MOVIE REVIEW – ‘300: Rise of an Empire’

Written by J.T. Johnson

1-12-star

DIRECTOR: Noam Murro
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Simon Duggan
WRITERS: Kurt Johnstad, Zack Snyder
MUSIC: Junkie XL

In 2007’s “300”, there was blood, guts and heavy dialogue. It was also a work of art from director Zack Snyder based faithfully on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. “300: Rise of an Empire” manages to have blood, guts and heavy dialogue without any of the artistic drive. It is a pale successor even though the filmmakers tried desperately to imitate the original film.

According to the credits, this film is based on Frank Miller’s as-of-yet unpublished sequel to the graphic novel titled “Xerxes”. I don’t know how faithful this movie is to the upcoming graphic novel, but I can say that the movie could give two shits about the God-King. The story is mostly about General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) of the Athens fleet and their fight against the Persian Fleet led by Artemisia (Eva Green) during the Battle of Artemisium.

The filmmakers promised that the story would take place before, during and after the events of the first movie. Beyond a brief ten minute explanation of how Xerxes became the God-King and the aftermath of the main battles, the movie mostly takes place during the events of the first movie. As the movie keeps pointing out, this is the battle that went on in the seas while the 300 fought on land.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that the film is mostly a side-story to the main events in the first movie. My problem is that there was no attempt to stray from the formula set by the first movie. This film is almost an exact copy of the original, except it is set at sea instead of land.

Stapleton’s Themistocles might as well be called Leonidas-lite. He’s there to kick ass and give long-winded speeches. Yes, it could be said that Gerard Butler’s movie choices since the original flick have been lacking, but he was definitely missed in this movie. The parallels between this story and the first movie don’t end there.

The story is about a small group of soldiers against a big group of soldiers. This would be fine, but we’ve seen this story of victory over incredible odds before. Just because you went with an aquatic setting doesn’t change it enough. There is even another father-son subplot like there was in the first one.

Another issue comes up with the special-effects. While the high-speed photography returns to slow things down, elements such as the CGI blood look horrendously bad. In the first movie, when there was a splash of blood, it looked like it was ripped straight out of the pages of Miller’s original story. Here, it just looks like Jell-O thrown towards the camera to appease the 3D fans in the audience.

Without getting into too much detail, the action in the flick isn’t bad and at times it can be quite thrilling, but then it is interrupted by something such as a horribly done sequence with Themistocles on a horse. Seriously, the horse riding which was hinted at in the trailer was almost enough to ruin the entire movie for me.

There is one bright spot in this film, though, and that is Green as Artemisia. She plays the troubled commander perfectly with more than enough menace to remind the audience that she is the antagonist. On the other hand, she also retains the sadness of the character’s past that fuels her current anger and this makes her more than just another two-dimensional villain.

Overall, I just can’t recommend this movie. It tries too hard to be a pale companion piece to the original movie. The acting beyond Green is also subpar and the movie might as well have been called “300: The Love Boat Edition”. It definitely would have been a more appropriate title.

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