Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blu-ray Review - 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014) [Warner Brothers]

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD

The Movie

I have to be honest, up until this past week, I had not ever seen Zack Snyder's 300. I was very aware of its existence, but something about the the fervor amongst its fans, and their seemingly endless spouting of lines that carried (to me) more machismo than the most ridiculous 1980s action films, just turned me off. As such, when I heard that the movie was getting a prequel/sequel, I wasn't too interested. However, after 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE hit theaters, I started to hear about how crazy it was, with people telling me that I needed to see it with my own eyes to believe the craziness contained within it. Admittedly, I got curious, and so I figured, what the hell... I've now seen both 300 and RISE OF AN EMPIRE, and I can confirm that RISE is indeed a crazy, amplified version of the original film, and I think that's probably why I enjoyed it a lot more.

To me, 300 is a beautiful film to look at. It's like Zack Snyder intended for every frame of the movie to look like an old Roman-Greco painting, and I can respect that. However, I can only take so much slow motion footage of shirtless men with perfectly sculpted abs running with their mouths open. And, while the film is action-heavy, the brutality failed to come across fully because the camera tended to shy away from the blood. That's very much not the case in RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Sure, we still have droves of shirtless dudes running around, but all of the violence in RISE OF AN EMPIRE is brutal as hell. People are stabbed, shot with arrows, burned alive, and decapitated en mass. It's like Director Noam Murro wanted to capture the spirit of 300 and turn it into an exploitation film., and I kind of love how it plays out. I have to admit, I was surprised by a lot of things in the movie, and I found myself wondering aloud, "How the hell did they convince the studio to let them do this?!"

In fact, RISE OF AN EMPIRE pushes things so far at times that it almost becomes a parody. If you thought that the first film had over-the-top performances, than you will probably have to pick your jaw up off the floor when you see the characters here. The clear standout is Eva Green, who plays the evil Artemisia, arguably the big bad villain of the film. Forget about Xerxes, Artemisia is the one that you need to watch out for, and Green clearly revels in the pulpy material, fully committing to the role and playing it with such gusto that I couldn't help but get caught up in her madness. Hell, at one point, she even makes out with a severed head. Yup, it's that kind of party.

And that's not even the craziest moment in RISE OF AN EMPIRE. There are plenty on that level, but in particular, there is a sex scene between Green and Sullivan Stapleton (who plays the hero, Themistokles) that is one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed. Imagine a WWE wrestling match between two people having sex, and you might be able to get an idea. The term "Rape-Fight" is now a real thing. I've seen a lot of lurid material, but some of the crazy stuff in RISE just takes the cake.

 On the whole, I don't think that RISE OF AN EMPIRE is a particularly good movie. However, it was entertaining as hell, and it flew by for me; especially compared to my experience with 300 only a couple of days earlier. I enjoyed the way that the film intertwined itself with its predecessor, and I loved the ridiculous, over-the-top action and gore. And, hey, any movie where we get to see Eva Green naked is obviously worth watching. Fans of the original might find this film to be a less artistic attempt at sequelizing a movie they love, but I think it's almost better than 300, and I enjoyed all of the excess that it offered.

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

Warner Brothers brings 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE home on Blu-ray in a DVD/Blu Combo Pack. The set also comes with a digital copy of the film and a slipcover. There aren't a ton of special features, but what is here is certainly worth watching.

Video Quality (5/5)

While the movie may not be as visually stunning as the first film, it's certainly an effects-heavy ordeal, with epic battles and highly stylized set-pieces. Luckily, Warner's transfer here is flawless. The 1080p AVC-encoded image is stunning, and is certainly reference-quality. Whether you like the movie or not, it's hard to argue that the picture on this Blu-ray could look any better than it does.

Audio Quality (5/5)

As with the video on the disc, RISE OF AN EMPIRE's 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is amazing. This reference-quality track will shake your house to pieces when played on the right sound system. The surrounds are put to god use, fully enveloping you in the battles, and everything is crystal clear. Damn near perfect.

Extra Features (3/4)

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE has a handful of special features. All of them are good, but none of them are outstanding. Fans of the film will enjoy what's here, but it is certainly less than what was included on the Digibook edition of the first film that was released in 2009.

  • Behind the Scenes: The 300 Effect (~30 minutes): A general overview of the production's history. Everything from the genesis to the effects-work is contained here; though none of it is very in-depth.
  • Real Leaders & Legends (~23 minutes): A nice piece that compares the fictionalized elements of the movie to the "true" events that it was based on.
  • Women Warriors (~12 minutes): A shorter piece focusing on Eva Green and Lena Headey's characters
  • Savage Warships (~11 minutes): Discusses the Greek ships and how they were used during battle throughout the ages.
  • Becoming a Warrior (~5 minutes): The cast learns to kick peoples' butts.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Warner's Blu-ray release of 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is a great package. The Video and Audio are refence-quality and are sure to please any fan of the film. There are also a handful of well-done extras that are fun to watch. Your opinion on the movie itself will really dictate your overall opinion of the disc, but there's no denying that it looks and sounds fantastic. Warner continues to deliver quality discs of both their catalog titles and their new films.

Blu-ray Score


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