DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Noam Murro
Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro
Writing Credits:
Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad

For Vengeance. For Glory.

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

Box Office:
$110 million
Opening Weekend
$45,038,460 on 3,470 Screens
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 6/24/2014

• “The 300 Effect” Featurettes
• “Real Leaders and Legends” Featurette
• “Women Warriors” Featurette
• “Savage Warships” Featurette
• “Becoming a Warrior” Featurette
• Preview
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

300: Rise of an Empire [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 22, 2014)

Given the enormous success of 2007’s 300, a sequel made sense. However, given that most of its main characters died at the film’s end, such an enterprise became a stretch.

Seven years after the original, the franchise solved that issue and returned with 2014’s 300: Rise of an Empire. In a preface, we learn that Persian King Darius (Igal Naor) sent his massive army to subdue the Greeks. However, Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) used shock tactics to surprise and overwhelm the Persians. In the midst of this battle, Themistokles also managed to mortally wound Darius.

On his deathbed, Darius warned his son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) to leave the Greeks alone, but – as we know from the first movie – the younger man ignored this advice. This occurred largely via the influence of warrior Artemesia (Eva Green), as she convinced Xerxes that he could become a god and overcome their foes. Artemesia also eliminated all of Xerxes’ confidants so she can become his only counselor.

Back in Greece at the same time as the events of 300, Themistokles appeals to his peers to generate the military needed to fight off the renewed threat from the Persians. With a ramshackle navy, he takes to the sea and leads the defense and Artemesia and her massive force.

Though 300 Zack Snyder director remained involved with Empire as producer and co-screenwriter, he turned over the reins to Noam Murro. Not that I suspect the viewer will be able to tell the difference, as everything about Empire emulates its more successful predecessor.

Indeed, Empire so closely hews to the 300 template that I felt tempted to simply cut and paste my comments about the original film. If you liked 300, that’s probably a good thing, as you’ll find plenty more of the earlier movie’s overwrought theatrics and slow-motion violence.

But if you didn’t care for 300, you’ll find nothing in Empire to change your mind. Empire lacks much of a real narrative, as it focuses a lot more on backstory than it does on the development of “current events”. The movie uses a whole lot of time to set up various characters, and I should probably appreciate that, as it gives us the exploration absent from the rest of the film. Nonetheless, the extended prologue feels fairly unnecessary and seems to exist just to pad the movie.

Once we make it to the meat of the tale, we find plenty of the same old ultraviolence from the first flick. Empire does next to nothing to develop its characters, so most come across as thinly-depicted stick figures. Of the bunch, only Artemesia threatens to display a pulse; she doesn’t become all that interesting either, but the movie gives her something of an arc and a personality. All the rest remain flat.

That was true in the first film as well, though at least Gerard Butler managed to add some charisma to 300’s lead. Stapleton fails to develop similar charm for Themostokles, so he seems nearly anonymous in the part. Except for Green, no one here creates characters who seem like real personalities; they’re one-dimensional.

As was the case in 300, Empire overuses slow-motion to an extreme. I suspect that if the movie played only in real time, it’d probably last about an hour; we get so much slo-mo that it becomes comical.

All of this exists for the stylized violence but it seems pointless. With its emphasis on “gore porn”, the movie comes across more like one long visual effects test reel. The slow-motion theatrics do nothing to add to the drama or action; they just seem like flashy visuals for their own sake.

If the idea of “300 at sea” appeals to you, then you might enjoy Empire. I hoped the sequel would alter its predecessor’s template enough to take advantage of the story’s potential strengths, but that doesn’t occur, so we’re left with another hyper-stylized but leaden tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus B-

300: Rise of an Empire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a terrific transfer.

Across the board, the movie displayed excellent definition. Sharpness consistently remained rock-solid, without a hint of softness on display. I saw no jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws failed to appear as well.

Like the original movie, Empire went with a highly stylized palette. Much of the film opted for a golden tone, though some teal and grey tints also dominated. These looked appropriate given the design choices. Blacks seemed deep and full, and low-light shots came across as smooth and concise. Everything about this image impressed.

I also liked the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate, which was often. The movie’s various battle sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a dynamic manner.

Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.

Audio quality always seemed strong. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.

When we shift to extras, we start with The 300 Effect. This domain contains four featurettes: “3 Days in Hell” (7:08), “Brutal Artistry” (9:08), “A New Breed of Hero” (4:49) and “Taking the Battle to Sea” (8:52). In these, we hear from director Noam Murro, producers Mark Canton, Gianni Nunnari, Bernie Goldmann and Deborah Snyder, co-screenwriter/producer Zack Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad, executive producer Thomas Tull, co-producer Wesley Coller, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, Scanline VFX supervisor Bryan Hirota, visual effects supervisor Richard E. Hollander, property master Dirk Buchmann, costume designer Alexandra Byrne, author/historian Bettany Hughes, historian Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos, second unit director/stunt coordinator Damon Caro, and actors Rodrigo Santoro, Sullivan Stapleton, Lena Headey, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin, Callan Mulvey and Eva Green.

The shows cover story/characters and connections to the first film, cast and performances, visual design, effects, props and costumes, and shooting action sequences. The featurettes don’t dig into the subjects with great depth, but they contribute a mix of useful notes.

A few more featurettes ensue. Real Leaders and Legends goes for 22 minutes, 52 seconds and offers notes from Hughes, Zack Snyder, Johnstad, Deborah Snyder, Iliopoulos, military historian Victor Davis Hanson and naval historian Boris Rankov. The program looks at the history behind the story told in Empire. The piece moves well and gives us some good insights.

In the 12-minute, 22-second Women Warriors, we hear from Hanson, Coller, Headey, Green, Hughes, Canton, Tull, Nunnari, and Deborah Snyder. “Warriors” provides thoughts about the Artemesia and Gorgo characters as well as the actors’ performances. The show mixes history and movie topics in a satisfying way.

Savage Warships lasts 10 minutes, 36 seconds and features Tatopoulos, Nunnari, Canton, Goldmann, Rankov, Hanson, Hughes, Hirota and Trireme Trust’s Vassilis Dovas. As expected, this one examines the design and depiction of the movie’s sea-going vessels. It offers another pretty solid look behind the scenes.

Finally, we find Becoming a Warrior. It occupies four minutes, 39 seconds with info from Murro, Deborah Snyder, Santoro, Headey, Zack Snyder, Canton, Nunnari, Pleavin, Green, Goldmann, Tull, Mulvey, lead fitness trainer Mark Twight, and actor Hans Matheson. “Warrior” tells us of physical training for the actors. This becomes the least interesting of the featurettes, as it doesn’t give us much substance.

The disc opens with an ad for Jupiter Ascending. No trailer for Empire shows up here.

The package also includes a DVD copy of Empire. This comes with none of the Blu-ray’s extras.

If viewers expect anything new or creative from 300: Rise of an Empire, they won’t find it, as the film offers a virtual clone of its predecessor. This means a lot of slow-motion violence and little actual story. The Blu-ray delivers excellent picture and audio along with a minor set of supplements. Although this becomes a superb disc to show off your home theater, the movie itself does little for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 13
9 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main