This is . . . Athens?
Blood bath can’t wash away sequel stigma
By Ian Murphy 03/13/2014
300: Rise of an Empire
Directed by Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
Rated R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language
1 hr. 42 min.
Sequels have it rough. The only reason anyone goes to see one is because the first film left such an indelible impression that people can’t wait to see what happens next. Sadly this is where most sequels fail to live up to the hype, as the odds are stacked against them. So it is no surprise that 300: Rise of an Empire doesn’t quite match its predecessor. But it definitely gives it one hell of a try.
300: R.o.a.E. expands the scope of 300 using flashbacks, flash-forwards and parallel events to flesh out the other events happening in and around Greece while Leonidas and his Spartans are defending the Hot Gates in the original film. While Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive army approach the Greeks, the hero of the battle of Marathon, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), now the main general in Athens, prepares to stop the invading horde using Athenian naval might. But disputes between the various city-states of Greece (of which Sparta is one) make it difficult for him to bring together a united force. And it is not merely politics that set the stage for impending disaster. At the battle of Marathon, 10 years before, Themistokles killed the the-leader of the Persian forces, King Darius (Igal Naor), the son of whom uses this tragic death to fuel his insatiable need for vengeance to become the god-king Xerxes.
To stack the deck even further in the Persians’ favor, the commander of their vast navy is Artemisia (Eva Green), an ex-Greek slave turned to Persian loyalties after years of abuse at the hands of Greek hoplites. Saved by a Persian soldier, she spends her formative years training with sword and spear, becoming one of the deadliest and most manipulative people in the world. The naval powerhouses meet each other and, as expected, a series of gruesome battles take place, the outcomes of which will not only prove whether the final stand of the 300 was in vain, but also the fate of the Western World.
Saying this film is based on actual history would be akin to saying the Doritos Locos Taco is based on Mexican food. But that’s not really the point of 300: R.o.a.E.. This is over-the-top, hyperviolent popcorn entertainment at its most unashamed. Everything, from the video game-esque killing sequences to the laughably elaborate dialog, is so ridiculous that it becomes its own awesome spectacle. When the characters aren’t busy murdering each other, they chew the scenery with a strange mix of subtlety and camp, almost as if SPIKE TV put on a production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Entertainment value aside, this movie is NOT for children or anyone who is even the slightest bit squeamish. The violent deaths are drawn out with exhaustive use of slow motion and, unlike the first film, where the disturbing sex scenes were heavily implied, this time the brutal and callous sex acts leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
This movie is perfect for those who want to explore the “extended universe” of the original, and don’t mind having buckets of blood thrown at them, but at the end of the day it is an easily forgotten follow-up that, much like the Athenians compared to the Spartans, just can’t measure up.