Property review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros., 2014

300: Rise of an Empire late but bold enough to make impact

The first movie in the pos­si­ble pan­theon of tales about the valiant Spar­tans who died at the Bat­tle of Ther­mopy­lae was a rol­lick­ing good time. There were epic one-liners, fight­ing, sex and death: Every­thing you could ask for in a movie about ancient Greece and Per­sia. The sec­ond film had a name to live up to and a rep­u­ta­tion to uphold. While it man­ages to recre­ate some of the fun of 300, Rise of an Empire comes much too late to cap­i­tal­ize and con­tinue to curry the favor that 300 cultivated.

Rise of an Empire starts with the premise that King Leonidas and his brave brigade of war­riors from 300 are dead. Tak­ing place dur­ing, before and after Leonidas’ sac­ri­fi­cial trip to the Hot Gates, Rise of an Empire shows the begin­ning of Xerxes I’s reign, his cre­ation of Per­sian city states, his rise to power and seem­ing immor­tal­ity, and his ruth­less gen­eral Artemisia’s back­ground and even­tual lust for revenge and power. With simul­ta­ne­ous story threads, the film moves along at a quick­ened pace despite being an hour and 42 min­utes long. It needs that amount of time to flash­back for mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters and push the present events forward.

While the look at events in Rise of an Empire are inter­est­ing, quite frankly it was too long between movies for there to be much inter­est in the pro­ceed­ings. Rise comes seven years after the orig­i­nal, which means there’s plenty of time to for­get the orig­i­nal plot, char­ac­ter moti­va­tions and rea­son for most of any­thing that occurs. There are plot recaps at the begin­ning, thank­fully, but it’s hard to remem­ber a plot from seven years pre­vi­ously and remain engaged.

Despite the pas­sage of time, the film looks good. The chroma key tech­nique used in the orig­i­nal is used again and then given a fuzzy sheen. While slightly jar­ring, the sheen doesn’t detract too much from the orig­i­nal look that matched the comics. The sound­track remains the same as well, so not much has changed aside from the focus and some of the stars. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo as does Rodrigo San­toro as Xerxes. Eva Green — a for­mer Bond Girl — and Sul­li­van Sta­ple­ton join in new roles to round out the cast. The new addi­tions are great and seam­lessly fit the uni­verse. Green and Sta­ple­ton siz­zle with chem­istry and Green, in par­tic­u­lar, is a stand­out. San­toro still com­mands as Xerxes when­ever he is onscreen but the God King seems to take a back­seat, which is hard to under­stand. As he remains the main vil­lain, he should remain front and cen­ter.
Despite the long wait and sto­ry­line lag­ging from time to time, 300: Rise of an Empire is still a fun his­tory les­son for the comic book lover and casual movie­goer alike.

Story: 7
Like the comics: 10
Cast­ing: 9

Total: 36/40 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

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