300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE // Eva Green is a sexpot. Taking on the role of the villain Artemisia in the somewhat sequel to “300” (more of a side-quel as the timelines run parallel), “300: Rise Of An Empire” proves that Eva has the sinister vivacity that makes her a highlight under the right circumstances. Without her, the film would have been extremely lacking, so kudos to the casting director, allowing Eva to basically carry the film, helping to bring out memorable performances in Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles and Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes. Apart from one steamy, erotic tumble with Stapleton, for the most part, Eva commands the role simply with her domineering presence and impeccable delivery. But take her out of the limelight and you are left with a patchwork quilt of Greek mythology ideas that just barely get the filmmakers vision across.

The film opens as a prequel, telling how King Xerxes became the God of Persia at the hands of Themistocles  prior to bringing the fight to Sparta’s King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 soldiers in the first film. Themistocles becomes the guiding force of the Greek’s navy, taking the fight to Xerxes’ right hand woman, the aforementioned Artemisia, at sea, despite their obvious disadvantage in being outnumbered. Setting itself apart from its predecessor by being at sea, the film uses the stylings of the first Frank Miller adaptation but adds some of its own flair. Where the first film’s production design was mostly oranges and reds, with the ocean theme, the design leans more on aquatic colors like blues and greens. The reds are still seen with each swing of a blade or shot of an arrow, producing ridiculous crimson sprays of blood as if a paintbrush loaded with red paint was whipped across a canvas. Despite its reliance on over-the-top, stylized violence, “300: Rise Of An Empire” is just different enough to remain memorable and launches Eva Green that much further into the spotlight.

[Directed by Noam Murro] [R] [102 min] [7 March 2014]    08four-stars

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