I just probably start this review by pointing out that I was not a fan of the original 300: whilst it may have had a smudge of visual flare I found the whole movie hollow and strangely homoerotic. Never in my life did I anticipate that there would come a time where I would pine for that movie- that was until I watched its sequel/prequel thing, 300: Rise of an Empire. There’s no denying that the first 300 wasn’t a great film, but it had at least it had a camp sensibility that made the whole thing sort of fun; the same can’t be said for this.
The film opens with a back story that drags, and drags and keeps on dragging, so much so in fact that I think I managed to get a full nights sleep in somewhere in the middle and not miss one important detail. The story is thus (I think): Themistocles of Athens shoots King Darius of Persia with an arrow, this then sets in motion a sequence of long over drawn events that leads to Darius’ son Xerxes becoming a demi-god like thing who alongside Eva Green’s Artemesia swears revenge on Themistocles and all of Greece. Swords then swing around a lot in slow motion, there’s a lot of rain, some ships sink and the movie ends. Oh, and there’s some dust, lots of dust.
The shining light of the movie is by some way Eva Green as the vengeful and dominant Artemesia- her hammed up, seductive and deliciously evil performance should have lead by example and had the movie followed this it could have been a much more enjoyable affair. Unfortunately her performance just feels lost in a sea of predictable fight sequences, crummy dialogue (You’ve come a long way to stroke your cock watching real men fight- an actual line from the movie) and bland performances. Whilst Gerard Butler cut an imposing figure as the leader of his 300 men in the first movie, Sullivan Stapleton offers next to no charisma as Themistocles this time around and the very talented Jack O’Connell who is stars in Starred Up later this month feels dreadfully miscast.
Writer and director of the first movie Zack Snyder has handed over the reigns to the equally as subtle Nuam Murro but Snyder still played his part, co-writing the script along side Kurt Johnstad and this shows as the movie offers up his trademark thought provoking and nuanced approach. Snyder’s sexual politics have often been incredibly questionable and perhaps no more so than this time around. Are there a lot of topless men running around screaming? Yes, however the movie still manages to sneak in a cheeky bit of boob in the opening sequence and then later in the film as Eva Green’s character shows her negotiating skills by getting naked and having sex. The obvious sexism of the movie is attempting to mask itself by giving two female characters a degree of power within the narrative but every time the camera pans up Eva Green it is hard to not think that Michael Bay is sat around somewhere with a big dirty grin on his face.
Verdict: Hollow gibberish from start to finish- 300: Rise of an Empire is like watching your mate play a rubbish video game that you’re not allowed to join in with.