To be honest, I've seen Zack Snyder's “300” only twice. Now, that doesn't mean I didn't like the film, it had simply fallen off my radar. Because of this I went in fairly clean into this sequel. Perhaps it was possible to judge this movie on its own merits then. Early into the movie I came to the realization that this was impossible. Let's sharpen our swords and get right into the heat of things.
|Finally! This CGI blood does have a purpose after all. It looks great in 3D!|
Ten years before King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartans battled the Persians at Thermopylae, a brave young soldier called Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and the Greek forces fought off the first Persian invasion at the battle of Marathon. This invasion was led by King Darius (Igal Naor) and his young son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The outcome of the battle was disastrous. While the Greeks decimated the Persian Army, Themistocles, took a once in a life time chance and managed to shoot King Darius with an arrow. Unable to save his father, Xerxes, now taken over by grief and rage swore to avenge his father.
While the Greeks were victorious, Themistocles knew that he had made a mistake by killing Darius. He knew that his actions would come back one day to haunt him and his people, he was right. Xerxes, now reborn as a “God-King” invades Greece once more. Fueled by hate and vengeance he won't let anything stop him. While Leonidas and his brave 300 hold off the Persians, Themistocles has to race against the clock. He must find a way to unite the forces of Greece before their country is overtaken by Xerxes and his dark armies.
|...and so it unfolds|
This film somewhat follows the beats of the first movie, meaning we get a lot of back story at the beginning of this movie, much of it focusing on Xerxes. These flashback scenes are very exciting and move the story forward at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, the movie almost comes to a standstill during its second act. Sure, there are some action scenes but the focus lies more on political maneuvering and Themistocles trying to unite the Greek forces. It is during its third act where we are rewarded. The end battle is nothing short of spectacular. The 3D cinematography does add a little extra to the action and the overall experience. it is truly exhilarating.
|Also pretty in 3D!|
Now, as good as Sullivan Stapleton and his co-stars are, he lacks Butler's natural charisma and the rest don't fare much better. Fortunately much of this emptiness is filled up with a phenomenal performance by Eva Green. Her portrayal of Artemisia, Xerxes' second in command is one for the books. It is so over the top and fun, she might as well have been a James Bond villain. It is an absolute delight and to top it off she and Stapleton have one of the most ridiculous sex scenes I've ever seen. Yes, it is absolutely intentionally over the top. Remember this is not a historical movie, nor does it try to be fully accurate when it comes to the events it portrays on screen. This is based on Frank Miller's still to be released graphic novel called “Xerxes”. This is very much a live action comic book. From the performances to the spectacular and very stylized action scenes. None of it is to be taken too seriously.
|I expect you to die Mr. Bond.|
Zack Snyder handed over the directorial duties to newcomer Noam Murro who is a very competent director and emulates Snyder's style very good but the element of surprise is gone. There is definitely a “been there, done that” vibe all over it. Also, the reason I could not really judge this on its own merits is because “300” and “300 – Rise of an Empire” are very much intertwined. You see, “Rise of an Empire” isn't really a sequel. Most of this story takes place right along side the events of “300”. We just get a different perspective making it more of a companion piece than a true sequel. Is it worse or better than it's predecessor then? Neither. These two movies are on the same level.
|The end battle is absolutely breathtaking!|
Fun performances (especially by Eva Green and Rodrigo Santoro), brilliant action scenes, a surprisingly good music score by Dutch musician/DJ, Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) and 3D cinematography that really adds to the visuals and story. This is one to be seen on the big screen and very well worth your time.