Director Noam Murro brings us the slightly late follow-up to Zack Synder’s 300 in what can only be termed as its predecessor on steroids. Cheap steroids at that though. The film strolls along the same path as 300, in that it takes us to a romanticized, vividly striking view of Greek history. Taking place at the same time as the first film (Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas is off fighting in the south, while this is set at sea), the enemy is the same – the Persians. Themistocles of Athens, played by Sullivan Stapleton, is this film’s Leonidas, showing the same bravery, and cunning tactics needed when a limited army faces a gargantuan task of defending its land against an empire. While Sparta is off fighting the battle of Thermopylae, Themistocles and his Greek counterparts are left to fight the naval war of Artemisium. This time, while the Persian man-come-god-king Xerxes is present, it is Eva Green’s Artemisia that takes center stage as this film’s enemy, out for revenge after the Greeks raped and murdered her family.
Everything seems to mimic 300 – the empowering speeches, the six-pack laden Greeks, the dark graphic colouring, the slow-motion action scenes, but its all turned up to 11, and it comes across almost as a parody of itself, or a B-movie version of Zack Snyder’s production. One of the most worrying elements was coming out of the film realizing the most exciting part of the trip was the new Godzilla trailer preceding the screening rather than any action scene I had witnessed in ancient Greece. It also shows glimpses of its predecessor, which only seemed to leave you yearning for Gerard Butler to rock up and take over the show. The action scenes look great, there is no doubt over that, but throwing the slow-mo macro shots of blood spraying and the javelin flying through the air at your eyes can get boring after a while and it slowly turns into the feeling of watching your friend get stuck on a video game level.
However, this film does have a saviour of sorts. Eva Green is spectacular, and is far more than the film deserves. Most of the acting comes across wooden and the dialogue bland, despite a coy reference to ‘This is Sparta’. Also ironically, the reference to the much-loved and ‘internet-ized’ quote is spoken in a muted whisper – the only thing that seems to be turned down in this film. Sadly, Stapleton lacks the conviction of Butler’s performance and command. Yet Eva Green, fulfilling her dream of being in an action film, comes out unscathed, takes what is given to her and turns it into a real show. Sexy, powerful, badass, she owns her scenes in this production and seems to catch the film from falling into the abyss. From making out with decapitated heads, to a sex-turned-fight scene, she has the best action of them all and shines in each scene.
If you want to go and escape, this film will suit you well – you might not connect with any characters, or be able to distinguish when one action scene ends and another begins, but the slow-motion blood spray will do enough to distract you – it’s definitely not mundane. There’s blood (heaps and heaps), there’s gore, there’s proud speeches and macro shots. If you’re not a fan of the 2007 film, you won’t find any chance of conversion here. But if you’re a fan of 300, then strap in and don’t take it very seriously. It is in essence the first film but drowned in the same elements to the point where it just becomes too much and too sweet.
300: Rise Of An Empire is out in UK cinemas