300: Rise of An Empire

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by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

One of the formulas in Hollywood is, if a film does well, you make a sequel. Pretty simple, right? You want to cash in on that success. Afterall, this is show BUSINESS and we are here to make money. But rarely does the sequel live up to the precedent set by the original. In 2007, director Zack Snyder brought to the big screen 300, the great battle that took place in 480 B.C.: The Battle of Thermopylae. As history remembers, some 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, stood against Xerxes I of Persian and his army of up to 300,000. The Spartans held the Persians for three days and killed around 20,000. So it was only a matter of time until a sequel was released. Ladies and gentlemen, 300: Rise of an Empire.

With Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) making his way to Greece, and Athens stands on the waters, led by Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton). While he knows Xerxes will attack by land, he also knows he will also attack by sea, and wants to be ready. So Themistokles goes to Sparta to ask Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) for the assistance of Spartan ships, he gathers what else he can. Xerxes has put Artemesia (Eva Green) in charge of the Persian fleet, and there’s none better to lead. While the Persian navy, minus the Spartan fleet who chose not to participate, are few, Themistokles is a veteran of the seas and a tactician. He’s able to attack the Persians and utilize what Mother Nature provides battle after battle, leading up to the final showdown between Athens and Persia.

 In 300, Snyder brought the graphic novel approach displayed by Frank Miller in Sin City to his film. The dark, almost comic backdrops, with stylized action sequences and enough blood to bathe a whole Persian army in. The sequel is more of the same, with an emphasis on the “more” part. While the battles take place primarily on boats, at some point the boats collide and participants must engage in hand to hand combat. And where 300 was successful with its slow motion bloodshed, the sequel takes it one step further with extra violence. However, we don’t have the great warriors that were the 300 Spartans here, but Athenians who seem, at least for a few participants, on the same level as the Spartans.

 One of the things that 300: Rise of an Empire lacks is the presence of a Leonidas. Stapleton is given that job this time around, to be the inspirational leader, fearless in battle and willing to stand up to an insurmountable military alone, if needs be. Stapleton’s Themistokles is a poor substitute. He doesn’t carry the presence Gerard Butler did in the original nor are his speeches as inspiring or motivating. The one who actually does almost strive to be the character that Leonidas was in the sequel is Eva Green’s Artemesia. But she is the villain and therefore does not garner our sympathies. Thus we are left with mediocre characters who fail to generate the rush brought to us by the original cast.

300: Rise of an Empire is far too loud and full of action to be boring. The action keeps up at a fairly frequent pace, with some backstory thrown in to shows how the characters came to be where they are today, and keeping us up to date with where we are in relation to the original 300 story. But it fails to deliver the same amount of fervor and adrenaline rush that Leonidas and the Spartans were able to give us in the original. 300: Rise of an Empire plays out just like it has in history, as a side story not nearly as epic as the main event.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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