A Review of 300: Rise of an Empire

I’ll admit I went to see 300: Rise of an Empire with low expectations and I was right to do so.

300: Rise of an Empire supposedly relates the story of the Battle of Salamis. The story opens with Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) relating the tale of the Battle of Marathon and the Greek victory over the Persian King Darius I who was killed by Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapledon) and thus beginning a chain of events that leads to Darius’  son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) invading Greece.

Theatrical release poster of 300: Rise of an Empire (2014).

300: Rise of an Empire largely follows the exploits of Themistocles and his opposing commander Artemisia (Eve Green). During the hour and forty-five or so minutes several battles take place on or near the Straits of Salamis during which many bodies are cut to pieces in stylised fashion, Themistocles makes several badly thought out speeches that were supposed to inspire, and Artemisia shows just how an abused Greek girl will take her revenge on her former countrymen.

The return of Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo and Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes brings some continuity from the first film. However, Headey acts mostly as a narrator and the on screen time of Gorgo and Xerxes is so small one wonders if it was really warranted. And then there is the continual reference to the brave Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, along with clips from the first film. This does nothing to improve the overall experience of 300: Rise of an Empire.

The best part of the film was Eva Green. She seemed to enjoy her role as Artemisia whereas Sullivan Stapledon’s Themistocles was wooden and boring. Even during their outlandish sex scene there was absolutely no chemistry between these rivals. The rest of the cast was there mostly as fodder for the battle scenes, which were often silly and used so much CGI that they lost any hope of real impact.

Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire (2014). © AP

For such an important event in history Zack Snyder (writer/producer) and Noam Murro (director) have managed make a film that lacks any of the vivid excitement this sort of event should inspire. They use, as with many films these days, pointless 3D and CGI mummery to try to impress and amaze the viewer rather than plot and write a complete and engaging story. While I understand that the real inspiration for 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire are the Frank Miller comics and not the real events, to my thinking both films would have benefited from a little more Herodotus (who was alive during these events) and a little less Miller.

300: Rise of an Empire is fine if all you want is some homoerotic blood and gore with no real story and lacklustre climax. If you’re looking for a film that engages and excites you then look elsewhere, Rise of an Empire’s flaws are too numerous and egregious overlook. In the end I’d say this film should probably have gone direct to video/download and not wasted the effort to bring it to the cinema. Only see this film in the cinema if someone else is paying, and not much at that.

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