I am the president of the “Every good movie does not need a sequel” fan club. So if there was anyone who was indifferent about the idea of a sequel, it was me. Still, if I can give Pompeii 3D a chance (I shouldn’t have) then I can most certainly make an attempt to delve back into the over-dramatized, ultra masculine world of ancient Greece once again.
As with most, my first gripe with this film was the sheer idea of it. 2007’s 300 (which launched both Zack Snyder and Gerard Butler’s careers into stardom), is a visual masterpiece and the first of its kind. Many have attempted to replicate it (*Cough* Pompeii) but none have managed to come close. Through its poetic aesthetics and powerfully iconic one-liners, the original managed to capture the ‘few vs. many’ story arc with perfection.
So why tamper with it again? Doesn’t a sequel somewhat undermine the plot of the first? Isn’t what happens after King Leonidas’ death in the Battle of Thermopylae a bit obvious? Snyder, who serves as writer and producer this time around, manages to answer these questions better than you’d think. For one, 300: Rise of An Empire is not just a sequel. It’s actually a sequel, prequel, and inbetweequel. In other words, the film not only continues the Greek city states war against God-King Xerxes, but also explains how the battle began in the first place.
But most of the film takes place during the actual events of 300, with the vast majority of the original cast making a cameo. Only Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) has her role expanded upon. New director Noam Murro does a serviceable job navigating his way through the interweaving stories. The bulk of the film focuses on a dramatized depiction of the concurring Battle of Salamis. Here, King Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his army of Athenians battles Xerxes’ head naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green).
You will likely be happy to know that the fight scenes are as equally visually vibrant and violent as they were in the first film. However, the characters mostly seem like watered down retreads. Themistocles is smart and skilled, but he isn’t remotely as cool as Leonidas even though he tries to be. His comrades, including a father and son, might as well be the same actors who followed Leonidas into the hot gates. The bright spot is Eva Green’s Artemisia who provides an unpredictable, yet worthy adversary to the Greeks. Her performance isn’t groundbreaking, but it is a nice change-up from what we saw in 300.
Rise of An Empire won’t make you stand and cheer. It doesn’t even remotely live up to its predecessor either. But it will provide solid entertainment, especially the invigorating final act. Is that enough to warrant seeing before Red Box? Meh… you can be the judge.
FINAL GRADE: B-