I went into 300: Rise of an Empire expecting a terrible film, but you know what? It’s not that bad.
300: Rise of an Empire (hereafter known as 300:RoaE) takes place before, during and after the events of the first 300 film. The Athenian general Themistocles slays the Persian King Darius in front of his son Xerxes with a well aimed shot from his bow. This sets in motion a series of events that will result in the rebirth of Xerxes as the God King, and create Xerxes’ desire to conquer all of Greece. At Xerxes’ side is a former Greek slave girl, now Persian navy general, Artemisia. Artemisia saw her parents die at the hands of Greek hoplites, and now has one purpose: the destruction of the Greek empire. With this threat knocking at Greece’s door, Themistocles hopes to unite all of Greece against the Persian invader before Xerxes destroys them all.
- Great (if sometimes “video gamey”) action
- More story driven than 300
- More “complex” characters
- Some good visual effects
- Plenty of eye candy if you like ripped half naked dudes (there is significantly less half naked ladies, relatively speaking)
- Eva Green’s performance as Artemisia stood out in the film
- Some really awesome cinematography
- Occasionally the action is a bit ridiculous
- Some questionable things happen in the story in regards to the decisions characters make
- A sex scene that started off somewhat awkwardly, but had a point that kind of overrides it’s awkwardness
- Sullivan Stapleton does a reasonable job, but lacks the onscreen presence that Gerard Butler had as Leonidas
- Occasionally of the CG looks a bit iffy
- Even though the characters are more complex, you don’t necessarily engage with them (this in particular applies to the protagonists)
Let’s be straight forward about what this movie is about: 300: RoaE is about half naked men fighting, blood, and boobs. It adds some interesting elements in that we now have an interesting female antagonist (Xerxes is secondary to Artemisia in this film), more complicated characters, and a more substantial story. There’s also some fantastic visuals, and some really great shots. In particular there’s an awesome shot of a half naked Eva Green holding a sword I thought was bloody fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the classic fantasy artists like Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta. Another shot that stuck in my head is where a Greek soldier jumps from a cliff onto a Persian boat. The camera follows the soldier as he runs, leaps, and captures his slow motion descent from the cliff onto the boat. It was really just very, very cool to see in motion.
In comparison to the original 300, it’s a step up on some ways, and a step down in others. The first 300 definitely had far more charismatic characters, and the action definitely felt more like it had more impact since you had a connection with the characters in the film. However, the first 300 also had a story you could virtually ignore, and ended up being a case of style of substance. 300: RoaE tries to add substance to the style, but it doesn’t really seem to come together. In the end, much like the original 300, the only thing that makes 300: RoaE worth watching is the action and eye candy.
Overall, 300: RoaE is an entertaining film that does try to surpass it’s predecessor, but unfortunately doesn’t. In many ways I want to describe it as a poor man’s Troy. However, as an action film it succeeds, so if you’re into some mindless stylistic violence, you should probably give 300: RoaE a chance.