300 - Rise of an EmpireTitle: 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Director: Noam Murro
Runtime: 102 minutes

Imagine my surprise when I saw that 300 was receiving a sequel, eight years after its original release. It seems pointless when you think about it, but hey, Hollywood wants your money, and I’m a glutton for punishment, so I had to see it. But does 300: Rise of an Empire hold up to the original?

Based off of the Frank Miller comic Xerxes, Rise of an Empire starts as a prequel to the events of 300, and explains the rise of Xerxes, and the birth of the legend of Themistokles. The film then jumps to run alongside the events of the original, and then, finally, finishes with the events that happen after the original film.

As you can imagine the flow is a bit jilted. The first hour of the film seems to drag on forever, while the last half hour flies by. This is unexpected because most of the battles take place within the first hour. Speaking of battles, there is an awesome fight near the one-hour mark that screams of the opening to the video game series God of War. Sadly that fight is never topped as the finale comes rushing forward with some of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen, taking me right out of the film.

I watched Rise of an Empire in 2D, and I almost regret that. It’s clear from the opening that it’s made for a 3D viewing, as the buckets of CGI blood flow like a broken dam. There is lots of this CGI blood, with even the tiniest wounds requiring at least a full bucket worth of blood to be spilled. Not until the final battle, though, does any blood touch another person, or remain on any surface. Oddly enough, they fix all that in the finale, but it’s still a bothersome oversight to see in the first few fights. How can hundreds of buckets of blood be spilt, and everything remain pure?

I didn’t believe Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles, but as the film progresses, he grew on me. It’s not that he has amazing acting abilities, or that it’s required, but the “butch” factor just isn’t there until much later. Eva Green plays the villainess, which I might add is very refreshing for a film filled with buff, smooth muscles all over the place. Artemisia is a very strong character; a woman raped and left for dead, countering the country she was born in. Sadly Green just doesn’t play the sexy factor, which becomes painfully obvious in a sex scene that should be hot and filthy, but comes off as laughable and tedious. That scene should have been great, but it just falls flat due to the actors.

300: Rise of an Empire isn’t a great film. It’s flawed, heavy on the CGI blood, and lacks a fair amount of logic. Yet, once the credits roll, I can’t help but feel moderately entertained. There is some eye candy, and a few of the battles are highly enjoyable. Be warned, though, the film screams “sequel”, and might leave some viewers annoyed with its ending, which leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The film knows it’s audience and tries to play to it, which is a positive, plus the inclusion of a strong female villain is a highlight for a film otherwise filled with testosterone.

two_and_a_half_stars

Chris Ranson
Film Critic at Cinefessions

Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.