MRR Review: "300: Rise of an Empire"

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Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
3.5

Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Directed by: Noam Murro
Genre: Action / Drama / War

Fans of the successful historical action film "300" have a treat in store for them with the release of the sequel "300: Rise of an Empire". This follow-up to 2007's worldwide box office smash contains all of the non-stop thrills and excitement of the first film. The director of "300," Zach Snyder, turns over the directorial duties to Noam Murro for the sequel but remains on board as a producer and screen writer. This continuity gives the movie a close connection to its predecessor. The two films are very similar in style, and the new picture is bound to please those who loved the earlier movie.

In ancient Greece, an epic struggle is taking place between the Persian Empire, led by the emperor Xerxes, and the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta. The land battle of Thermopylae, the focus of "300," is part of this war, but other key events are taking place at the same time. "300: Rise of an Empire" follows the action at sea. The naval engagements that occurred at Artemisium and Salamis are the subject of much of the film's narrative.

The solid casting for the film combines actors who played central roles in "300" and actors who are appearing in the story for the first time. Fans of "300" are certain to appreciate the return of performers like Lena Heady and Rodrigo Santoro in "300: Rise of an Empire." The two actors reprise their portrayals of Spartan Queen Gorgo and Persian emperor Xerxes, respectively. Other notable performances come from Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton as Greek General Themistocles and Eva Green as Artemisia.

For many fans, another key element of the movie is the stunning and provocative visual style. The filmmakers use brilliant set design, clever camera work and other advanced techniques to create an extraordinary world that is based on actual history but has some fantastical elements. This compelling combination of both realism and fantasy keeps the audience of the edge of its seat for the entire length of the movie.

One of the innovative techniques from "300" that the director has retained in "300: Rise of an Empire" is the use of slow motion to draw the viewer more deeply into the action. This technique allows the filmmakers to show the battles and one-on-one duels between soldiers of the two sides in amazing detail.

Another key technique is the use of green screen. This method involves filming actors in front of a colored screen, which is blue or green in most cases. Once the scene is shot, a new background is superimposed on the film frame, replacing the blue screen. Using this technique lets the director film a scene indoors and then have the entire scene take place outdoors by replacing the background, a technique frequently used in "300."

Captivated by the powerful storytelling artistry, the audience remains engrossed in the plot as the film proceeds. They watch in fascination as the movie reviews the background of Emperor Xerxes and explores his rise to a position of total authority. The viewer also observes General Themistocles making his plans for battle as the Persian Army approaches the shores of Greece.

Another interesting portion of the film is the story of Artemisia, who is an ally of Persia. She not only offers ships and soldiers to fight for the Persians, she leads her fleet into battle herself. An actual historical figure, Artemisia is shown as a strong and decisive leader who does not flinch in the face of combat. Having such a strong female character at the center of the film is certain to appeal to female movie fans.

Wanting the audience to know as much about the decisions behind the action as possible, the movie cuts routinely between the leaders of both sides. It shows the main characters as they make their preparations and deal with various setbacks. This device lets the audience understand the thinking of each of the key individuals involved in this titanic struggle.

Although "300: Rise of an Empire" has a built-in audience with fans of the first film, the movie's dynamic storytelling and excellent production values make it attractive to all action fans. Anyone who has an interest in the history of warfare is going to appreciate the movie as well. An outstanding example of the action genre, this films offers viewers a chance to explore an important time in history. It also keeps them thoroughly entertained as they soak up the sights and sounds of war in the ancient world.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5