Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
300 was a fun movie that most could argue didn’t need a sequel. But this is Hollywood, so we are getting the sequel anyways.
300: Rise of an Empire is a dumb movie, but who says a dumb movie can’t be fun right? Well, the movie can’t be so dumb that the audience laughs AT it instead of with it.
300: Rise of an Empire is the Lion King 1 ½ to 300’s Lion King. 300: RoaE takes place before, during, and after the original film, building upon the story of Leonidis and his 300 Spartans taking on Xerxes. And while the structure of the plot allows 300: RoaE to shed more light on the story of Leonidis and the Spartan warriors, it spreads itself too thin, never allowing Leonidis’ sacrifice to gain any more significance. 300:RoaE deals with Themistocles, leader of the Greek army and all-around lover of Democracy, and his battle with Xerxes’ top assassin, Artemisia. Unlike 300’s battles on land, 300: RoaE takes to the water (the next movie: 300 on Ice!). The battles between Themistocles and Artemisia hit the same story beats as 300: Greek army is a group of underdogs with glistening cartoon muscles, Persian army underestimates them, Greek army triumphs when they shouldn’t. This doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of the movie, but it would have been nice to vary the battles up a bit. Where the movie really picks up steam, however, is when Leondis and his 300 Spartans have been annihilated, giving the plot more room to breathe. Xerxes becomes a credible threat in the eyes of the audience and thus makes the battles more entertaining to watch.
What I loved about 300 was the visual style that almost felt like a comic book. When Leonidis thrusts a kick at a soldier, I could pause the movie and see an image that looked like it had been ripped from a panel in a comic. But in 300:RoaE, the movie doesn’t have that flow or sense of motion. It’s basic slow motion stunt work that we have seen in movies countless times before. The division between real stunt work and CGI is painfully obvious. Big things swoop into the audience’s line of site to hide the cuts between real and fake. When Themistocles charges at Artemisia on a horse, the audience burst out laughing at how fake the horse looked. I also want to know who has been prescribing the blood pressure medicine for these soldiers, as it’s clearly not working. Blood squirts like it was shot out of a cannon, and then continues long after the person has died. The amount that flows out victims has been upped, with unlucky victims expelling significantly more blood than is actually in their bodies. Does this impede your enjoyment of the movie? Of course not. It just adds to the over the top humor that 300: RoaE revels in.
Part of me wishes that Zack Snyder had directed this instead of Noam Murro. For Snyder’s faults in other movies, 300 was a damn fun film. It’s hard to not compare 300:RoaE to the sequels of the Hercules franchise (the Italian sword and sandal movies). Movies like Hercules vs. the Moon Men, where everything just repeats with different villains. Maybe my 300 on Ice idea will take off and Greece will fight Xerxes in the winter. And by “in the winter,” I of course mean on figure skates with breathtaking choreography. Screw the Mediterranean climate of Greece!
The 3D (I was force to see it this way) is a mixed bag. While a few shots of Xerxes overlooking a crowd have a sense of depth, this depth is severely lacking as the movie goes on. I found myself forgetting I was wearing 3D glasses or even that the movie was in the 3D format. See it in 2D if you have the option.
The acting is……I’ll call it average. Gerard Butler’s presence is missed throughout this movie. Sullivan Stapleton (Themistocles) doesn’t have the screen presence and commanding nature to make the audience fully believe that he could fight off Artemisia. Speaking of Artemisia, Eva Green gives the best performance of the bunch. The script starts to fall apart in the second half, however, and it leaves Green with nothing to work with. Even the odd sex/fight scene that occurred between Stapleton and Green seem to confuse even its belligerently naked participants. And for a movie about buff guys in scantily-clad outfits, there is surprising amount of lanky looking men doing the fighting. Google searches for “300: Rise of an Empire workout” won’t be lighting up the internet anytime soon.
With a movie like 300: RoaE, you know what you’re get going in. If you liked the trailer, you’ll like the movie. You’re brain switches off and it enjoys the limbs flying off bodies like an item on a Wal-Mart shelf on Black Friday.
300: Rise of an Empire gets 3/5.
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