300: Rise of an Empire

300 Rise of an Empire

  • While stylistically derivative and narratively simplistic, 300: Rise of an Empire is packed with enough entertaining action that it doesn’t completely fail.
  • The film’s biggest problem: we have seen it before, except that seven years ago, with Zach Snyder directing and the likes of Gerard Butler, Michael Fassbender and Dominic West starring, it was almost revolutionary. Now it is familiar.
  • A grainy and grey color palette broken up by slow-motion spurts of blood and sweat? Check. Mostly naked men swinging swords and flexing impressive muscles? Check. A handful of sexy women scantily dressed? That too. Natural setting simultaneously serving as visual safe haven and perilous precursor of death? Now it’s a sea instead of a mountain. Shaky camera work and copious close ups? Of course.
  • It’s almost as if new director Noam Murro wanted to Paint By Numbers Zach Snyder’s style.
  • In so doing, he adds nothing new, gives no additional reason to invest in the 300 storyline, and makes our experience repetitive.
  • Rise of an Empire’s narrative does much the same. Here we have another undercooked father and son drama, another heroic force heavily outnumbered, and another unbending, lethal leader with complicated plans for long-term victory.
  • As if that weren’t enough, Murro and writers Kurt Johnstad and Zach Snyder make several unique narrative missteps, the most glaring of which is their opening. Roughly twenty-five of the first thirty minutes are filled with expository voice over, the first round narrated by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headley), while the second comes from Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton). Yes, some of the voice-over is accompanied by visuals of flash-back violence, but it barely matters; it is a slow start to a movie that will thrive or fail on action.
  • That isn’t even the worst part. What is? One of the first shots show us Queen Gorgo on a boat, speaking to a squad of fighters, thereby solving the film’s central mystery before we even know about it, a fact that removes all suspense from the narrative.
  • Which is one reason this story is too simplistic. The other? It is part run-of-the-mill fight for freedom and part formulaic revenge tale. There are no larger concepts here. No thematic insight.
  • And I haven’t even mentioned the non-sensical sex scene that breaks Themistokles’ thinly defined character in almost every imaginable way.
  • For all of that, 300: Rise of an Empire includes enough heart-poundingly gruesome action accompanied by impressive visual effects that we are never bored.
  • Eva Green’s scene stealing performance as Artemisia keeps our attention, as well.
  • Green and the myriad action sequences ensure this film doesn’t completely fail.
  • But they are not enough to make it succeed.
  • Final Grade: D

26 thoughts on “300: Rise of an Empire

    • Full disclosure: I am not a huge fan of the first, either. But this one, in my opinion, is simply not very good.

      And thank you for finding this review even before I told the world it existed. 🙂

  1. I didn’t expect much from this film, but I expected better! Hopefully Sin City doesn’t fail, because the original is one of my all-time favorite movies.

    • Agreed on this movie.

      I wouldn’t call Sin City one of my all time favorites, but I did like it a lot. (And certainly more than the original 300.) Here’s to hoping the sequel is good.

  2. Cannot say it deserves much more than what you gave it. I have been getting annoyed lately by monkey’s on Facebook posting that, “THE NEW 300 IS INCREDIBLE” . How so? I just don’t understand and it rattles my bones to the core.

    • I don’t really care that so many people like it, but I don’t understand if either. It is entertaining enough, I suppose. But beyond that? It’s not good.

  3. “Mostly naked men swinging swords….” Ha ha I see what you did there.

    This movie was awful, almost unwatchable. I can enjoy camp. I liked Pompeii for example. But this had no redeeming value. Just blood and guts thrown at the audience watching in 3D for 102 minutes. You nailed it!

    • Totally agreed. It isn’t good at all.

      And I didn’t even see the “swinging swords” pun until you pointed it out. Man, if only I was cognizant when I’m at my funniest. 🙂

  4. I’ll see it for Green who is gaining a gigantic praise from people, which is quite shocking considering what the overall quality of the movie seems to be. An unnecessary sequel, shame Eva seems to be making a habit of starring in such.

  5. Oh no! I really enjoyed 300, but I can’t say I’m surprised this wasn’t great. Like you said, it’s already been done.

    I really like Eva Green, so I’ll probably end up renting this. Good to know I won’t be missing much by not seeing it in the theaters!

    • You certainly won’t be. The visuals are the best part about it, really, but I suspect any HD TV will show them effectively enough.

      Green is the other merit. As a fan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by her work. 🙂

  6. Am I going to have to be the only one to admit to thinking the sex scene was the most redeeming part to Rise of an Empire? Lol in all seriousness, this movie sucked. I was largely disappointed, but Artemisia as a character was pretty badass and Eva Green really relished the opportunity to play her, you could tell. But virtually everything else around her was even less than sub-par. Wonder if it made enough at the box office to warrant a third, even more dire one

  7. I completely agree with every point you mentioned about Rise of an Empire. I’m glad I finally see someone who shares my points of view regarding this movie. I started fearing I was the only person who hated it.


    • Definitely not the only person. I’ve even seen a few reviews around the blogosphere that are actually more negative than mine. 🙂

      And thanks for stopping by.

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