300: Rise of an Empire (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 16-Jul-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The 300 Effect
Featurette-Real Leaders and Legends
Featurette-Women Warriors
Featurette-Savage Warships
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Becoming a Warrior
Trailer-Godzilla
More…-DVD and Ultraviolet Code
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 102:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Noam Murro
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Sullivan Stapleton
Eva Green
Lena Headey
Callan Mulvey
Jack O’Connell
Rodrigo Santoro
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Junkie XL


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Ten years after the Athenians led by Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) defeated a Persian invasion of Greece at Marathon, god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) leads a massive army into northern Greece, intending to subdue all the Greek city states. Sailing along the coast parallel with the army is the huge Persian fleet commanded by the deadly female warrior Artemisia (Eva Green). While the 300 Spartans of King Leonidas fight the Persian army at Thermopylai, the Greek ships led by Themistokles for three days battle the Persian fleet at Artemisium. But with the betrayal and death of the 300 Spartans the Greek ships that remain retreat to Salamis, off the coast of Athens. As Xerxes burns Athens to the ground, Themistokles appeals to Leonidas’ widow Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) of Sparta to join the fight, initially without success. At Salamis the Persian and Greek fleets, as well as Themistokles and Artemisia, engage in a battle that will decide the fate of Greece.

     300: Rise of an Empire is the companion piece to 300; that film was directed by Zack Snyder who is co-screenwriter / producer of 300: Rise of an Empire, handing the directing duties to Noam Murro who is mostly a director of commercials with only one feature, Smart People (2008), on his resume. To my mind in 300: Rise of an Empire Murro lacks the touch of Snyder; the film is not as inventive as 300 and in the character of Themistokles (as played by Stapleton) it certainly lacks the charisma that Gerard Butler brought to 300. However what 300: Rise of an Empire has in spades is spectacle, blood, action, chaos and entertainment.

     300: Rise of an Empire starts with an action sequence at the battle on Marathon that includes rain, mud, buffed up half naked warriors, spraying blood, severed limbs, swords, spears, arrows and slow motion. And the film seldom lets up from there, throwing in the sea battles at Artemisium and Salamis involving storms at sea, explosions, drownings, ships torn in half and more blood and chaos. At only 100 minutes, 300: Rise of an Empire is certainly not bloated, but the concentration upon spectacle and action limits character development to nothing and the only attempt to add to the story a little, the “conflict” between a father Scyllias (Callan Mulvey) and his son Calisto (Jack O’Connell), feels superficial and tacked on. However, in the character of Artemisia, 300: Rise of an Empire features one of the most delicious and deadly female warrior villains in a long time and Eva Green plays her to the hilt! Too bad if the meeting between Artemisia and Themistokles, and their sex scene (which is more a hand to hand combat than anything else), never happened in reality: it should have!!

    300: Rise of an Empire is firmly in the 300 school in the way it looks. It was filmed totally on a soundstage in front of a green screen, the sea battles taking place without any water at all. The water, most ships, backgrounds and blood were all added later digitally and the film colour manipulated, adding greys, or golden yellows, to scenes so that nothing looks realistic, which is the point I guess. However, the action sequences do look stunning as the cinematographer, New Zealand born Simon Duggan, is an experienced hand in both action and CGI dependant films, having shot features such as I, Robot (2004), Die Hard 4.0 (2007) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) as well as The Great Gatsby (2013). He obviously knows his way around CGI action, and it shows.

