300: Rise of an Empire, Movie Review By David Pitchford

300 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Watch This Feature

Directed by Zach Snyder of Watchmen and Man of Steel infamy, 300: Rise of an Empire, the long-awaited sequel to 300, based off of the graphic novel by Frank Miller, premiered on March 7, 2014. Many movie-goers packed the local Carmike cinema on Gunbarrel in order to enjoy the mindless gore-fest. The only problem with doing that was the fact the film was not enjoyable at all. To put it simply I found Rise to be trite, tactless, but not tasteless (bile is a taste). But to be more specific it had: weak characterization (of the protagonists), a slow plot, and cheaply overdone CGI effects. But worst of all it failed to include what made its predecessor a masterpiece; it completely lacked all the comically delicious homoerotic subtext of the first film.

Rise takes place not long after or during (the film was rather anachronistic in its depiction of events) the Spartans last stand at the gates of Thermopylae; Athens receives word of the Persians invasion into Greece and decides to engage the in naval warfare in Artemisium. The story focuses on Athenian general, Themistocles (played by Sullivan Stapleton) trying to convince the mourning Spartans to join his Greek Confederacy and the choices (or lack thereof) he makes during his battles against the Persians. That’s the best summary I can give as that is literally all that happens in the film. I even included a slightly more dramatic rendition of an excerpt from the film’s script below.

Themistocles: Blah, Blah, Blah, This is Athens,

Athenian Elders: Blah Blah Blah, we have democracy. Oh, and we’re also being invaded. Now what do we do?”

Themistocles: (emotionless) No, Taxation without representation.

…Or rather he said something along those lines. It truly did play out like a watered down Greek version of The Patriot. The Athenians shown in the film seem rather apathetic to their impending destruction. They lacked motivation and character development.  However, there were bright spots of acting, particularly in the characterization of both Artemisia (played by Eva Green) and Xerxes (played by Rodrigo Santoro).  They are both given solid motivations for their actions throughout the film; Artemisia hates the Greeks for killing her family, while the God-King Xerxes is attempting to destroy Greece for killing his father in the last war and as a sacrifice to himself. Both characters also are the only characters that seem to feel genuine emotion and it visibly impacts their actions during the course of the narrative. It also leads to their collective undoing (which also set up a sequel hook) so it is clear their character development will continue into the third movie. The movie does the exact opposite of what it intended. It inspires better sympathy for its villains while relegating the protagonists to the realm of the eight deadly words of storytelling; “I don’t care what happens to these people”. Even Artemisia is shown little respect by the script. She acts as an object of lust for Themistocles, who proceeded to have sex with her and her digitally enhanced breasts. Artemisia is really the only female in the film with personality and  I found that to be degrading to women as it implied that the only way a woman could be strong or even human was to be sexually available. These implications are certainly supported through Queen Gorgo’s (played by Leana Hedley) lines “Only Spartan women give birth to real men” and how flat she is as a character without Leonidas or another male figure in the film to guide her. She only gains presence, once she has Themistocles by her side.

The effects used in Rise were very well done, just severely overused. The picture looks like someone had sewn several oil paintings together and breathed motion into them. The scenes, particularly those of the Greek countryside were alive and vibrant, reminiscent of Renaissance era pastoral scenes, while the sea was a cold and merciless Hell. Unfortunately this brought its own drawbacks upon Rise. The gore is made in slow-motion (which doesn’t help the pacing of the battle scenes) and the CGI was so distracting it made it difficult to keep your attention onto what little acting characters managed. Even the sex scenes were CGI as well, to a laughable extent at one some points. In those Greek Pastoral Scenes, the vegetation glows with a fluorescent golden light (I suspect the gods blessed them with magical crops or Monsanto paid the studio for some serious product placement). The Athenian soldiers even literally breathe in the green when embers and ashes float around during the aftermath of a battle.

Being blunt, 300: Rise of an Empire, was a regrettable way to spend an evening and twenty dollars at the theatre. The characters were minimal while the plot was nonexistent. The action sequences were lethargic and hampered down with effects, though they did create aesthetically beautiful backgrounds. Would I buy this movie? No. Would I rent it? Probably not. If it airs on a TV station where I can watch it for free, will I? Maybe (only if my TiVo isn’t working). In conclusion, if you want or to kill time and brain cells one weekend in a way that’s more legal than heroin, I honestly suggest you find something else to watch besides this.


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A blog for sharing student media at Chattanooga State Community College. View all posts by csm3dia

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