When it comes to sequels, it’s debateable whether or not they’re a good thing. Arguably, some are better than their predecessors, but for every Dark Knight, Empire Strikes Back and Terminator 2, there are countless others that pale in comparison with the original and are deemed as a little unnecessary. 300: Rise of an Empire falls into the latter category, but at the same time, much like the first 300 film, it knows exactly what it is. More of a parallel to the original, Rise of an Empire chronicles the events in Greece before, during and after King Leonidas’ stand against the Persian Empire. It is told from the perspective of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton, Gangster Squad, The Hunter) an Athenian general who commands the Greek navy against the God-King Xerxes (Roderigo Santoro, Che, Rio) and his lieutenant Artemisia (Eva Green, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows).
Again, much like the predecessor, the concentration for this film is intensely towards style over substance. Following Zack Snyder’s directional tone (who has now moved on to be the producer), newcomer Noam Murro maintains the hyper-violence, mindless action sequences and the ridiculous amount of blood and gore. However, if these can be seen as positives, then it also stays true to the negatives of the first film. The characters are still fairly one-dimensional, and all the Greek soldiers fight topless with rock-hard abs, so much so that it rival Top Gun in the awkward homoerotic stares department. Not to mention that weird sex scene…
If you go into this film expecting a rich and compelling storyline, prepare to be disappointed. It’s your standard, predictable sword-and-sandals plot, bit it works for what it was trying to achieve. Rather than getting bogged down with boring political dialogue, it pushes that to the background to faintly justify all of this violence, but it never really elaborates upon it apart from the generalised notions of freedom, unity and standing up against tyranny. To be perfectly honest, I’m glad it did this rather than trying to take itself too seriously, because it could have backfired very easily. And as for the ending, I found it incredibly abrupt. Even if there was one or two scenes to give it closure, it would have been nice.
But it was interesting how they made some very minor connections to the first 300, to the extent that I have heard some people say that it could be edited into one long film and still function properly. Something that could have elaborated upon more was the difference in fighting styles between the Greeks and the Spartans. Rise of an Empire tries to suggest that the Athenians are more tactical, compared to the relentless power of the 300, but it’s not really expanded upon.
As far as the acting goes, they cast function sufficiently, but nothing here really stands out. Stapleton is a very average, forgettable and, quite frankly, dull protagonist that does his job, but nothing more. He doesn’t have any of the exaggerated charisma or lovably cheesy one-liners like Gerard Butler’s Leonidas. Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, Dredd) is essentially a carbon copy of her role as Cersei Lannister, and this is great at showing her ferocity and independence, but I still found myself getting irritated with a character that I was meant to sympathise with. Eva Green’s appearance was probably the most remarkable, even if she did have a clichéd back story. She proves that she can hold her own in the action sequences, although her motivation of revenge, much like all other motivation in this film, was a bit flimsy.
As far as sequel’s go, 300: Rise of an Empire wasn’t necessary, but enjoyable so long as you know what to expect: lots of CGI blood, stylised violence and not much in the way of plot. Eva Green rises up from a fairly mediocre cast, but not enough to be truly memorable. It’s one of those films that you can sit with your mates and joke about for some throwaway entertainment.