300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

I bet you all thought that the story of the 300 Spartans ended with Xerses’ army killing King Leonidas at the battle of Thermopylae. Well, I did too. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and it turns out that Xerses was also fighting another battle on his way to complete victory for Persia. This time around, there’s a new hero, new director, and worse effects.

Xerses offers a deal: Surrender or die.
Xerses offers a deal: Surrender or die.

At the same time that the God-King Xerses (Rodrigo Santoro) had his Persian army fighting the Spartans, a naval battle was being fought between his right-hand-woman, Artemisia (Eva Green), and the Greek navy. As shown through flashbacks, Artemisia helped Xerses get over grieving his father, who died at the hands of Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), and made him the giant King that he is now. As Artemisia planned naval attacks, Themistokles gathered Greece’s strongest men and began to plan a defensive strategy to keep his home safe.

As war rages on the sea, Themistokles and his strategies prove useful against the large Persian navy that’s steadily advancing. When the battle is at a stalemate, Themistokles seeks out help from all of Greece and goes to Sparta to seek advice. When he returns empty-handed, he and his men realize that they must sacrifice their lives for the freedom of their people, just as King Leonidas had done. With attacks on the sea and up close with swords and arrows, the two armies clash and create a battle that will go down in history. Only one can stand tall at the end of the day and the Greeks can only hope that it will be them.

Artemisia commands her navy.
Artemisia commands her navy.

The plot for 300: Rise of an Empire is simple enough to follow and the repetition all throughout it makes sure that you don’t forget what movie you’re watching. Without the vision of Zack Synder, this film feels like a failed attempt at emulating something that was really awesome. Director Noam Murro also made an attempt to beat Quentin Tarantino for most blood in a film. He may have won with quantity, but CGI quality blood is just awful.

Let’s start with the very little good that is in this film. For someone who really liked 300, I enjoyed the ties back to the first film and I always felt good when I saw the Spartans fighting the Persians. I thought that idea of Naval battles was a cool way to take this story and much of the strategy that went into the battles was really intuitive. Eva Green is the standout star of the film and her wicked charm is used perfectly. Her relentless nature and tough-girl attitude make her a force to be reckoned with and she’s a joy to watch.

Themistokles prepares for battle.
Themistokles prepares for battle.

Okay, now we can move to the bad (and there’s plenty of that to go around). My biggest issue with this film, is that it tries far too hard to be like its predecessor. The slow-motion sequences are used every other minute and the stylized blood gets annoying after a while. In the first film, it was unique, done well, and wasn’t drawn out. Here, every scratch becomes a fire hydrant of blood spurting out and of course, the scratch has to be detailed in slow-motion. The blood looks awful and had the film not used the slow-motion, it could have been 10 minutes shorter (or at least that’s how it felt).

As the star of the film, Stapleton lacks practically everything aspect a good lead should have. He’s, in a sense, filling Gerard Butler’s shoes and he does a really awful job. His “inspiring” speeches are soft-spoken and just the opposite. He never has fits of rage and it doesn’t seem like he cares much about what’s going on around him. The only other character who gets less across is Xerses, who this film is supposed to be about. All the main characters, aside from Green, have nothing to offer the story and they make this blood-fest transform into a bore-fest.

The sea consumes the dead soldiers.
The sea consumes the dead soldiers.

The narrative of this film is all over the place. To make sure that the dumb audience knows what is going on, the characters all have voice-overs that tell you exactly what’s happening. The story follows many different sub-stories and gets tangled up towards the end, as everything starts to converge. On top of all of that, the story is just bland and really stupid. Despite a few fun scenes that are original and fun, this film isn’t good at all and it repeats itself over, and over, and over again. They really didn’t have much to work with and most of their efforts were for not.

I tried to watch this film in the same way that I watched 300, but this film was neither fun, nor was it awesome. None of the speeches or one-liners stuck with me, the blood and violence looked bad, and the story was pointless. There’s nothing to rally behind in this film, unless you count Green who steals the show with her lines and her looks (her sex scene seems planned just to keep the audience awake and alive). I suggest you skip this film and go back and watch 300, because at least that’s a good time.

300: Rise of an Empire Trailer
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zqy21Z29ps‎

1.5 STARS!!!

1.5 / 5 stars     

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