Going into 300: Rise of an Empire, I was a bit skeptical about the movie. The first 300 movie I saw 3 times in the theater. The visuals at the time were ground breaking and hadn’t been seen before. The fight sequences felt like something out of Asian cinema, with its gore and intensity. Looking at the trailer for the new movie it looked like it was going to be more of the same . . . but 8 years later. Over those 8 years we have seen other movies use similar action sequence techniques so it no longer feels new or fresh. Somehow with that against him, director Noam Murro managed to create a movie that surpassed Zack Snyder’s original.
In the original 300, you had King Leonidas trying to stop the God-King Xerxes. There were other characters, but I never cared about their names once. Going back and watching the movie recently, I just noticed that Michael Fassbender had a large part in the film. Even though I recently watched the film I don’t know his character’s name, because he just wasn’t important. All of the characters in the film were very one dimensional. The only thing we knew about Xerxes is that he wanted to conquer Greece . . . just because. I mean I guess if you have an army that can conquer Greece, you might as well.
The new movie is very different in this respect. 300: Rise of an Empire makes me care about the Persians. There are several times I was actually rooting for them. Artemisia, commander of the Persian Navy completely stole the show. For those unfamiliar with this film, it isn’t quite a prequel or sequel to 300. The story starts out 10 years before the events of 300, during the first Greco-Persian War at the Battle of Marathon, where Themistokles slays King Darius while Xerxes watches. This drives Xerxes into depression, which gives Artemisia a chance to manipulate Xerxes into becoming the God-King and destroying the Greek empire. While the first movie took place on land in a desert, this movie takes place almost entirely at sea, before, during, and after the events of 300. Even though the Greeks are still the good guys of the film, you really wind up feeling for Artemisia played by Eva Green. Artemisia, was cunning, sexy, and violent. Her sword skills were amazing, and any time she was on screen you just wanted more of whatever she was doing.
This movie did a lot of things right. There was good action, but not so much that I was ever tired or bored of it. They seemed to keep it interesting with every fight. The battles on the sea, while very unrealistic, were very entertaining. While I usually despise sex scenes in movies because they are a waste of time, this movie had a great sex scene that just felt right. The film’s pacing was good, and the overall story was entertaining.
While I really enjoyed the movie, it’s far from perfect. While I felt like some of the feats people accomplished in the first 300 movie were a bit farfetched, I never felt like they were completely impossible. I felt that if someone trained all day and night for years that they could be that bad ass. There were several scenes in this movie that just seemed flat out impossible, and would take me out of the moment every so often, no matter how bad ass they were. Also there were a few too many guys here that looked way too strong. The movie makes reference to these men being poets and scholars, and other professions. They have no business being as big as they are. Not everyone in the film looks like The Rock, but I’d say there are far too many of them.
My largest complaint with the film is that they used Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo) as the main narrator of the film instead of using David Wenham (Dilios) as they did in the first film. David Wenham had a great narrator voice, and while Lena Headey’s isn’t bad, it just isn’t that good either.
One other thing I wish I could do is compare this to the original material . . . but it doesn’t exist. The original 300 was based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel with the same name. Frank Miller announced a followup graphic novel called Xerxes back in 2010. Supposedly in 2011 he had 2 of 6 issues finished issues, and hasn’t done anything on it since. I have no idea as to how much of this movie is Frank Miller’s vision, and how much of it is from the film’s writer, Zack Snyder. Maybe the future Blu-Ray will shed some light on the subject.
I watched the movie in 3D with RealD technology. For the most part the 3D wasn’t a big help or hindrance either way. There were many scenes where dust particles could be seen floating in the air, and they were a tiny bit distracting, but they were also interesting to look at. The blood in several scenes seemed like it was coming at you, as did the water. Overall though I can say that I probably would have enjoyed the movie in 2D as much as I did in 3D. It added a few nice touches here and there, but it wasn’t really necessary.
All in all if you liked 300, then you will definitely like 300: Rise of an Empire. If you didn’t like 300, there is a good chance you won’t like this movie either, but there is a better chance you will. If you had problems with historical issues that 300 portrayed, there are no shortage of them here in this film, but if you want to be entertained 300: Rise of an Empire is a good time.