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300:RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014)

A rare (if not unprecedented) Prequel/Equal/Sequel to the original 300, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE waffles between being entertaining and downright tedious. I couldn’t decide is I was engaged by the film or bored to tears and it wasn’t until the end that I finally warmed up to it. 

The film focuses on the Greeks and we learn some of the “history” of what lead up to the battle with the 300 Spartans at the Hot Gates. The film starts with the Battle of Marathon where we are introduced to Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a great warrior who further distinguishes himself by taking out the Persian King Darius (Igal Naor) with a well-placed arrow. 

Darius’ son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) vows revenge as does his adopted sister Artemisia (a scene-stealing Eva Green). As the Persian prepare for war against the Greeks, the film catches up with the events of the first film, but we witness them now from the Greek point of view and how these events affect Athens and the unification of all the Greek city-states. Eventually the story surpasses the death of King Leonidas and we get some resolution to the war hinted at, at the end of 300. 

I give RISE OF AN EMPIRE credit for its inventive structure though if I’m to be completely honest, it felt like the first two-thirds of the movie were a little pointless as it rehashes already known events from the first film and drags the film down. 

My biggest complaint might seem odd; because it’s almost the entire reason why you would probably go see this film, but the fight sequences were so mind-numbing that, in a Pavlovian-response, I checked out almost anytime a sword was unsheathed. To make matters worse, they used so much digital blood (possibly a stylistic approach) that it seemed far too cartoony to have any visceral impact. 

The film also felt overly long and if they trimmed a good 20 min. out it would have helped with the pacing. 

It’s not all doom and gloom. The acting was pretty decent and I found Stapleton a fine lead. Eva Green really shines though as the villainous Artemisia. There is such ferocity in her performance that I was amazed that this was the same woman who played the somewhat meek Bond girl in CASINO ROYALE. 

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is only worth seeing if you are a diehard fan of these type of movies. I liked the first 300 quite a bit, but the new film lacks the same cohesion and thrill.

MARCH 27, 2014