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300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Noam Murro
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.4:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2014

I would rather die free than live as a slave.”

Film **

The above quoted line sounds like something we've heard before, only before it was better. Much the same can be said about 300: Rise of an Empire.

This film is not really a sequel or a prequel to the amazing 300, but kind of fills in other gaps. It, like the predecessor, is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, where both novels open up pages of history in fantastic, bloody hyperbole to turn tales of old into modern screen marvels.

Whereas before, we focused on the Spartans and their legendary battle of Thermopylae, this movie focuses on the Athenians, led by Themistocles (Stapleton). It turns out his arrow was the one that inspired the “god king” Xerxes (Santoro) of Persia to wage war against Greece in the first place.

Now that the Spartans and their band of 300 are making their stand, Themistocles pleads with Spartan Queen Gorgo (Headey) and other city-states to unite...for a united Greece is certainly the best chance against the Persian army.

There are battles and fights galore, and one new twist this time is how many of them play at sea, with ramming boats and oceans on fire. Another new twist is that Themistocles' Persian adversary is a dangerous woman, Artemisia (Green).

Apart from that, this movie has little new to show. What was groundbreaking and wondrous in the first film is repeated so often here that it begins to look like parody. The sudden slow motion blood sprays get a little tiresome, even in 3D.

And though they fight well, the Athenians are no Spartans. No group could really compare to that stalwart fighting machine led by King Leonidas. In fact, when the Spartans show up at the end, that was the moment I was just beginning to get excited. It was also the moment when the movie ended.

The film is all about design and effects, and though they are very well done, they pale in comparison to what we've seen before. The stakes seem a little less high, and the surprises are nowhere to be found. The acting is fine, and the message about defending freedom against all tyranny is especially welcome and topical in our world today, but I could “like” a Facebook post that says the same thing without spending the same amount of time.

300: Rise of an Empire is entertaining to a point, but will probably be only first-rate entertainment to those who have never seen the first film.

Video ***1/2

This is a solid 3D transfer from Warner Bros. There is a slight touch of 'ghosting' here and there, but for the most part, the depths are well-rendered and believable. Colors, images, and detail levels are superb throughout. One nitpick: every scene seemed to have little bits of dust, smoke, or some other intrusion to help render the 3D illusion. It worked, but started to get old after awhile.

Audio ****

No complaints here...the almost constant battling equals a remarkable uncompressed 7.1 listen, with strong dynamic range throughout, and dialogue exceptionally well balanced against all the activity.

Features **

There are a few extras on the 2D disc, including looks at how the battle scenes were assembled, the sea wars, the actors' physical training, and some of the real life historical figures (men and women) that inspired the movie.

Summary:

300 may just have been the kind of unique movie experience that couldn't be duplicated. 300: Rise of an Empire delivers more of the same, but nothing more...and really, nothing new. The quality of the 3D Blu-ray disc in this case outshines the quality of the actual film.

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