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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Adventure > Swords > Battles > Sequel > Epic > 300 Rise Of An Empire - The Art Of The Film (2014/Titan Books Hardcover/Written by Peter Aperlo/Introduction by Noam Murro)

300 Rise Of An Empire - The Art Of The Film (2014/Titan Books Hardcover/Written by Peter Aperlo/Introduction by Noam Murro (director of the film)/Afterword by Zack Snyder (producer/writer of the film))

Book: A

Titan Books has done it again with this gorgeous coffee-table book-size companion to Warner Bros.' new film 300: Rise of an Empire.

Much like their previous Art of Sucker Punch book, Titan Books has crafted a very detailed companion to the film that is invaluable to fans and collectors like me. The pages therein provide incredible insights on every aspect of the film. From the pre-production sketches, wonderful stories of how the film came to be, character profiles, beautiful portraits by Clay Enos (who also did photography for Snyder's Watchmen), and breakdowns of each major fight sequence in the film. I also suggest listening to the soundtrack by Junkie XL as you flip through the pages!

In the foreword, director Noam Murro explains how creating the film held several difficulties. One was how do you make a sequel to a film in which the main characters from the first film died? and two was how do you follow up the first film? But through the inspiration of Frank Miller and Zack Snyder, he chose to make a film that takes place along the same timeline as the first but at a different place.

Rise of an Empire also focuses more on battles that take place on the high seas - namely the Battle of Artemisium. Zack Snyder, director of the first film, co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on a new graphic novel Xerxes by creator Frank Miller - who is the comic legend behind Sin City and arguably Batman's greatest story The Dark Knight Returns.

The Introduction pages show us several exclusive behind the scenes photos of the actors pumping iron and training for the film and the villain, Xerxes, looking at dailies with the director. In addition, there are beautiful sketches of the ships and set pieces that were prepared for the film. I was happy to see my favorite characters, the masked Persian soldiers, make a return in this film.

The next section is the Dramatis Personae which breaks down the main characters Themistokles, Aeskylos, Scyllias, Calisto, Queen Gorgo, Xerxes, Artemisia, and Ephialtes who is the deranged hunchback from the first film. Each character has a bio breakdown and at least four pages of beautiful photos accompanying. Artemisia is played by the beautiful and badass Eva Green in the film and is the highlight of this section. Also back is the beautiful Lena Headey (from Game of Thrones and Dredd) who returns as Queen Gorgo. This section shows us many of the new characters in the film including Themistokles who is our new hero.

Next is the Battle of Marathon which crafts the story of how Xerxes lost his Father in battle. Included are beautiful conceptual art images of the boats docking on shore during a pouring rain storm, swords clashing, and armies standing await atop rainy hilltops. Also accompanying are before and after shots of the film, showing green screen compositing which is fascinating and helps add to appreciation for the film's look and design.

Persepolis is the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire and the next location in our book which Zack Snyder describes as a city from a fever dream. We are given maps of the city and detailed production sketches, followed by the resting place of Xerxes' father and the story of Xerxes transformation into an unstoppable killing force with God-like power. A very fascinating component to this section is a sweeping wide shot of Xerxes addressing his mass army - a scene that was comprised of a digital matte painting.

The Corinth Council is where our hero Themistokles convinces the other Greek city states to send their ships for the cause. On the next pages we are shown Hellespont, which is home to a massive bridge between Europe and Asia over surging waters where Xerxes and Artemis are forming their army. More awesome concepts of different Persian Soldiers and their artillery are shown followed by a dark look at the city of Sparta. These pages in essence show the battle getting formed on both sides in great detail before the coming pages of war.

Pelion Peninsula and Athens are two other great locations shown in detail in the book and are accompanied by storyboarded sequences and behind the scenes photos of the locations. The Pelion Peninsula is where we get our first look at the massive Persian ships in the film and a look at the extreme detail that went into the design of them. On the chapter devoted to Athens, we are shown a more peaceful and bustling environment where anyone that rise and become a council member.

The Battle of Artemisium is a huge water battle that takes place in the film and really separates it visually from the first film. Zack Snyder and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos both agree that it was what first got them excited about the prospect of making the film.

Despite the help of CGI to help bring the sequence to life, full practical ships were built atop lifts to provide a suitably realistic look. Though the difficulty came in that the ships on both sides were too big to bring in on the sound stages so they had to cut them into sections and bring them in to film. Though it was a challenge to the director and the crew, it was something they were prepared for during the pre-production process of the film.

From here the battle is broken up into three different sections, day one, day two, and day three where we see the span of the battle being fought on sea. Incredible storyboard sequences and images from the film accompany and take us on a visual journey leading to The Hot Gates - a section where Xerxes enjoys his victory over the Spartans thanks to the treachery of the hunchback Ephilaties. We see bloodied images of fallen Spartan soldiers and behind the scene pictures of dead body props that were used in the film.

The Return to Sparta brings us to where the first film ends and the new story continues on. The city is in mourning and Queen Gorgo is informed that her husband is now dead. Avenge him she says and onward the Spartan soldiers fight on to The Battle of Salamis where the film reaches its incredible climax.

The book closes with the Portraits section by Clay Enos and a warm behind the scenes photo of the cast and crew on location. All in all, this book is a great read and is visually stimulating. Whether or not you are a fan of the franchise, this book really showcases the hard work that the cast and crew put in to bring this story to life. I can't wait to see what Titan Books puts out next!

- James Lockhart


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