"300: Rise of an Empire" Review: Craigs First Take

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Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
2.5

Welcome to Sparta, where the men are always half naked and their blood always deserves a slo-mo splatter. Credit goes to Zack Snyder for at least one thing, not many films work as both fodder for gay men and 14 year old boys but the “300” movies have always walked that line beautifully. And when I say beautifully, I do mean visually scrumptious. Credit Snyder for another thing, his color palettes here continue to amaze; nearly every scene you wish you could freeze, print out, and frame on your wall.

Past the visuals, I’m really not even so sure how well the first film holds up but I’m pretty positive it does a better job than this sequel from Noam Murro, taking over for Snyder even though it seems like it’s still following his same visual style to a T. “300: Rise of an Empire” is shallow to say the least. It’s based off Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes”, but past telling us how the Persian went from mortal man to being a God, the movie basically has him sitting on his ass doing nothing for the rest of the film.

The meat of the story deals with Artemisia (Eva Green), a Greek who joined up with the Persians after Greeks killed her family and sentenced her to years in bondage as a young girl. She wants revenge and so while Leonidas and his Spartans are attacking Xerxes, the Athenians, led by Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), battle Artemisia and her hordes of Persians on the high seas.

If you’re into more chaotic sword battles with hard charging and gallons of blood spurting out in slo-mo, then you’ll love all this. The black night sword battle sequence that starts the film, and the greenish-blues that take up much of the film’s high seas fight sequences, where more swords clang and ships barrel through one another, are both nice touches.

Where this gets pretty dull though is that outside the battle sequences, there are long, drawn-out voice over narration about things that happened in the past combined with long, drawn-out, preachy seriousness going on in the present about brotherhood, freedom, ect. It would help if these feelings of a tight-knit brigade were felt rather than just referenced but much of the actors here are fairly flat, just letting the abs and muscles do much of the heavy acting for them

As far as actors go, Green emerges as the only real stand-out. She’s a no-nonsense toughie who’s as brutal and she is vengeful. If only Stapleton, as the hero of this thing, were as passionate. There is one violent sex scene here between the two of them that deserves recognition but other than that only Green is ever able to capture any interest. The movie meanwhile goes in and out, looking great but boring in most other areas.