‘300: Rise of an Empire’ Movie Review – Action Not Enough
It is inevitable, when reviewing a sequel, to not make some comparisons to the original. I think it is unfair to a degree (a thought I had while reviewing The Dark Knight Rises), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Like most cases, 300: Rise of an Empire isn’t as strong as the original (for various reasons I’ll get into later), but it does effectively move the franchise forward and tell a story. The problem is the degree of effectivity.
Rise of an Empire starts with a broad, overarching look at the ancient Greek landscape. Strictly speaking, the movie isn’t just a sequel to 300 – the famous (and fictionalized) tale of The Battle of Thermopylae where 300 brave Spartans took on hundreds of thousands of Persians. Rise of an Empire tells bits from before, during, and after Thermopylae, and the narrative is tasked with telling a larger picture story that focuses on the sea battle.
The new story pits the Athenian Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) against Persian sea commander Artemisia (Eva Green). Their rivalry starts before the events of 300 and is done to fill the rivalry left behind when the rivalry between King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) could no longer exist. It still doesn’t make a lot of sense that Xerxes himself isn’t going after Themistocles. However, I have to think the writers thought: Oh well, Artemisia is better-looking.
From the beginning, Rise of an Empire tries to mirror the style of 300 as much as possible. 300 was essentially action porn for the 18-25 year old crowd, and while more audiences may still have enjoyed the film, it was knocked for being a little overdone.
Multiply this by ten and you’ve got Rise of an Empire.
Not only is the bloodshed more aplenty, but it looks even more like a comic book or graphic novel (which its again based on). Noam Murro, the director, does this on purpose, but I think it takes away from the intimacy of the film.
What do I mean by “intimacy?” Well, the reason I still stick up for 300 (even though I’m no longer a high school senior), is because the story still feels tight-knit, or intimate. Rise of an Empire, since it is telling a broader story with broader characters, isn’t able to achieve the same things thematically, including glory, teamwork, sacrifice, or what have you.
“Action porn” can still be used to describe its sequel, and it’ll be what resonates with the audiences that want this and only this. There’s still the tricky camerawork and creative editing that is awe-inspiring….
…just don’t expect to be blown away with the story.
With or without Zack Snyder, 300: Rise of an Empire had a lot to overcome to be effective. Since a sequel wasn’t absolutely necessary (although, are they ever?), it has that narrative hump to overcome. The writers got creative, which I’ll tip my hat to, but to do so they had to shy away from the Spartan aspect of the story, thus leaving out one of the most interesting parts. The results were mixed, with the stylized blood and gore intact, but the story nowhere to been found. It’s probably at the bottom of the Aegean Sea.
300: Rise of an Empire released in wide release Thursday night and yesterday.
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