Remember 300? That was a distinctive looking movie wasn’t it? Love it or hate it (I loved it), one couldn’t deny the achievement it was in terms of look and treatment and what could be achieved on soundstages, with green screens, supremely ripped actors, and a (relatively) lean budget. But that was 2006 and a lot of cinematic water has passed under the bridge–a significant amount of it has been computer generated. It should be harder to wow an audience with slow motion violence alone. Right?
300: Rise of an Empire is not really a sequel to the movie from eight years ago. It would be more correct to think of it as a companion piece that begins before the events of the previous movie and continues on from the aftermath of the deaths of Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his merry band of red-caped warriors. The new movie is a bigger story as well, in which Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of the Greek city states in the war against Persia. The reason he is doing this is because he is the one — laterally — responsible for creating Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), when he killed Xerxes’s father in battle. That act paved the way for vengeful Artemesia (Eva Green) to manipulate a pretty boy warrior into turning into what he likes to self refer to as the God-King.
It is Artemesia who fuels Xerxes’s ambitions to satisfy her own lust for revenge against the Greeks. The reasons why are explained in one of the many tangents this movie wanders off on, as a way of punctuating the space between battle sequences.
Director Noam Murro may have directed just one feature film before this one but he is an advertising veteran so he knows his way around a flashy visual or two. The new 300 movie falters because of its over reliance on wooden expository dialogue. Sometimes that talking happens in voiceover, the rest of the times various characters are saying them to each other. Mr. Stapleton is no Gerard Butler and consequentially he is no match for the all out vamping of the main villain of this piece. Eva Green looks good as the scheming Artemesia with a wardrobe that looks like a cross between the works of Gaurav Gupta and Rajesh Pratap. The character of Artemesia is the only one that ever possesses more than one dimension, which is ironic considering that we watched this movie in 3D.
That’s the other problem: all that orgiastic slow motion just doesn’t work as well in 3D. Dust particles that hang around in every scene seem to be there only to convey that sense of false depth but those battle scenes will definitely be better in 2D. The other reason the 3D hinders rather than aids is because way too many scenes are staged in close up. You really don’t want to be looking at men (and women) saying clunky lines, at half speed, while you gaze upon their every pore, and facial hair. As Austin Powers might well say, it is all close enough to leave you cross-eyed.
Final Analysis: The action sequences are the only things that justify (a portion of) the price of admission for this movie. The leading man is bland, the narrative is confusing–more so because you go in expecting a sequel, and are unprepared for all the rehashing of stuff that happened in the previous movie, and the dialogue is just too boring to have been left in the final edit.
My Advice: This is a big screen movie so if you are going to see it, you should watch it in a cinema. Avoid the 3D, and do not expect to see anything even remotely as iconic as the “This is Sparta” scene from the original movie.