300 was a great movie. Ultra violent spectacles combined with some of the greatest fight scenes ever choreographed to make one of the most tasteless (yet also somehow tasteful) action movies I’ve ever seen. So when the sequel was announced five years after the original’s debut, I was a little skeptical. Putting aside the fact that I knew it wouldn’t end up being as epic as the original, I questioned what new material it could offer. But after watching it last night, I’ve found that while I was right about 300 Rise of an Empire not being as grand as it’s predecessor, it’s definitely worth a watch for the fans.
The story is one that chooses a variety of characters to pick as protagonists and antagonists. Furthermore, 300 isn’t a prequel, a sequel, nor an in-between sort of oddity, it’s all of the above. We see Xerxes transition into the God-King he was in the first movie and the actions of Themistocles (Leonidas’ replacement) which ultimately set all the events of the 300 series in motion. We also see much of the naval combat that took place between the Greek forces under the command of our protagonist who battle the Persian navy, whose commander is a newcomer, Artemisia, which takes place concurrently with the Spartan’s last stand and extends into the aftermath of it as well. I really liked this because it really gave me a great idea of the bigger picture. I saw how everything came to be and on the whole, every new addition added to the existing 300 lore. Plot-wise, this is a sequel that not only manages to respect its forefather but also stride into unknown terrain.
One thing the original 300 will definitely have over Rise of an Empire is its protagonist. Leonidas made for a memorable lead and it was Gerard Butler’s performance in 300 that made him the acting icon that he is today. Themistocles, though certainly not terrible by any means, definitely doesn’t make for a memorable hero. Nothing about the actor really makes him stand out and while they definitely show how much of a badass he is within mere minutes after the movie begins – the first scene is a excellent fight scene where Themistocles dismembers countless foes and then pulls an epic long shot kill with a bow – there’s just not a whole lot that sets him apart from all the other Spartan bad-asses in the last movie.
On the other hand, the villains in 300 are given much more depth. We get to see Xerxes’ transformation and we’re given a reason for his motivations. And then there’s Artemisia, played by Eva Green, who makes for one of the most memorable villainesses I’ve ever seen. Her character is well crafted to the point where it’s nigh-impossible to look away at every scene she graces.
Like 300, Rise of an Empire features plenty of quotable lines. What’s more, there’s a plentitude of just plain memorable scenes (half of which are the result of Artemisia’s unhinged mania) and while I’m almost never a fan of sex scenes in movies, Rise of an Empire’s sex scene is probably the best sex scene I’ve ever seen in a movie – if only for the equally hilarious and awesome outcome.
But let’s face it, half of you wouldn’t care about anything I’ve said so long as the movie was as ridiculously violent as the first…and it is. The action is great. Lots of the typical Zack Snyder fare where the action speeds up, then slows down to emphasize empact, then speeds up again so you don’t grow weary of the slowmo. Blood is almost always being flung into the air and the choreography of the fights is great. But there are some differences. Most of the fighting in Rise of an Empire is of the naval variety and yet again, this helps it set it apart from the first movie.
Much of the cinematography was executed to take advantage of 3D, and it’s actually done fairly well. There’s not a ton of “in your face” moments but I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone but he staunchest of 3D haters who didn’t feel like the 3D actually added something to the bloody spectacle. The stellar combat sequences are aided by state of the art special effects. The blood, the scenery, everything about the look of the film is superb, and this grandeur compliments the stylized violence.
There are some dull moments in Rise of an Empire, moments where there was a lot of talking and much of it could’ve been better. And as I said earlier, in many ways it just isn’t quite as memorable as the original 300 but in the end none of that really matters. We’re in a day and age where a good sequel is an immense rarity, and here comes 300 Rise of an Empire, a movie that easily could’ve been a terrible pretender but instead it adds to the 300 formula while also keeping in tact the stylish gore we’ve come to expect. I do not consider myself a person that is easily entertained, so the fact that 300 Rise of an Empire entertained me so easily makes it a worthy sequel and an entertaining movie in its own right.
Conclusion: 300 Rise of an Empire gets an 8/10
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