Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
Director: Noam Murro
Reviewed: 3 May 2015
Bloody, trashy fun. This quasi-sequel to 300 offers an alternate view of the Athenian army while the Spartans are making their desperate stand at Thermopylae. Here, the fighting is on ships that threaten to engulf Greece unless a stand is made, resulting in some fantastic water battles and the occasional sea serpent. The result is a live-action cartoon of sorts with spraying blood, epic violence, scenery-chewing speeches, and a bunch of fun. There's not much to think about here, but the film seems to be enjoying itself immensely.
Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton, kind of bland) leads his warriors against the Persian warrior Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, shiny), son of slain King Darius and his fighting force led by Artemisia (Eva Green, wonderful). There are some platitudes offered about democracy, which is strange since the fighters seem to slavishly devoted to fascism. But mostly it is just an excuse for giant battle sequences and nifty swordplay.
The effects are pretty wonderful with swirling colors and the trademark slow-down, speed-up fighting that we have come to expect from a 300 movie. There's no Gerard Butler or Michael Fassbender, really, beyond a few still shots, so this could probably be best categorized as a sideways sequel like that last Jason Bourne movie. It seems to revel in its storytelling, but try as he might, Sullivan Stapleton just lacks some of the charisma of a Gerard Butler, so he cannot pull off the growly gravitas needed to deliver a line like "an unbreakable bond made stronger by the crucible of combat." But he tries his best. The revelation here is Eva Green's go-for-broke histrionic performance as Artemisia, a skilled warrior who fights from the front and stands toe-to-toe with all of the men, serving as a kind of Lady Macbeth pouring her spirits into Xerxes's ear while simultaneously seducing and attempting to recruit Themistokles. The scenes of Artemisia in command are quite fun, and the film moves at a steady brisk clip. 102 minutes is probably just about the right amount of time to spend in this world. The ending seems to set up a third film which I hope gets made because it is clear that the filmmakers are having fun in this world and could show us even more bloody insanity with some fearless over-the-top performances.