Rise of an Empire a much more entertaining and thought provoking film, even with the abundance of slaughter.

With some of the cast returning from the original film it has that sense of continuality needed to carry of a prequel/sequel and Lena Headley, the same strong consort of King Leonidas gets more of a fleshed out character wise and makes much more sense to see how the Queen of Sparta, Gorgo, would react to certain conditions.

The film is not just about the titanic battle between two titanic powers, the fledgling democracy of Greece and the Persian Empire under the God King Xerxes, it is the battle of wits and for ultimate supremacy between Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistokles, a hero of the battle of Marathon and the superb Eva Green’s Artemisia, one of the very few women, alongside Gorgo, to be named by  Herodotus in his writing. Eva Green captured the essence of the woman completely and showed perfect ability in a very demanding role. To play a strong woman warrior you need a strong actress and again alongside Lena Headley, they don’t come much stronger that Eva Green.

300: Rise of an Empire will not be everybody’s cup of tea but it is a film well worth watching, even if it just fires your imagination to understand the ways of civilisations long since dead.

Ian D. Hall