300: Rise of an Empire Review
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In 2007’s 300, Gerard Butler led a small army of Spartans into battle against the Persians. In the sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, the scope broadens to depict an epic CGI blood-drenched battle at sea between the noble Greeks and their vicious enemy.

300: Rise of an Empire is the story of Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the Greek warrior who was responsible for the death of the Persian king, Darius (Igal Naor), at the battle of Marathon. Persuaded by the king’s beloved naval commander, Artemisia (Eva Green), his son, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), sacrifices his soul to become a blood-thirsty god-king, bent on avenging his father’s death.

Themistokles hopes to unite all of Greece against the Persians, but the Spartans refuse to lend their aid. So as Xerxes’s army sets out to defeat the Spartans, Themistokles prepares to face Artemisia’s legendary fleet.

  
 
Films like this one often require a little bit of back story—a scene or two to introduce the key players and their conflict. But 300: Rise of an Empire is almost entirely back story. There’s so much back story, in fact, that there’s even back story within the back story. And although parts of it are actually interesting, much of the focus is on a hero who’s so bland that it’s almost impossible to get caught up in his story. Stapleton’s Themistokles may be a strong and noble warrior, but he’s so low-key that he tends to fade into the background, when the hero of an over-the-top epic like this one needs to be as big and bold as the action.

Green’s Artemisia, meanwhile, is the exact opposite. She’s violent and vicious and entirely unhinged (not to mention seductive and manipulative and controlled by her emotions—so much so, in fact, that feminist moviegoers could have a field day with the film’s messages and undertones). And while she’s definitely an intriguing (and entertaining) character, she’s also laughably overdone. To be fair, though, most of the movie is laughably overdone—from the melodramatic pep talks to what could very well be the most ridiculous sex scene ever filmed—so I suppose she fits right in.

Like its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire is a brutal and visually interesting film, complete with grisly battles and an overabundance of stylized CGI blood spatters. But there’s really nothing here that we haven’t seen before. It’s basically a rehashing of 300, with another crazy villain, more fake blood, a lackluster hero, and some unintentional humor to break up the monotony of the repetitive battle scenes. So unless you’re really into endless ancient warfare—or armies of muscle-bound men in leather bikinis—there’s no need to assemble the troops to see this CGI bloodbath.


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