I think that any review of 300: Rise of An Empire can best be summed up as follows: if you liked the first movie, you will like the new one. If you didn’t, you won’t. It really is that simple.
So thanks for joining me here at the Zombie Room, I’ll see you all next time!
Haha, no, just kidding.
Amazingly, it’s been eight years since 300 came out and became a surprise hit in 2006, kickstarting the careers of Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and director Zack Snyder. Most people are probably familiar with the name Gerard Butler, which is 100% due to 300 (he went on to squander his newfound name recognition by appearing in a whole bunch of completely forgettable movies since then). Lena Headey went on to play the duplicitous queen Cersei in Game of Thrones, and Zack Snyder went on to direct Watchmen and Man of Steel (and Sucker Punch, but the less said of that one, the better).
And who doesn’t know lines like “Tonight we dine in hell!” and “THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!” even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably heard those lines. They’ve become part of the landscape of popular culture, frequently parodied but never quite equaled.
It was also a very divisive movie. Some people loved it, some people hated it. And I have to say, both reactions are entirely valid.
The movie is full of stylized visuals, over-the-top acting, slow-motion blood-splattering, and lines of dialogue just begging to be quoted and parodied.
And abs. Can’t forget those abs.
You either like this kind of thing, or you don’t. Love it or hate it, chances are you probably remember it.
Personally, I dig it. I like the stylized visuals, the alternately sped-up and slowed-down battle scenes, and the sort of heightened sense of realism that pervades the movie. It’s a manly, badass movie, and I always watching it. It never fails to get me fired up.
People say it’s cheesy. Yes, it is. But I don’t mind.
People say it’s not historically accurate. Well, it’s based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, so it probably isn’t very historically accurate. But I don’t mind.
People say it’s one-sided, and that it portrays the Spartans as heroic and awesome and the Persians as pure evil. Absolutely true. 300 is a film with pretty much zero subtlety. But I don’t mind.
People say the acting is over-the-top. Also true. But it’s not entirely dissimilar from something like, say The Avengers. The acting in that one is also pretty over-the-top, if you think about it. But if you think about it some more, that starts to make perfect sense. The Avengers is a movie where a billionaire with a flying suit of armor, a scientist who turns into a monster, the Norse god of thunder, and a couple of secret agents whose base is on a flying aircraft carrier band together to battle an army of aliens led by the Norse trickster god.
Sounds pretty ridiculous when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Of course it does, since none of that could ever happen in real life, because real life is boring.
What I’m saying is that when the situation is heightened, the style needs to be heightened. 300 does this perfectly. So I don’t mind the hammy acting. In my opinion, it suits the movie perfectly.
The point of that whole discussion was to emphasize how similar the experience of watching the original movie is to the experience of watching the sequel, and how similar the movies themselves are.
Stylized visuals? Check.
Over-the-top acting? Check.
Slow-mo blood splatter? Check.
Lack of subtlety? Check.
If you liked all of these things in the first movie, you will like them here. If you didn’t, you should probably see something else.
The sequel follows two main characters. The first is Themistokles, an Athenian general and strategic genius.
Themistokles is played by Sullivan Stapleton, an Australian actor who plays one of the main characters in one of my favorite TV shows, Strike Back. I could go on for a while about how awesome Strike Back is. If you love action movies like I do, you owe it to yourself to check out Strike Back, every ten-episode season is like five two-part action movies. I love it so much.
But I digress. Stapleton’s experience in Strike back gave him two very important skills, both of which come in handy in 300: Rise of An Empire.
Those two skills are as follows:
Skill number one: kicking ass.
Skill number two: scoring with the ladies.
The film’s other main character is Artemisia, played by Bond girl Eva Green, who is officially the Zombie Room’s Best Villain of 2014 So Far (both of those skills will come in handy with her, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink).
She’s scary, sexy, and awesome. Artemisia is the commander of Xerxes’ army, and Eva Green effortlessly pulls off all the things this character needs in order to work. It makes sense that, despite being Greek by birth, she hates the Greeks enough to lead a huge army against them. It makes sense that she’s smart enough to handle being in command of an entire army, and it’s plausible that she’s so fearsome and badass an army of men wouldn’t hesitate to do what she says.
I guess you could say that the movie is maybe a bit more balanced than its predecessor, since it spends a fair amount of time giving background to Artemisia, and shows some of the events that happened prior to the events of the first movie (like the battle of Marathon). It’s kind of a quasi-sequel in that sense, since some of it takes place before or during the first movie, although most of it takes place afterwards.
But enough about characters and story and background! How’s the action? How’s the badassery? Is there as much carnage as the first one?
The answer to that last question is a resounding yes. I think it’s safe to say the overall quantity of blood spilled in this movie easily tops that of the first movie.
This is a movie where every slash, every stab, even every punch and kick produces great gouts of thick red blood. To be honest, it almost looks less like blood and more like strawberry jam. The overall effect is kind of cartoonish. But the numerous battles are well-staged and choreographed, and suitably badass.
The movie wasn’t directed by Zack Snyder, but new director Noam Murro emulates Snyder’s style so closely that it may as well have been. As with all things 300, this is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about the movie. If you liked the first one, you should see the sequel. I’m fully aware that both 300 movies are from perfect. They do have many flaws, although most of those flaws don’t really bother me. I enjoy them for what they are, which is entertainment. They’re not good history. They’re not in any way subtle. But they are full of spectacle, and sometimes a little good old-fashioned spectacle is really all you need.
And Eva Green. Every movie could benefit by having her in it. Later this year she’ll star in another adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, as the titular dame in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, so keep an eye out for that.
Hehehe, I love the word “titular.” It sounds dirty but totally isn’t. My inner 12 year-old insists I use it as much as possible.