300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgOkay let’s see now. 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. This is the sequel (prequel) to 300, the once cutting edge action/fantasy movie based on the Dark Horse comic by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Released back in March of 2007, its innovative visual style borrowed from Sin City, favored the appearance of a comic book. Now almost a decade later, the look has been copied (The Spirit, Immortals) and even parodied (Meet the Spartans) to the point where innovative spectacle isn’t enough. We require a story.

Stepping into Gerard Butler’s leather briefs as the star this time around is Sullivan Stapleton who plays Greek general Themistokles. He’s leading the charge against the invading Persian army. The Persian people are once again represented by Xerxes, the giant god/king. You might remember him from part one. He was the eccentric that looked like he was dipped in bronze, adorned with gold chains and then applied Joan Crawford eyebrows. He’s ticked off because Themistokles killed his father. Xerxes thinks he’s calling the shots, but he’s really just a puppet of Artemisia, the queen/commander of his naval fleet. As portrayed by Eva Green, she is the real star of the show. Following years in captivity after being raped by a gang of Greek soldiers, she is out for revenge. That is a pretty good reason to be upset. So after you hear her side of the events, you’ll switch allegiances and root against the Spartans. As the most memorable character, she rises above the mire with her wickedly scene-chewing performance.

Unfortunately characterization, story and drama are pushed aside solely in favor of a dated style that isn’t innovative anymore. Gushing fountains of CGI blood garnish a scene like parsley on a plate. The super slo-mo sepia toned plasma streams across every battle scene. Oh and there are a lot of battle scenes in this picture. It never lets up. Throats are cut, men are beheaded, women are raped. The amount of slaughter shows no subtlety or justification. It’s merely offered up as entertainment for an audience that might have to pay as much as $19.50 to see this filth in IMAX 3D. And let me tell you, the dichromatic visual palette is dark, muddy and not impressive. So save your money and see it in 2D at a bargain priced matinee, if at all.

There are some hilarious lines however. 300 seemed kind of oblivious to the homoerotic subtext of so many half naked muscular gym bodies in a historical context. Seriously, why don’t these men wear armor? On the other hand, 300: Rise of the Empire seems to not only embrace it, but exploit it. “You’ve come a long way to stroke your c*** watching real men train,” quips Sparta’s Queen Gorgo upon Themistokles’ arrival. Later Themistokles proudly states, “I have spent my life on my one true love — the Greek fleet.“  Naturally he says this right before a most ridiculous sex scene between him and the seductive Artemisia. There is so much punching, choking and hair pulling, it’s unclear whether they’re making love or physically assaulting each other. Once they’re done she deadpans “You fight much harder than you f***” on his performance. Ouch!

The triumph of the few against the many was unquestionably a more engaging plot point in the first film than the ugly tale of revenge on display here. You can laugh at the unmitigated excess of the saga and try to appreciate it on that level. Unfortunately all the carnage without any redeeming value gets pretty mind numbing after awhile. 300: Rise of an Empire is too witless to really enjoy. Surprisingly this became a huge success which proves that an interesting script is not required of a hit.  300: Rise of An Empire did $45.1M in its opening weekend.  Expect studio execs to dust off other 7 year old properties now. Wild Hogs 2 anyone?

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26 Responses to “300: Rise of an Empire”

  1. GaryLee828 Says:

    I could tell by the trailer this was going to suck; looks recycled and very generic.

  2. I had a blast with this, but totally understand where you’re coming from.

  3. I haven’t seen this. And I have no real intent of changing that. I thought the first was fine, but forgettable. And this sequel bears all the marks of being much, much worse than that, something your review essentially suggests.

    • I enjoyed the first but more because it was a novelty at the time. Although the underdog story of the original was much more engaging than this unpleasant tale of revenge.

  4. Eva Green steals the show and makes it worth a watch – nothing more nothing less

  5. Leonidas is rolling over in his grave knowing that someone else donned his leather undies and went out into the great beyond, searching for meaning. Lol.

    Loved this review, and I have to agree. I did enjoy some bit of it, but overall this was. . .I wouldn’t say a letdown, because I kind of expected this to not be as good, but it was a semi-disappointment. They could have done more with this.

    • Yeah Sullivan Stapleton doesn’t really have the charisma of Gerard Butler.

      Off topic, but it was nice to see Butler finally have a decent hit last year with Olympus Has Fallen. He needs to stop doing these awful romantic comedies like The Bounty Hunter.

  6. I expected this to be nuts, so therefore, I was able to have some fun with this. But, coming from a guy who really enjoyed the hell out of the first one, my recommendation should really come as no surprise. Even if it is a slight one. Good review Mark.

    • I enjoyed 300 too. That film was pretty simple minded as well but its tone was focused on honor. Rise of an Empire was a CGI display of blood that fetishized gore over heroism.

  7. Nice review. I hated the original 300 so I don’t have any interest in seeing this at all.

  8. Can’t say I’m too enamoured about seeing this, but I’m certainly intrigued by Eva Green’s performance. She seems to be getting a good write-up universally! Great review!

    Adam.

  9. Even if this film wasn’t very entertaining it seems like you still had fun writing your review. Hilarious opening and good use of quotes, especially in the section where you delve into the sex scene and the way they acknowledge their homoerotic subtext. I loved the original 300, but my affection for it has slowly diminished over time as its visual style has become overused. I’m certainly not rushing out to see this movie, especially after reading your review.

  10. I love the intro to your review. Describes the movie exactly. I found myself laughing out loud at various parts of the movie. Eva Green was campy but pretty entertaining. I may have to go with 2 stars for this attempt.

  11. Yeah, I’ll be giving this a miss. Good to know Green is good though! :)

    • Mr. Peabody & Sherman came out the same week in the U.S. It’s telling that in the 2nd week, the cartoon beat it. MP&S is better but it’s not worth watching either.

  12. It’s kind of funny that I haven’t left comments on your reviews. I’ve actually read the vast majority of them lately. Weird how I haven’t commented…

    Anyway, I’m kind of dying to see this one. No, it’s not in the hands of Zack Snyder any longer (who is a genius, in my opinion–I know, it’s my opinion ONLY), but I feel it’ll be pretty damn good entertainment. I’ve so far missed out on it unfortunately…took a pass and have seen two terrible movies (Son of God and Need for Speed) and one decent movie (Veronica Mars) in theaters instead.

    • I somehow missed all of those movies you saw. “Zack Snyder is a genius.” Now there’s a phrase you don’t hear every day. Ha ha.

      P.S. Thanks for all the recent comments,. They put you back in Top 5 recent commentators. ;-)

      • Not a problem. I like reading and commenting here.

        With the exception of Sucker Punch, I have loved every Zack Snyder film I’ve seen. That’s Man of Steel, Watchmen, and 300.

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