300: Rise of an Empire 3D Blu-ray Review

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Studio: Legendary Pictures / Cruel and Unusual Films
Running Time: 102 mins
Format: 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray
Number of Disks: 2

Story: 3.5 / 5

Video Quality: 5 / 5

Audio Quality: 5 / 5

Extras: 2.5 / 5

For those who missed 300: Rise of an Empire on the big screen, thinking that it was nothing more than a re-do without Leonidas, now is a good a time as any to learn that you were horribly mistaken.

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel “Xerxes”, the 300 sequel sets out to continue the story without tampering too much with the formula. Yes, it’s brutal, gory, populated with one-dimensional warriors and is filled with breathtaking visuals (this time in glorious 3d). Director Noam Murro learns from all Zack Snyder’s triumphs and builds on them with new characters and ideas. The film comes to Blu-ray in jaw-dropping brilliance – flawless visuals and audio. If you ever needed to be transported back to Sparta, this is the way to do it!

The Story

(taken from Claudia Hauter’s review)

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and running parallel to the events in the first film, 300: Rise of an Empire tells the story from the point of view of the Athenians, culminating in the Battle of Salamis.

Persia is still the antagonistic force, but depth is provided to the characters on the opposing side – even  for the “god-king” Xerxes. This makes some reparation for the vilification that was so glaring in the first, drawing inevitable comparisons to strained relations between the US and Middle East in recent years to the point that the film was banned in Iran.

Many of the same themes are highlighted, albeit with a shift in focus towards brotherhood in combat. This portrayal is brought across most strongly in words, delivered by Themistocles, the general trying to unite all of Greece. Despite this focus, the camaraderie of the men is lacking, and was stronger in the previous film. The father/son theme is also re-introduced, but feels forced and extraneous. Despite a lot of the supporting characters feeling superfluous, the cast does a fine job – especially considering the return to the challenge of green screen work that the film employs.

As much as digital cinema has advanced, and offered us a plethora of visually remarkable films in this medium, it still has a long way to go in losing its veneer of superficiality. That being said, it does serve to stylise the film. This is often the intent with films such as this, which – although portraying historical  events – stretch dramatic license to its limits. Lending a hand to the grandeur and brutal spectacle is a majestic and sweeping score varying from the first, which was interspersed with harder, modern tracks to heighten its style – effectively serving the action, whereas the music here serves emotion.

The passion of battle and command is delivered in a fine performance by Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton, as Themistocles (where would comic book/graphic novel adaptations be without the Aussies). Amidst the tumult and turmoil of burning cities and violent seas, he grounds the film. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo. To her credit, she does such a good job in Game of Thrones that it is difficult to dissociate her from Cersei. But, although both characters are stubborn and proud, the malice of Cersei is not present and Queen Gorgo is beautifully resurrected and given a chance to shine.

The pinnacle of the entire film is Artemisia, commander of the Persian navy, played with just the right amount of intensity by Eva Green. She is a rich and powerful character not only because, through her and Xerxes, gender roles are subverted, but also because – whether implicitly or inadvertently – she is the wisest and truest character. She lays bare the ugly truth of war, however briefly, while remaining true to herself and fighting to the end for what she believes in.

Although we should be wary of historical inaccuracy, punted ideology and bias, it’s not really that  heavy and delivers on every front as entertainment. This is not Sparta, but is worthy of its predecessor. The action is fantastic on an epic scale, breasts are bared, men with six packs shout a lot, people die spectacularly, the beasts (keep a look out for the awesome, new ones) are magnificent and the front kick returns, delivering a blow as great as the film.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGEERBDelH8′]

Video Quality

It doesn’t take a HD expert to know that 300: Rise of an Empire on blu-ray is nothing short of stunning. Originally filmed on a Red Epic, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode transfer highlights and lights up every single bloody detail. As with the original, the sequel continues the desaturated and boosted contrast stylized look that made the film so popular. But gone is the artificial grain used (to great extents) in the original in favour of a clearer, crisp image. It also favours deep blacks and rich reds, like the former release.

The film, which wasn’t shot natively in 3D, is really well converted in post-production. Everything has a large amount of depth, separating objects in the foreground and background. Ever so often blood splatters across the screen and pops out just enough to remind you that you’re watching a 3D film. Whatsmore, various weaponry, especially swords, pop out of the screen and make you appreciate the fight sequences that much more. The 3D is quite rewarding for viewers, especially those who love to show off their home cinemas.

Audio Quality

The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is as aggressive as they come. During the battle sequences, sword fighting, chanting, the screams of dying men all balanced over a bed of epic music will give you system a good workout. The soundtrack uses all seven channels effectively, separating different elements of the audio to each corner. Prepare to be completely submerged into the onscreen war.

Extras

The Blu-ray comes with the average extras. It’s not bad, but it’s not that great. We’re offered the usual behind the scenes, a few history lessons and a look into how the cast prepared for their roles. I’d much rather have seen more from the comic books and a few ideas into where the story is heading next.

Behind the Scenes: The 300 Effect
Real Leaders & Legends
Women Warriors
Savage Warships
Becoming a Warrior 

Conclusion

Overall, 300: Rise of an Empire shines on 3D Blu-ray. It just so much fun and you’ll find yourself sitting through it again and again. Sure, it’s not as great as the original, but it does well to live alongside it. If you enjoyed the film then you would want to own it on 3D Blu-ray. It’s that simple. There isn’t a better way to enjoy it. This is reference-quality audio and video presentation.

Blu-ray

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