300: Rise of an Empire

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Release: Friday, March 7, 2014

[Theater]

Two things you must be comfortable with in order to properly enjoy the latest Frank Miller graphic novel adaptation: a whole lot of crimson red and a whole lot of Eva Green. If you’re at least cool with the second, then there’s hope for you still as you stand in line waiting to buy a ticket to 300: Rise of an Empire.

It goes without saying that you’ve seen the original, so if consistency is what you seek in your 2014 experience, you’ll be left mostly satisfied. Rise of an Empire shares in the original’s gleeful bloodletting and it rejoices in the opportunity to strip 21st Century male models down to their undies and to empower them with gigantic swords and shields made from some material appropriately manly. . .like, cast iron. Or something. They all then get into a consistent (and pretty manly) fight that ends up constituting half of the runtime. While all of this is going on your I.Q. is taking a pretty consistent beating in the process. On these fronts, the new film delivers.

Rather than taking the risk of telling a story completely removed and distinct from that of the film that preceded it, Rise of an Empire benefits from simply increasing the size of the stage. This strategy is not exactly ground-breaking, but it’s a tactic that helps the sequel provide the fun it ought to. Clearly, with the extensive amount of time spent on slow-motion dramatizations of killing blows and the like, there was barely material enough to warrant a second, full-length feature film. Not to mention, at least half of this one is spent doing battle rather than using time to explain things — with hindsight this was another good decision.

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We rely on Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in the opening scene to fill us in on certain details that will not only give the upcoming story context but also help make a few things clearer about what happened years prior to the events of 300. Following the murder of King Darius I of Persia by General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a true evil was born when Darius’ son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), filled with a rage only emo kids can identify with, dunked himself in a bath of what appeared to be liquefied gold and transformed himself into a powerful and terrifying god-king. The narration continues: in the ensuing years, Xerxes made it his top priority to tear Greece apart with brute force, using vengeance as his guiding spirit, and confidence that no one can challenge his authority as his motivation to continue.

Now Greece’s last fighting chance lies within Themistokles and his decision-making. He believes their best chance of surviving a massive attack from the Persians would be to unite as one, and he turns to Sparta and to Gorgo for support. Unfortunately he has just missed Leonidas as he has led 300 of his men out of the area, and Gorgo is reluctant to side with the Greeks. Themistokles, ever determined to mount a defensive against the incoming Persians, does manage to gather a fleet of ships and leads the charge out into the Aegean Sea, where they are to confront a massive Navy commanded by the vengeful and bloodthirsty Artemisia (Green).

While tipping its hat to the original, the saga branches out and onto open waters in a particularly brutal and extended action sequence. Themistokles and several thousand Greek craftsmen-turned-warriors put their lives on the line in a gloriously bloody and cartoonishly stylized battle that rivals anything seen in 300. Every so often there are a few more nuggets of information that connect the original to this “sequel,” though the majority of what happens beyond the halfway mark can be categorized as glorified stunt work and crimson red CGI.

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The threat of Artemisia is almost without question the strength of this overstylized bloodbath. And why shouldn’t it be? Green clearly relishes the opportunity to play evil. A good portion of the film proves she can be convincingly psychotic; sometimes her lines are excruciatingly cliché, but never does she come across disingenuous or disinterested in what kind of role she’s playing here. The same cannot be said for Stapleton’s Themistokles, and while he’s been given rather large shoes to fill by essentially becoming this year’s Leonidas, this is an actor who can’t win affections nearly as quickly. He’s no meat-headed brute, but he’s not exactly an inspiration, either. Unfortunately he’s at the center of the film’s attention and the lack of star power is to blame for a lot of the film’s lack of impact.

No one will ever consider the writing of 300 award-winning, but by comparison Rise of an Empire is even less memorable. There isn’t the same kind of martyrdom that made the blood spillage in 300 seem like such a noble sacrifice and ultimately worth the time spent watching such violence. Themistokles and his brave men are merely shadowing the fates of Gerard Butler and his outnumbered ranks and its a fact you simply cannot get over as the story trends to the more and more predictable with each stabbing of the spear to a chest. As well, Xerxes comes across as more and more laughable with each scene he appears in. He’s supposed to be the top dog, yet he hides behind the black veil of Artemisia as she goes on a murdering spree unmatched by many a full-grown Greek warrior. He also has some of the worst dialogue in the entire movie and the scenes in which he continues to plot his terror are completely wasted moments.

All the same, the decrease in quality should have been anticipated. Standards need not be very high. If blood and chaos is what one wants, blood and chaos is what one gets, although the word ‘chaos’ can apply to the product in general. Whereas Snyder’s direction gave purpose to the deaths of so many (including that of Gerard Butler’s most identifiable role), Noam Murro’s direction is numbingly violent and consists MANly of repetition and cliché Hollywood effects. It’s good to have some fun with history, but this one tries just a little bit too hard.

This marks the first of the ten I have been able to tick off of my Epics of 2014 Ten Taste Tests list, which you should totally check out to see how it fared in the end. 

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Recommendation: Though it comes in an obvious second to its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire sports some bloody good fun via action sequences and epic set pieces. Visually, it’s stunning and there isn’t a great deal to complain about if you are requiring a film that asks absolutely nothing of its audience. . . well, you know, apart from remembering how important it is to work out on a daily basis.

Rated: R

Running Time: 103 mins.

Quoted: “It begins as a whisper. . .a promise. . .the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind, a wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom. . .a wind of justice. . .a wind of vengeance.”

