300: Rise of an Empire Movie Review

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300: Rise of an Empire employs all of the poor Hollywood action movie cliches while eschewing the campy charm that made its predecessor a success.

300 was released in 2007.

With it came a slow-motioned fictionalized romp through Sparta during the Battle of Thermopylae, a heralded showdown where a small number of the warrior nation's men managed to give the Persian Empire a serious pain in the haunches.

Ending with Dilios giving a speech about freedom and retroactively placed American values, 300's sequel was given a logical starting point.

And, to the 300: Rise of an Empire's credit, it opens with an establishing shot of a battlefield strewn with Spartan carcasses--the focal point of which is the lifeless body of Leonidas.

What happens next in 300: Rise of an Empire is a quick devolution into time hopping; Themistocles is introduced at the Battle of Marathon; Xerxes is reintroduced prior to his descent into megalomania; and Artemisia is introduced as the Persian Naval Commander with a tragic, femme fatale backstory.

After the main characters are established, the film rarely mentions its predecessor's central antagonist. Xerxes, who beheads Leonidas' lifeless corpse in the opening scene of the movie, is nearly unseen throughout the rest of 300: Rise of an Empire.

Artemisia--played by Eva Green--takes over as the central Persian baddie. To Green's credit, her performance is the only one with enough over the top charm to merit praise. But, by making her character the main antagonist, the film takes another clumsy step into awkwardness by back tracking from when it started.

A large amount of 300: Rise of an Empire is dedicated to the chronicling of the Battle of Thermopylae's naval portion.

As such, the film re-uses shots from the original movie to establish the Spartans fighting alongside Themistocles, who is the main protagonist of the picture.

Themistocles is played by Sullivan Stapleton, and his prowess as a tactician is poorly portrayed as he tries to match wits with Artemisia. Among the biggest issues that this movie suffers from is misplaced titular nomenclature; the term, "300" refers to the Spartans.

But, save for a few interspersed cameos from Dilios and Leonidas's wife, the picture features Athenians. Periodically, a Spartan messenger comes to deliver expositional news to Themistocles in order to facilitate plot correspondence between the two films.

300: Rise of an Empire could have recovered from its poorly utilized branding if it gave Themistocles the same level of charm that the original movie gave Leonidas. But, the Athenian general is stiffly acted. He seldom establishes unique relationships with his Athenian soldiers, which make their deaths underwhelming. This clearly isn't the intention of the film; many of Themistocles' troops slowly fall to their death while accompanied by slow-paced fanfare.

The Athenian general is introduced as a brilliant tactician who could use his mind to defeat the most daunting foe. Despite this, there is little to differentiate Themistocles' identity from Leonidas's; they are both perfectly chiseled, and-- while Themistocles isn't as bombastic as the Spartan King-- he still resorts to violence to solve all of his problems.

Furthermore, Themistocles' character is too serious for the film; Gerard Butler portrayed Leonidas as a boorish king who spoke with a level of excess that was appropriate for the movie.

The poorly-fleshed relationships aren't limited to the clumsy dialogue between Themistocles and his men; the Athenian general and Artemisia's game of mental chess is dull and needlessly over dramatic--resulting in many shots where both characters stare intensely off camera, as if they are trying to read each other's minds. Both characters directly interact twice throughout the film. These moments are an obligatory Hollywood intercourse scene and their final duel.

A subliminal tale of doomed romantic attraction is haphazardly facilitated during both of these scenes.

This hurts the film on multiple levels; it furthers Artemisia's status as the cliche femme fatale, and it makes the gifted Athenian tactician look like an easily wooed man who couldn't stand to despise such a beautiful woman.

Lastly, there's the relationship between Xerxes and Artemisia. The worst developed interaction in the movie, there are plot points that are never fully developed. At the beginning of the film, it is implied that Artemisia uses her feminine powers of persuasion to bend Xerxes to her whims.

It is even shown how Xerxes attacked Greece at the behest of his Naval Commander. In the small portion of the film that takes place after the Battle of Thermopylae, however, the Persian God-King and his Naval commander bicker in a fashion that can be likened to R2-D2 and C-3PO. At best, the characterization is sporadic and unpredictable--an issue that can be said about the entire film.

The Persians sack Athens in the film's climax. The dramatic weight this scene should have had is stifled considering the fact that, while the film's central character is Athenian, it spends much time trying to talk about the offscreen Spartans.

The city of Athens is never established like Sparta was in the original film. The only time we see Athens, the city's upper-class is talking about Sparta.

The film concludes as its predecessor did--slashing Persians, all of whom appear to be rejects from Mordor. In summation, the film ends exactly where the original did, which negates the purpose of a sequel.

With clumsy storytelling riddled with time jumping and poor character interactions, it is evident why 300: Rise of an Empire was released comfortably before the start of the summer blockbuster season.

(Image source: www. containsmoderateperil.com)