Title: 300: Rise of an Empire
What Are Your Favorite Empires? Strikes Back and Queensryche's.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One and a half Abs of Steel videotapes out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Athenian general unites Greek city-states in order to repel Persian invasion via mass disembowelments.
Tagline: "Seize your glory."
Better Tagline: "Seize this, honkus."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Taking place before, during, and after the events of 300, this new movie finds Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempting to unite the city-states of Greece against the forces of the Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), led by his naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). Everybody yells a lot.
"Critical" Analysis: There's a scene in Ghostbusters where Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler are trying to explain to Peter Venkman why Dana Barrett's apartment is the focus of supernatural activity. Venkman, frustrated with their technical jargon, replies:
Ray, for a moment pretend that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what in the hell is going on.
I'm not saying you need to be ignorant of history, tactics, or the basic principles of buoyancy to enjoy 300: Rise of an Empire, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Obviously, the movie's predecessor was plenty ri-god-damn-diculous in its own right, but there was a novelty about it. The world hadn't yet tired of Zack Snyder (or Gerard Butler, for that matter), and in 2007, the over-the-top ultraviolence and photorealisitc visual style were something of a breath of fresh air after years of sanitized PG-13 actioners.
Director Noam Murro, stepping in for Snyder, takes that particular ball and runs it into the (computer generated) ground. No longer restricted to a narrow, dusty battlefield, the Athenians and their allies range from the Plain of Marathon to the straits of Salamis, severing countless limbs and spilling untold gallons of blood, or whatever the digital equivalent is, in the process. There's not one but *two* rousing pre-battle speeches, war elephants, remote detonated suicide bombers (just trust me), and even a war horse. It's an embarrassment of riches, emphasis on "embarrassment."
Santoro plays Xerxes -- as he did in the original -- as a literal god, though one whose fatal weakness seems to be guys in loincloths with sculpted abs (*fans self*), while Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo) and David Wenham (Dilios) reprise their roles as well. Newcomer Stapleton is no Butler, in part because his facial expressions range from concerned anxiousness to anxious concern, and also by design. Nobody's kicking anyone down a well here, though I'm trying to imagine the city council mumbling "This is Athens" to a Persian emissary before politely escorting him to the city gates and politely wishing him good day.
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However, if you only need one reason to convince you to see a movie, I give you Eva Green. In real life, Artemisia was not Persia's perfect killing machine, much less its Supreme Commander, nor was she a discarded sex slave who vowed revenge on Greek civilization, but who cares? Back story is pointless when you've got a character as hilariously, insanely scenery gobbling as this. Think Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Gary Oldman in The Professional, then try to imagine one of them screaming, "You fight better than you fuck!"
I'm also glad to see Green was able to secure her usual contractual codicils for raccoon eye makeup and at least 30 seconds of bared breasts.
As tediously self-important as 300: Rise of an Empire can be, and as interminable as it feels (if Murro shot this at normal speed it'd be about 14 minutes long), every scene with Green in it is spectacularly ludicrous. It's almost -- but not quite -- enough to recommend it on the "strength" of her "performance" alone.
300: Rise of an Empire is in theaters today. It's still better than The Legend of Hercules.