RATING: ★★½ (2.5/4)
The 2006 film 300 was an instant classic that captivated audiences across the globe. The film that ignited the Hollywood career of Gerard Butler was epic in every sense of the word. The movie possessed highly stylized, yet brutally graphic battle scenes that made previous films of the same genre such as Troy look like child’s play. Moreover, the film illustrated the fierce, warrior mentality of the Greek city-state of Sparta, best encapsulated in an ever-famous 3-word ultimatum that requires no introduction (here is a YouTube video for the less enlightened).
300: Rise of an Empire differentiates itself from its aforementioned predecessor in a multitude of ways. First, the plot entails the struggle of the other Greek city-states (primarily Athens and its revered leader Themistokles) against the Persian army led by Xerxes. Regardless, the film still invokes the plot of 300 and even has some of the same characters, namely King Leonidas’ queen. The overwhelming majority of the movie’s battle scenes take place on sea as opposed to land. This provides the film with a unique element that culminates in a variety of high-octane action sequences.
While the movie is undoubtedly entertaining, and possesses many of the same stylistic and thrilling elements of 300, it ultimately succumbs to many of the common flaws that plague sequels. First, the plot is not nearly as compelling and crisp. Instead, the movie focuses too narrowly on Themistokles and his female nemesis Artemisia, a dynamic that while interesting, unnecessarily limits the scope of the film. For me, the film’s plot loses its legitimacy when Themistokles and Artemisia engage in an excessively raucous, almost laughable sequence of sex acts (sorry for the spoiler alert, but if you see the movie you’ll understand where I’m coming from).
Another unfortunate aspect of the film is that the protagonist, Themistokles, is portrayed by Hollywood unknown Sullivan Stapleton in an unconvincing, forgettable manner. I am realistic in the sense that I realize few if any will be able to mimic the intensity and raw emotion of Gerard Butler’s portrayal of Leonidas. However, Stapleton’s performance comes across as lacking and reserved, with Lena Headey’s portrayal of Queen Gorgo (Leonidas’ wife) instead serving as a worthy alternative.
Regardless of the film’s numerous shortcomings, 300: Rise of an Empire, ultimately fulfills its purpose of providing its target audience with a violently entertaining thrill ride. The movie’s naval battle scenes are exhilarating and refreshingly original. I can honestly say that the film blew my mind at some points with its outlandish, yet undeniably epic action sequences.
The ending strongly implies that there will be a third film, which will likely entail the culmination of the epic war between the Greeks and Persians. And while I can predict with a fair degree of certainty that the next film will once again fail to achieve the greatness of 300, I will nevertheless see the film. This is due to the fact that action films are meant to dazzle and entertain, not invoke intellectual, contemplative discourse. In other words, do not go into this film expecting the accuracy of a History Channel documentary. Those who can accept the film for what it is will surely be entertained.
Watch the trailer here!