“300: Rise of an Empire” – Behold the Incredible Eva Green!

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The sensationally witless, blood gushing 2007 action epic film “300” provided a robust escapist entertainment through an historical reenactment with a testosterone-fueled underdog story. The bared torsos, carnage, bloodshed, sex and over-the-top dialogues cohered to give us a ripping good yarn. Seven years before, the movie took the global box office by storm (earned $456.1 million worldwide), but still, when producer Mark Canton approached the Warner Bros. executives with an ideal of a sequel, their response was: “Everyone died, so how can there be a sequel?” In fact, every one of us might have thought the same. However, Canton along producer/director Zack Snyder remained reluctant and found their answer, when Frank Miller (“300” was based on his graphic novel) came up with an idea for continuing the story. The idea expands upon the basic story and has very much of the same grunting, and spilling of CGI blood, except for one better distinction: the magnificent Eva Green.

The later arriving prequel +sequel “300: Rise of an Empire”, directed by new comer Noam Murro, although lacks the freshness of the first, tries to move in tandem with its predecessor. Taking place parallel, the hero this time is gentle-spirited, toughly built Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). He is an Athenian general and like Leonidas, resorts to battling Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santoro) Persian armies. Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) refuses to help the Greeks. There is also a back-story explaining how Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) came to the throne with the able assistance of his chief naval warrior, Artemisia (Eva Green). While Xerxes is facing the 300 Spartans, Artemisia fights against a small navy force commanded by Themistocles. Soon, Themistocles’ army gets decimated by the sheer volume of forces controlled by Artemisia. It also seems that she is holding a vicious grudge against the Greeks.

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Although Gerard Butler didn’t become a great star after “300”, the absence of his character is keenly felt here. Themistocles character looks very mundane and his pep talks are nowhere near fiery talks of Leonidas. However, the insertion of Artemisia gives us a bad gal, who shows indefatigable toughness, which sometimes exceeds her male-counterparts. Eva Green relishes this opportunity of playing villain and delivers a performance that demolishes the stereotyped gender dynamics. She utters the dialogues with a mischievous tweak and does more things than an all-powerful enchantress.

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The narrative of “300” was more like myth-making exercise and upped the odds at every turn. But, the narrator of “Rise of an Empire” rather than pondering over the complexities of this war, ruminates over fathers and sons. The script also attempts to mine the first film’s touchstones, like the Leonidas kick. Director Murro matches Snyder’s style and rightly ditches the broader edges of previous tale, which was populated by giants, monsters and mystics. The slow-motion slaughter shots doesn’t look fabulous like in “300”, but was rendered artfully. The battle scenes provide the best guilty pleasure and the vertiginous vistas of heaving seas have a mythic, dreamlike quality to it.

“300: Rise of an Empire” doesn’t have the simmering intensity of its predecessor. Nonetheless its vampish antagonist and powerful special effects provides a worthy enlivening movie experience.

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