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300 offers the visual pizazz and vibrant action we didn’t know we needed. After years in development, Warner Bros moved forward with 300: Rise of an Empire, a weak story that ultimately makes you yearn for the original. The previous film is a lot more interesting than its semi-sequel.

The Players:

  • Director: Noam Murro
  • Writers: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad
  • Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Rodrigo Santoro
  • Cinematography By: Simon Duggan
  • Original Music By: Junkie XL

Plot Synopsis:

Athens is in danger of being conquered by the merciless Xerxes (Santoro) and his seemingly unstoppable army. While Sparta charges head-first into battle on land, Themistokles (Stapleton) pushes his forces towards the sea to fight the deadly Artemisia (Green), Xerxes’s right-hand woman.

The Good:

  • Eva Green: There’s one actor that shines throughout 300: Rise of an Empire, and that’s Eva Green. She embodies the tortured but bloodthirsty soul of Artemisia and does a fantastic job at it. She steals the scene from whichever unfortunate soul is in the same shot as her. Green is ruthless and verbally spits out venom whenever she can. She’s the kind of villain that fits in perfectly with this over-the-top universe. I salute her for making this film much more enjoyable to watch.
  • Costume Design: If I wanted to dress up like a villain, I’d contact Alexandra Byrne to design the costume. While there isn’t much to develop in the men’s department, her imagination goes wild with Artemisia. She keeps the Greek region in mind with her designs, while taking it to extreme places. For example, Artemisia’s final battle outfit, has golden spikes protruding out of her back.

The So-So:

  • Noam Murro: When Warner Bros. released 300, they had no idea what a cash cow it would be. Fans of the film expected the same slow-motion aesthetic, as well as the hyperactive bloody action for its follow-up. Director Noam Murro delivers to a degree. But he’s ultimately bound to this style, and it’s difficult to stand out from your predecessor (Zack Snyder), when you’re forced to keep that spirit intact. Murro does a decent job, but he’s forced to recreate Snyder’s world so much that it appears sloppy onscreen.
  • The Battles: Once we got into the final battle, my attention began to wane. This was due to the action scenes blending in with each other. There were a couple of great moments in the middle, but those were short-lived. The ships charge out into the sea on a collision course. When they finally arrive at their cinematic destination you’re left wondering when the film would reach its conclusion. It was very anticlimactic.
  • Xerxes’ Origin (Mild Spoilers): It’s disappointing that we didn’t get enough screen time with Xerxes, especially since he’s supposed to be our lead villain. But his origin story ties in nicely with the character Themistokles. It was him who shot the arrow, that ultimately killed Xerxes’ father and left the throne to his distraught son. Only through Artemisia’s manipulative tongue does he go down the dark path that ultimately transforms him into the menacing god king we all know. Unfortunately, this revelation lasts for less than 10 minutes before it’s pushed aside for most of the narrative.

The Bad:

  • Unnecessary 3D: In the first five minutes, 300: Rise of an Empire is magnificent in 3D. The stylistic slow-motion shines in the initial action sequence. It looks absolutely fantastic. It makes sense that a movie such as this would get the 3D treatment, but it wasn’t utilized properly. Once the heroes make their way to the sea, the CG-mist ruins any chance of the third dimension being noticed. The 3D was so forgettable that I had to refer to my notes to remind myself that it was a 3D production. There was some potential here, but it was squashed right away.
  • The CG: As a CG-loving audience, we’ve seen a great evolution in the virtual arts. This film has to look amazing and put the first one to shame, right? Nope. My biggest complaint is the muddled water shots that, when mixed with CG mist, make the scenes difficult to watch. You can’t differentiate between one side or another. You don’t know who to root for.
  • Rise of an Empire Vs. 300The ultimate question is: Which film is better: 300 or 300: Rise of an Empire? The stories take place simultaneously as both sides struggle to defeat Xerxes. The army of 300 pummels through him and his goons on land while Themistokles ultimately fails at his quest of defeating this threat. It’s not until Queen Gorgo (Headey) and the Spartans show up that they’re able to get an upper-hand. In the end, the Spartans and their story line, are still necessary to complete this one. In a way, it’s symbolic, showing how much weaker the side story is compared to the other. The run time drags and the main character is painfully one-dimensional, along with his fictional colleagues.

Overall:

If you’re at odds with yourself, wondering whether or not to watch 300: Rise of an Empire, do yourself a favor and don’t. Revisit the original film instead. Once this semi-sequel is out on DVD/Blu-ray, there will be an inevitable four-hour cut combining the two that will be way more entertaining.

The Rating: 5/10

300: Rise of an Empire opens in theaters March 7.

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Trailer:

Will you be seeing the movie this weekend?