Fans, rejoice. “300: Rise of an Empire” isn’t terrible. In fact, it’s actually quite awesome. The sequel brings back everything people loved about the first one, mesmerizing visuals, stunning abs and that incredible slow-mo-ridden action. While the film is far from Oscar-worthy and brings almost nothing new to the table, it’s a blast to watch thanks to some cool effects and an incredible leading cast.
“Rise of an Empire” takes place at the same time as its predecessor and also acts as a prequel and a sequel. Following the story of the Greeks’ battle with the Persian Naval forces, the film shows a different side of the same war while giving some back story to both sides.
Greek general Themistocles, played by a wickedly heroic Sullivan Stapleton (“Animal Kingdom”), takes charge and leads his forces in deadly battle at sea with the self-proclaimed “God King” Xerxes’ Persian Navy commanded by a stunning Eva Green (“Casino Royale”). A few old and a few new characters are encountered along the way, bringing a slight amount of depth to what could have been an extremely thin plot.
Zack Snyder was set to return to the director’s chair, but sadly he made the debacle that was last summer’s “Man of Steel” and could only stay on as producer. In came Noam Murro to helm the film. He acted as more of an imitation artist than director in some ways, as it seemed he tried to copy every little trick Snyder did with the first film.
However, this isn’t a bad thing, as it was those tricks that made “300” so huge in the first place. The film easily distances itself in terms of the clever action sequences due to the fact that almost all of the fighting takes place at sea, allowing for a few things that have never really been shown before. Murro used a lot of slow motion and blood, just as one can imagine, but the film was almost too tailored for the 3D audience. Those that view the film in 2D may see the constant blood spatters as redundant blotches in the middle of their screens and may become distracted by the constant ash and dust floating around the character’s head.
That being said, these visuals were just a small blip in the narrative structure as the film easily brings the viewers in past such minor details. Most of this can be credited to the efforts of the film’s lead actors. Stapleton and Green own their roles in opposite sides of the war.
Taking the place of Gerard Butler as the hero of the story, Stapleton brings his own heroic depth to give the viewers someone to rally behind. Eva Green stuns as the villainess. Her sly, sexy nature comes full force as she plays a baddie of Loki-caliber antics — she’s the scene stealer. The two share plenty of on-screen chemistry resulting in one of the most intense sex scenes in the history of action movies.
The film is nowhere near as breathtaking as the original, and only time will tell if it’s as enjoyed as much. But, visual hiccups aside, it’s a fun ride and easily worth the price of admission thanks to some awesome action, a surprisingly nice plot, and some great acting. As for the future of the series, the box-office results will clearly decide its fate, but a safe bet can be placed on a threequel in the near future.