300: Rise of an Empire
In 2006, the movie 300 hit theaters and brought about a new visual style of combat, incorporating slow motion much more into the fighting scenes and highly-stylized violence to mimic the graphic novel that the movie was based on. Well, here we are eight years later and they’ve decided to create a sequel. We have a new lead hero, a new director, and we don’t really have the source material that the first was able to connect to. There’s a lot of variables that concerned me.
300: Rise of an Empire takes place before, during, and after the movie 300. It runs parallel to 300 for most of the film, showing what the city of Athens was doing while Sparta was preparing to fight the Persians. Our hero Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) is trying to unite Greece but Sparta refuses and hence Leonidas goes off with his 300 men to fight the Persians alone. We only get a few CGI shots of Gerard Butler, but we do see the return of his wife (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones) and storyteller Dilios (David Wenham, Lord of the Rings). Our villain remains Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his second-in-command Artemisia (Eva Green).
I appreciated that this movie served more as a parallel for the most part, rather than a true sequel. We get to see an origin story for Xerxes, as well as a compelling origin for the evil Artemisia that almost makes her sympathetic. Rodrigo Santoro and Eva Green both do a great job at playing the villains, giving us a truly (seemingly) unstoppable force to deal with. Green, who I was unfamiliar with, stole the movie with how absolutely evil she is. On the flipside, Sullivan Stapleton was fine as our hero Themistokles but he wasn’t given much to work with.
What doesn’t work?
About 300 things.
Let’s start with the basics of why most people will see it. They want a flashy and stylized action movie. You get that same style as Zack Snyder brought to the original but this feels like a parody. The blood is ridiculous and it looks horrible. The effects in the original felt more real. They slow down the most mundane of actions, stretching the movie an additional 30 minutes longer than it probably needed to be. Yes, they’re hammering nails, I get it, let’s move it along.
The CGI in general seemed lacking. The greenscreens were obvious, a stand-in for Leonidas was completely fake, and there is a scene with a horse towards the end that had me laughing because of how ridiculous it was.
The writing was also much worse. The original gave you a feeling of “Wow, these guys are hardcore.” But this script made me laugh. Corny one-liners and overdramatic speeches didn’t have the intended effect. And there’s an unnecessary sex scene that came out of nowhere and tanked the middle section of the movie.
And then there’s the ending. I can’t say much about it because the movie didn’t end. I’m not going to spoil anything but you don’t get the conclusion that you deserve. Nothing is resolved. The movie goes to credits and you still have no idea who won the war. Probably the biggest mistake of the movie was ending on that note, completely unresolved.
300 was a revolutionary movie at the time, in terms of style and visuals. 300: Rise of an Empire is a sophomore slump that fails to capture the magic of the first. On a superficial level, some people might appreciate it, but I found the fight scenes (99% of the movie) to be repetitive, overused the slowmotion effect, and the CGI failed to complement the movie in the right ways. The actors did fine but the script they were given was corny and overdramatic. Yes, I know what this movie was supposed to be. Even knowing that, I found very little to enjoy here.