The makers of 300: Rise of an Empire know their audience. Like gore? Have some more. Bearded guys with perfect abs? Here by the hundreds. Motivational speeches delivered as if the film were set in a locker room? Bellow on, my friends. The movie becomes a slave to audience expectations, which were set in stone with the 2007 release of its predecessor, 300 - based on the graphic-novel series by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.
The makers of 300: Rise of an Empire know their audience.
Like gore? Have some more. Bearded guys with perfect abs? Here by the hundreds. Motivational speeches delivered as if the film were set in a locker room? Bellow on, my friends.
The movie becomes a slave to audience expectations, which were set in stone with the 2007 release of its predecessor, 300 — based on the graphic-novel series by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.
Part sequel and part ancillary product, Rise of an Empire takes place both before and during the previous effort. The pseudo-history lesson provides some back story to 300 while also covering subplots of the second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 B.C.).
Two battles at sea serve as bookends for the film: Artemisium and Salamis.
Athens is torched. Sparta is weary of war and distrustful of Athenian leader Themistocles.
This isn’t Greece’s finest hour, as cities splinter and look after self-interests. Through voice-overs, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, reprising her role from the first film) fills in the rest of the story.
The film centers on Themistocles (Russell Crowe look-alike Sullivan Stapleton, the only actor here who has more range than an action figure). He and his counterpart, Artemisia (Eva Green), square off as mortal enemies, with a hint of sexual tension in the mix.
Artemisia’s back story is brutal; it is little wonder that she despises the Greeks and will stop at nothing to destroy every last iota of the once-great civilization.
Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) — whose history is told, too — stands by while Artemisia, a scenery-chewing machine, growls directives to the Persians.
The film meekly poses the question of whether the endless war is worthwhile but quickly dismisses such introspection in favor of a battle scene, then another, with amputated limbs gushing maroon-colored blood.
After a scant moment of mourning, the armies go at it again.
The project seems to be the creation of cocky young men who were given a pile of money and told to have fun with it — sparing no expense on computer-generated images.Every shot strives to be more dramatic than the one before, giving all scenes a numbing sameness in which nothing stands out.
Debating the half-truths and inaccuracies depicted in Rise of an Empire is pointless. (Author Miller admits he took visual liberties with the Greek costumes, emphasizing torsos over defense.)
Silliness rules — but not a silliness that might tip off viewers that the filmmakers are serving blood-splattered winks.
Zack Snyder, who directed and co-wrote the original film, serves as a writer and producer. Noam Murro directed, and his inexperience as a feature-film maker shows.
The battle scenes are the only times when one can revel in pure spectacle. Each is staged differently, with the armies using strategies that keep viewers guessing.
The finale stretches credibility past the point of no return, but at least it isn’t boring.