300: Rise of an Empire is pretty much the same lame video game as the first 300 film, but what this one has going for it is an occasional sense of a humor and a biting, entertainingly evil performance from Eva Green. She’s hands-down the best part of this monotonous, way-past-expiration date cash grab that has somehow been seven years in the making. That being said, if you like the first film, you stand a good chance of liking this one. It piles on the beheadings, throat slashings, and impalements to near-unprecedented levels. No sign of brains, however.
After the Persians’ defeat of King Leonidas’ 300 Spartans in the first film, the army, led by mortal-turned-God Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and traitor Artemisia (Green), turns their attention to the other Greek city-states for annihilation. At the top of the list is Athens, whose military forces are led by Thermistocles (Stapleton) and possess large strengths in their naval fleet.
The basic formula here is exposition, speech, battle, rinse and repeat. And accent battle. One thing that 300: Rise of an Empire is not lacking is bloodshed, even if the blood is so stylized is looks like strawberry jam. There is also a truly must-see-it-to-believe-it sex scene that is one for the books in terms of plot development and just sheer aggression. As a colleague said, it seemed to be more like “consensual rape.” The film does deserve some credit for just going for broke and throwing everything at the audience, regardless of camp and sleaze. It does look fairly good in its green-screen splendor, though it’s tough to envision the 3D presentation doing any favors for an already dark and dingy palette.
Though the film attempts to be more about Xerxes and Thermistocles, it really turns into Artemisia’s movie thanks to a scorching performance from Eva Green. She’s clearly having fun with the role and much of her dialogue and swift murders of her own soldiers elicits the kind of nervous laughter that only the best villains can. She single-handedly saves the movie from eternal boredom.
Regardless, 300: Rise of an Empire is still mind-numbingly repetitive and would seem to be as much of a punch to the gut of the history at hand as the original was. After the tenth slit throat, what is really left to see? It’s competently directed by Noam Murro, but the screenplay by 300 director Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad may as well have been written on a napkin. Here’s to, hopefully, another seven years without a 300 film.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Length: 102 Minutes
Rating: R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language.
Theatrical Release: March 7, 2014
Directed by: Noam Murro
Written by: Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad. Based upon the graphic novel “Xerxes” by Frank Miller.
Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey