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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 12, 2014

300: Rise Of An Empire Movie Review: Eva Greene Overshadows Lead Actor Sullivan Stapleton

THE TESTOSTERONE and adrenalin fuelled “300” was a big hit in 2006 so it’s not surprising they now have “300: Rise of an Empire”, which is both a prequel and a sequel as it showed what happened before and after Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his men were killed in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The first one was directed by Zack Snyder, the new one by Noam Munro. But once again, we see the same hyper-stylized scenes of men with six-pack abs, cringe-worthy violence complete with gory decapitations and spurting blood, spectacular CGI effects in battle scenes but, somehow, you get the feeling that the original has more energy and style than its predecessor.

With Leonidas of Sparta now dead, a new hero is presented in Themistocles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) , who is shown killing King Darius of Persia when the Persians first attempted to invade Greece in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The son of Darius, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), saw his father being killed and vows to take vengeance. He is counselled by Artemisia (Eva Green), a former courtesan who engineers his transformation into the God King after submerging himself in an evil cave with a mystical pool.

Themistocles has a smaller army compared to that of Xerxes and Artemisia. He asks the help of Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), wife of Leonidas, but his calls for a unified Greece are rejected. Still, he manages to win in two battles. He’s losing hope when he faces Artemisia and her much bigger fleet in the Battle of Salamis near Athens in 480 BC. This is the climax of the movie that springs a surprise to the viewers and to Artemisia.

As a new instalment in the franchise, what is lacking in “Rise of the Empire” is the iconic presence of Gerard Butler who delivered forceful fire-and-brimstone speeches in the original. His replacement, Sullivan Stapleton (an Aussie actor known for the TV series “Strike Back”) as Themistocles, simply pales in comparison as he lacks charisma. He is quickly overshadowed by the more compelling presence and performance of Eva Green who’s so convincing as the ferocious woman warrior Artemisia. She seems like she’s capable of swallowing her foes alive and is easily the best reason to see this movie which actually demonstrates women power until the end.

Just like the original, “Rise of an Empire” has some fairly impressive visuals, like the giant moon during the final battle. But we saw it in IMAX 3D and the extra dimension is not effectively utilized other than in scenes where globs of blood seem to splatter out from the screen.