Movie Review: “300: Rise of an Empire”

Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, Jack O’Connell
Noam Murro

There is only one woman who doesn’t end up raped or murdered. The ones who are spared rape – presumably, anyway; for all we know, they were raped before we witness their deaths – are nearly all slaughtered while topless. Far be it from me to sound like a feminist, but there are parts of “300: Rise of an Empire” that are disturbing on a number of levels. Zack Snyder, who opted not to direct the follow-up to his 2006 smash “300” but co-wrote the screenplay, will likely argue that these were dark days, and heinous crimes were committed, and we will not debate either point. However, when all of the naked victims are ‘D’ cups, it sends a mixed message, to say the least.

The story takes place at the same time as “300” (give or take a few days) and takes a boatload of exposition to explain, as Athenian warrior Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads a small but tough group of men to battle against the invading Persian army. Much like his brother in arms King Leonidas, Themistocles and his battalion stun the Persians, and Themistocles even manages to kill Persian King Darius, who arrogantly attended the attack thinking he was untouchable. Unfortunately for Greece, Darius’ death opens the door for Darius’ ruthless naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) to persuade heir to the throne Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) to resist his father’s death-bed plea for peace and to instead bury Greece. Why is Artemisia so bent on Greece’s destruction? She is Greek herself, and is seeking revenge for the injustices done to her and her family by Greek forces when she was a girl.

This is the kind of movie where the narrator possesses knowledge of conversations and events that they could not possibly know. (Then again, so is “Saving Private Ryan,” but still, not acceptable.) It’s the kind of movie where the only memorable lines of dialogue involve cocks and rocks. It’s the kind of thing that anyone could write without studying a lick of the Greco-Persian conflict, all of which is a nice way (yes, we’re being nice here) of saying that it’s all kind of dumb. You will learn virtually nothing from this movie, except that Eva Green has very nice breasts.

Director Noam Murro is clearly working from a smaller budget than Snyder had the first time around, and while he is able to stage a couple of knockout scenes (one underwater scene stands out), not even the eight years of technological advancements that have taken place since “300” can make the blood spewing from people’s bodies look remotely realistic. The movie’s sex scene, meanwhile, is both hilarious and creepy beyond compare. Is he raping her? Is she raping him? It’s honestly difficult to tell at times.

There really isn’t much else to discuss. “300: Rise of an Empire” brings nothing new to the table, and does not improve upon its predecessor in any way. The best thing about it is its mercifully brief run time of 102 minutes, which is the only thing about this movie that shows some restraint.