     300: Rise of an Empire, no less than 300 is not history, and does not pretend to be. Instead, it takes historical events and historical characters and places them within a fantasy world where the rules of gravity, and space, do not exist. The film also changes the historical fates of named characters, some dying at a time and place where historically they did not, and adds other characters into battles where, as far as we know, they were not present. However, 300: Rise of an Empire does keep at least close enough to the events and battles of the Persian invasion of Greece to be recognisable. But this is a film where facts do not, and should not, get in the way of the action and the spectacle. Hold on tight and enjoy the exhilarating thrill ride that is 300: Rise of an Empire.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     300: Rise of an Empire is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, close to the 2.35:1 original theatrical ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Filmed using digital Red One cameras, the print is sharp and detailed with every dirt mark, blood stain and whisker finely detailed. Colours are manipulated and unnatural in that 300 way; some reds and yellows are heightened, but the sea always looks grey and wintery. Sprays of crimson blood are often in slow motion, sometimes striking the camera lens. Blacks and shadow detail are superb. There are absolutely no marks or artefacts, but many scenes are very glary with the light source behind the actors. Given that the film was shot on a sound stage, where lighting is rigged, this was deliberate for effect, such as the slanting rays of the sun or the moon. I think it was overdone, and ended up distracting, but this is not the fault of the Blu-ray.

    Subtitles in English for the hearing impaired are available plus a wide range of European languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of a massive English DTS- HD MA 7.1, French, Italian, Spanish and English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1.

     I do not have a 7.1 set up so could not get the full benefit of this audio track, but even on my 5.1 it was simply awesome! Dialogue was occasionally muffled by the effects when the subtitles helped. The surrounds and rears were always in full blast with sea and weather effects, the clash of swords and other weapons, battle cries, the crash of ships, the whiz of arrows and the score. There are plenty of directional and panning effects as well. The sub-woofer ably supported the crunch of ships coming together, the explosions, combat hits and the music.

     The original score by Junkie XL was bombastic and at other times sounded Hans Zimmer-like with lower key cues and choral effects. It enhanced the action mood of the film and was well represented in the mix. With the closing credits came War Pigs by Black Sabbath, which should not have worked in theory, but which seemed totally appropriate!

     The lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailer

    A trailer for Godzilla (2:26) plays at start up. It cannot be selected from the menu.

The 300 Effect

    This is divided into four behind the scenes featurettes. They are quite substantial, and better than average EPK type featurettes consisting of film footage from both 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire, green screen and blue screen on set footage and interview snippets with a very large range of crew, producers and cast members. For example, the first featurette 3 Days in Hell runs 7:08 minutes yet manages to include comments from the director Noam Murro, producer and co-screenwriter Zack Snyder, 6 producers, the co-screenwriter and 5 cast members, including Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro and Lena Headey. Most of them reappear in other featurettes. The featurettes are:

Real Leaders and Legends (22:52)

     With historians Bettany Hughes, Victor Davis Hanson, Dr Ilias Iliopoulos and Boris Rankov. 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire are not history; they are based on facts and real people but are “not tied to the historical record”, a version of a story which is a version of the legend which is a version of historical events. This featurette gives a brief outline of the Persian Empire, the genesis of the conflict between Athens and Persia and some of the details of the war, including present day footage of Artemisium and Salamis, where the naval battles took place. Worthwhile.

Women Warriors (12:22)

     Some information about the position of women in the Ancient world, and discussion about the characters of Queen Gorgo and Artemisia as portrayed in the film being “very loosely based on real women”.

Savage Warships (10:36)

     A interesting look at the history and controversy about trireme warships with the historians mentioned above and the production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. Includes footage of the building of a full size trireme in the 1980s and the sea trials conducted in 1990.

Becoming a Warrior (4:39)

     Footage of the physical training and fight practices conducted by the actors prior to the filming. Added comments by the lead fitness trainer.

DVD and Ultraviolet Code

    The Blu-ray comes with a DVD of the film and an ultraviolet code for digital download of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This release is the same as the Region A US version of 300: Rise of an Empire except for some language and subtitle options.

Summary

     300: Rise of an Empire is a film with plenty of action sequences with buffed up half naked warriors, blood, severed limbs, swords, spears, arrows, slow motion, ships being rammed and torn apart, explosions and chaos. Sullivan Stapleton lacks the charisma that Gerard Butler brought to 300 but in Eva Green’s Artemisia we have one of the most delicious and deadly female villains in a long time. 300: Rise of an Empire may not be history but it is action and spectacle ramped up to eleven!

     The video is excellent except for the deliberate glare, the audio is awesome. The extras are worthwhile and are the same as available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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