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I Saw 300: Rise of an Empire
March 31, 2014Posted by on
Though people don’t really like to admit it anymore, 300 was a game-changing movie and a huge hit. Incredibly popular, the film grossed over 200 million dollars, rather surprisingly, when it debuted in theaters in March 2007. Often imitated and parodied extensively, the film was a hard-R, violent comic book adaption of a work by Frank Miller based on the historical battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors (and an assortment of other random non-Spartans) fended off an invading force from Persia to the last man, leaving a historical impact based on heroism, honor, and duty for one’s country that is still culturally relevant today. Its sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, largely eschews the deeper themes of honor, courage, duty, heroism, etc in favor of even more graphic violence than the original. Though it isn’t nearly as good as 300 was back in 2007 (and I still think the film is awesome, fuck the contrarian haters), Rise of an Empire is still kind of cool in its own way.
When I first heard about a potential sequel to 300, I thought it was a dumb idea. The film ended conclusively, with Leonidas, king of the Spartans, dying heroically against the endless hordes of the Persian Empire. The film doesn’t shy away from Leonidas’ death. It is used as a rallying cry for Athenian warrior and leader Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton, who isn’t as charismatic as Gerard Butler but who is still fine), who must raise a naval force to fend off the same invading Persian force that killed the 300 Spartans. Themistocles faces opposition from politicians, both Athenian and Spartan. Despite setbacks, he still sets out to take down the Persians, albeit with a comparatively drastically reduced naval force. The film eventually leads to a retelling of the Battle of Salamis, where an undermanned Greek naval force led by Themistocles faces off against Xerxes and his Persian invaders.
The best parts of 300: Rise of an Empire almost all feature Eva Green in the role of Artemisia, the former slave turned warrior who treats Xerxes with utter disdain throughout the film, seeing him as more a nuisance than a king. Green inhabits the role of Artemisia without a single wink of irony, which greatly adds to her performance. She captures the character excellently, and the material is elevated by her mere presence. It is an absolute shame she doesn’t get more work in Hollywood. She is amazing in this film – especially in her scenes with either Xerxes (a returning Rodrigo Santoro) or Themistocles. Lena Headey reprises her role as Gorgo, Queen of Sparta and is fine in her short screen time. The film also features a father/son subplot (much like the first film) between characters Scyllias (Callan Mulvey) and Calisto (Jack O’Connell) that is completely throwaway but kind of hilarious because of how shoehorned-in it is.
On the whole, 300: Rise of an Empire is not a good movie whatsoever. It has its enjoyable moments, but I can’t in good conscious recommend this to anyone who either didn’t like the first or just plain doesn’t like silly, hard-R action movies. It is hard to deny that this movie is just a cash grab (which doesn’t really bother mean – if you don’t want to watch it then don’t watch it). Zack Snyder is back as producer, and his replacement as director, Noam Murro, does a second-rate Zack Snyder impersonation that’s highly noticeable. I understand why Snyder wouldn’t want to return to the director’s chair, but the movie probably would’ve been a lot better with him at the helm. There’s a ton of CGI blood and slow-mo, but they are met with increasingly diminishing returns this time around, and some of the special effects look noticeably worse in this film compared to the original, despite Rise of an Empire basically costing twice the price as 300.
This is a silly, dumb, and borderline lazy movie, but I still had a blast. Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green are the two main reasons to check out the film, and honestly Green was worth the price of admission alone. Some of the story beats are kind of neat, and Noam Murro does a passable Zack Snyder impression. But overall, this film is fairly difficult to recommend. If you have the same (or similar) taste in movies I have, check this out. If you’ve seen 300 and you’re over it, you won’t find much to be interested in here. Sequels that come nearly a decade after their originals are usually pretty bad, but this film isn’t all that bad. It’s not good, mind you, but it isn’t bad, per se. It’s just kind of there, designed by committee to make as much money as quickly as possible. I don’t have a problem with this, and I like violent, hard-R action films. So in that sense, it was entirely worth my time and I’m glad I watched it.