41 thoughts on “300: Rise of an Empire

    • You had all the reviews for this movie in a folder? Or all of MY reviews? Think carefully there. . .hahah

      In all seriousness, this movie just was thoroughly overdone. It was written pretty horribly so I was prevented from having more fun with it. If you are coming for just the blood and corny dialogue, then you’ll get that in spades. Oh, and for Eva Green. She actually did not disappoint, which that is good news there.

      • lawlz. . .

        yeah I just stopped on by on yours and it would seem we are in perfect agreement, you might have had a bit more fun with it, which is always good to hear.

  1. Uh oh, this movie is not getting a lot of love. Great review. I was not particularly thrilled about he news it that it was coming or excited, so I certainly will not be rushing to see this!

    • Shit, I have no idea how I missed your comment here! 😦

      Oh well, my name is Leonidas and I’m back from the dead to respond!!!!!! And now that I am back, I can see that my work was never to be topped! I was far better in the first movie and since I am now only in ghost form, there is no need for you or others to go see what others are going to do more poorly.

      • LOOOOOOOOL! Oh so wonderfully phrased!

        Pffffff, it really sounds terrible I must say! I really don’t think that I am going to be seeing this one anytime soon!

      • . . . . . . .but there’s a really awesome sex scene in it where Artemisia nearly kills the dude. . . . . . . . . if that doesn’t sell the movie, I dont know what will Zoe. . .

  2. ***….ONE of my favorite actresses! Sorry dude, the “one” ran away before I posted my comment. That pesky bugger! He may have seen Eva Green off in the distance…and in that case…I cannot blame him!

    • Ha!!!! No I can’t either. She was so fecking hot in this one. And that sex scene was positively outrageous. Probably the best scene in either of the two movies! lol

      But outside of Eva Green just having a field day here, there was much less to like this time around I felt. Kind of disappointing, even given the already low expectations we had coming in to it. . . .

  3. Eva Green has become of my favorite actresses from her performance in this film. Not only because she is striking and extremely fun to look at, but also because she is charismatic! 300: Rise of an Empire provided me with a new Hollywood favorite, and a select few awesome action scenes. That is about it though….

  4. Oh dear! This movie was awful. You were far more generous than I. Pecs, Blood, Pecs, Blood, Pecs, Pecs, Pecs, Blood, Blood, BREASTS, Pecs, Pecs, Blood, Blood, Pecs Blood, Pecs. That pretty much sizes up the narrative formula of 300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green was the only thing worth recommending. (That was the BREASTS part) lol

    • Oh cool, that’s great to hear. Too few people are saying that about this new one. I had a decent time with it, but in my eyes the first was definitely the one with stronger ideas and better characters. But you pretty much get what you pay for this time around, too. And, yes I will mention it again: Eva Green. 😉

    • Probably the right call then man. There’s nothing here that would surprise you. Other than the Eva Green thing. That goes without saying. 😉

    • No better reason than that, really. haha

      If you haven’t seen 300, I’d suggest seeing it before this because there’ll be a few things you might be confused by. OVerall though, these films don’t require a whole lot of brainpower so you’ll probably be okay even if you don’t get to the original. In my book, the first was better anyway.

    • Then you, Mikey, will be having few issues with it. You know. . .outside of the beyond-corny tales of redemption, the oiled-up man-abs and all the rest. The Eva Green factor is off the charts!!! 😀

      (She was mostly the reason I went to see it too.)

    • Alex, my man!! I was waiting for someone to pose the question. I even thought about bringing it up in the write-up but I guess it didn’t factor in conveniently. In all honesty, I can see a third. Without giving spoilers here, there was enough of an open ending to make me think Hollywood will try to take another crack at it. What do you think?

      • I saw the first but wasn’t too interested in seeing the second. I imagine there will be a market for a third certainly. Where do you see Eva Green’s career going?

      • I would like her to start taking on some more serious lead roles. I know she can do it. I enjoyed her very much as Moneypenny in Casino Royale, and I know that wasn’t so much of a “serious” role as it was a slight foil for Bond, but I can see her as the next Marion Cotillard. But that’s just me. 🙂

    • I yell my thanks to you, good sir, from the top of a lava-spewing volcano whilst thousands of my peers fall at their knees in awe of my. . .awesomeness. 😉

      In all seriousness, I hope you enjoy it and get what you come for. It doesn’t disappoint as much as it entertains for a couple hours.

  5. I had similar feelings even though I think I came across really harsh against it. Middle of the road for me, neither good nor bad.

    • haha I’ll be sure to be on by here in a little bit and see what you said. I don’t think it’s possible to be harsh towards these sorts of things. they are so over-the-top and silly, and Rise of an Empire really pushed some buttons.

      Did you like 300, the original one?

      • Yeah. Just read your review and thought you very succinctly summed it up. It was definitely a step down from the original, which, yes. That has to be taken with a grain of salt as well.

    • Hey, thanks a lot. There’s a lot to like here for fans of the original, and yes i would consider this a prequel as much if not more than I would consider it a sequel. The timelines overlap pretty interestingly, something I felt this film did the best

  6. I still haven’t seen this, but you seem to be adding to a growing consensus: this flick isn’t particularly good, save for Eva Green.

    • I wanted to say more positive things about it, but I simply couldn’t. Much was left to be desired, and yes that was all outside of Eva Green’s deliciously evil role. She was quite a blast to watch, though, so for whatever that’s worth! 🙂

    • Kind of where I’m at on it man, it could have been better honestly. What it does do though, is continue the trend setting of blood and gore over thoughtfulness and intelligence lol.

      300 the original was pretty hard to top, in my opinion. This didn’t come close.

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