Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
Written by Steven Panzarella (@ProCreateSteve)
The Short- Rise of an Empire may have a confusing timeline for some and if you are looking for anything that even comes close to a script for this film you come up empty handed. For fans of the original it does not disappoint even if they have to cleverly get around not having key cast members returning or overusing slow motion special effects to appeal to the audience praying for more of the original.
300: Rise of an Empire is a Prequel, Sequel, and Companion to 2006s Blockbuster hit 300. Based loosely on the graphic novel “Xerxes” by Frank Miller, Rise of an Empire sets up how the god king Xerxes came into power leading into his all-out war on Greece. It also takes place before and during the events of the original film. In fact only Rise of an Empire’s final act takes place after the death of Leonidas and the 300. There is a sequence in the movie where our protagonist Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) travels to Sparta right after Leonidas utters the lines “This is Sparta” In the first film. He is there to speak with Leonidas but thanks to a lack of Gerard Butler in the cast Themistocles is quickly sent away by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) after attempting to gain help from the selfish Spartans. It’s an odd sequence considering what the scene could have been if Butler made a quick cameo but it’s one of the many scenes that exist in the strange timeline of Rise of an Empire.
300: Rise of an Empire takes three different characters and shows how they connect, Themistocles kills Xerxes father Darius, which is the catalyst that begins the reign of the God king Xerxes who is given the idea of creating the god image from Naval general and his father's favorite ally, Artemisia. Thanks to an absolutely ridiculous but memorable performance from Eva Green, Artemisia is the most stand out character in Rise of an Empire. Green is fantastic in an over the top performance that includes one of the craziest sex scenes I have ever watched in a movie. It is a nutty attempt to make this movie campier, more quotable, and more ridiculous then the original. 300: Rise of an Empire tries so hard to be the original that non-fans will most certainly dock it points for creativity (They would be correct to do so). If you loved 300 then you don’t have to worry, Rise of an Empire has more speeches about death, more monologues about duty and honor and glory and of course more violence. The special effects are at times better then the original but its consistent and (of course) awesome. The one major bone I can pick with the FX of 300: Rise of an Empire and director Noam Murro is the constant usage of slow motion in the action sequences. During a single action scene in Rise of an Empire more than half of it is in slow motion. It’s used so often that by the time you get to the juicy parts in the film I was practically begging the filmmakers to let the scene play out normally. Every decapitation and dismemberment is in slow motion with SFX blood spurting out everywhere. It may not be too much for some but when it happens too often the magic leaves and it’s just an exercise in “Look at me” filmmaking.
The action might be fast and furious for fans but the dialogue is nothing short of mailing it in on the part of Zach Snyder (Man of Steel) and Kurt Johnstad (Act of Valor, 300). The dialogue is filled with the campy monologues fans would expect but it’s flavorless, only helped by the actors themselves delivering them and only Eva Green and Lena Headey do it with any conviction. Green is a badass villain and for a film that was at first supposed to be about Xerxes, she controls the movie from start to finish. Sullivan Stapleton (Strikeback, Gangster Squad) takes the role of our lead Themistocles and is ok as the arrogant but brave leader of the Greek navy. A character that is responsible for this war after killing Persian king Darius during a previous engagement. Stapleton who is already playing an action hero on Cinemax’s Strikeback is a fine hero but does not bring very much else to the role. In scenes that could have been funny or added brief moments of relief to the ever so serious Rise of an Empire falls flat with a character who should have been more relatable than Leonidas, Stapleton is unable to make the same relationship with the audience.
300: Rise of an Empire might be exactly what diehard fans waited nearly 10 years for, it gives you the 300 extravagance while feeding you lines about glorious death and honor. It’s a special FX showcase with more blood and gore then the original and a less than subtle sex scene between two of the main characters that falls just short of pornographic. It will have gore hounds begging for more, yet I was 16 when the first film came out and now in my 20s I can’t help but wish for a more substantial film. Instead, it’s more of the same, and for fans it’s a must watch but if the original was not for you or you no longer get off on gratuitous violence then you can probably wait for the DVD.