The Valdosta Daily Times
“300: Rise of an Empire” (Action/War: 1 hour, 42 minutes)
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Noam Murro
Rated: R (Extreme violence, profanity, sexuality and nudity)
Movie Review: “Rise of an Empire” adds more to the story reveal in “300” (Director Zack Snyder, 2006). Its setting takes place before, during and after the one observed in 2006’s “300.”
“Rise of an Empire” offers insight into several characters and their roles as dominant players in wars between Persians and Greeks. Athenian Themistocles (Stapleton) leads the Greeks against the mighty Persian army of Xerxes (Santoro). Themistocles is a politician and naval strategist. He mounts a good war against the Persians at sea in the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., but Xerxes sends Artemisia (Green), his best commander, to face the Greeks. Artemisia is ruthless and winning, so Themistocles must try every strategy he can, including begging fellow Greek brethren, the Spartans, for assistance.
This is neither a sequel nor prequel because it occurs during the same time as “300,” about the Battle of Thermopylae featuring the Spartans led by King Leonidas. “Rise of an Empire” is much weaker than its predecessor. The story is a muddle. It combines several story arcs that clash. Several characters’ histories become three stories that merge in unneeded and unconvincing manners.
That written, the film does entertain. The battle scenes are bloody with blood splattering everywhere. The visual effects, as with its predecessor, are brilliant. The film is better in 3-D. However prominent these concepts are, they make storytelling secondary. Gym-clad bodies and action sequences make for mild entertainment when an ordered, intellectual story is missing.
Grade: C (Chaotic rise of an empire.)
“Son of God” (Religion: 2 hours, 18 minutes)
Starring: Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah, and Sebastian Knapp
Director: Christopher Spencer
Rated: PG-13 (Intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and sequences of violence)
Movie Review: This story chronicles the life of Jesus of Nazareth from his teachings, crucifixion and resurrection. The presentation is inspiring, but it all plays like CliffNotes of the New Testament.
Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus Christ. He does so with a nice straightforward appeal. However, this film fails to capitalize because of editing.
Scenes appear as spliced moments; moments put together to give a rough overview of the life of Jesus. This condensed version barely gives one a chance to know some of the characters. If one did not know that Jesus traveled with his Apostles, one would wonder who the dozen men and one woman are traveling with him. Sure, one knows they are his followers, but the film never does clue viewers in on who is who.
While the production quality and lead actor are superb, the film plays as an overview rather an adequate portrayal of Jesus’ life according to the Bible. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) did a better job by just focusing on a part of Jesus’ life. Sharing just part of this grand story is better than trying to work within a two-hour timeframe.
Grade: C+ (Inspiring, even if brief.)