“300: Rise of an Empire” Review

300 RISE OF AN EMPIRE

“You fight much harder than you fuck.”

When I first heard about this 300 “sequel”, I was pretty excited. I was a massive fan of the first film and I couldn’t wait to see how they would continue the story with Sparta’s revenge on Xerxes. What I wasn’t expecting was a sequel (and I use that term lightly) that makes absolutely no progress in the overall scheme of things. Nothing that you’ve seen in the first 300 is continued here and instead we get this undeniably ambitious, but confused follow-up that’s too worried about filling in the blanks about what happened before and during the first movie than to actually give the audience what it truly wanted: a sequel.

The opening to the film was where we find our first glimmers of hope, but also some of the films more glaring flaws. The look of this film compared to the first installment is much more muddled and gloomy, giving it a somewhat ugly look. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice shots, but shooting most of the film during the nighttime was a bad move to begin with. Add to the fact that director Noam Murro (Smart People) doesn’t have anywhere near the visual eye that Zach Snyder did, and you end up with a film that sometimes looks like a direct-to-DVD sequel. Not something I should be saying about a big-budget blockbuster.

The opening, however, showed off the films more stylized and fluid combat scenes, leading to some impressive single-takes of carnage. Sadly, most of the film strays away from hand-to-hand combat in favor of battles at sea. This had the potential to be cool, but the way Murro presents it is in one of the most boring and uninteresting ways imaginable. The music isn’t nearly as powerful here as it was in the first film, and all the set-pieces at sea feel the exact same, leaving us with no tension whatsoever.

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And this wouldn’t be a 300 movie if it wasn’t for some graphic sex scene. And despite the fact that the film is very light of sexuality in general, one scene stood out not only to me, but others who have seen this as well. This scene is between Eva Green (Casino Royale) and Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom) and it has to be one of the most unnecessary and vulgar sex scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Clearly meant to show who has more power, the two of them throw each other around the room, slapping and strangling each other while having sex. The scene came off not only as unintentionally hilarious, but also quite uncomfortable.

But, quite possibly the biggest flaw of the movie is the point that I made earlier: this isn’t a sequel. Yeah, the last twenty minutes do take place after 300. but it doesn’t continue anything from the first film. The film tries to be a prequel, a midquel, and a sequel all at the same time. This was a very ambitious thing to do, but it seems like the filmmakers didn’t even try. Like I said earlier, the action sequences all look the same, but also the Greek soldiers are practically the same as the Spartan soldiers in the first film. Also, Xerxes’ “rebirth” scene was very poorly done, and I feel could have been focused on much more. But, thanks to the short runtime, the film has no time to stop and develop anything, skimming over seemingly pointless events that happened around the events of the first film.

The only saving grace here is Eva Green, playing the role of the antagonist, Artemisia. Not only does she have a reason to hate the Greeks, but she’s also a total badass and had a great screen presence throughout. I, like many others, agree that she was by far the best thing this movie had to offer.

300: Rise of an Empire had an interesting and daring setup, but instead takes the easy way out and glosses over all of its material. Not only did this hurt the story of the film, but it also makes this film’s presence feel unnecessary all together. Did they really have to make this instead of an actual 300 sequel? Hell, I’m almost positive that Xerxes has the same, if not less screen time than he did in the first film, and this movie at one time was titled Xerxes. Obviously, this was a confused project that should never have seen the light of day. At least not in this fashion.

“Let it be shown that we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees!”

2 out of 5

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