Runtime: 102 Mins
What To Expect: 100 minutes of dull unworthiness descending upon you.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but the trend these days is that if a movie is 3D, especially a converted 3D movie, it has something to hide. I’m not talking about the pros and cons of 3D itself either. Rather I can’t remember the last time I watched a decent 3D movie. I think it was Jurassic Park (review) but that doesn’t really count now, does it? It’s not a new movie. So the point is the studio seems to throw 3D around the neck of a movie when they are worried about its performance. The want to make sure it’ll pull in an extra buck because it looks like it’ll sink. Stick 300: Rise of an Empire onto that list. It’s not a very good movie and as a sequel it’s even worse. It’s a shame we’ve waited all this time for it.
This movie actually triples up as a prequel, sidequel and sequel. It explores the ‘rise’ of Xerxes, the battle of the 300 and the consequences of the hunchback selling out the 300. The bulk of the movie is made up by the ‘sidequel’ part and shows us the naval engagement between General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia (Eva Green). When this confrontation gets going, you really start to appreciate that the movie has failed. Firstly, the characters are pitiful in comparison with the larger than life titans. Themistokles is no King Leonidas, by comparison he’s a bewildered and uncharismatic layman. Short on bravado, long on vacuity. He often appears in over his head, worsened by the fact that Stapleton is a pretty dull and anonymous actor. Bad casting doesn’t help, flat dialogue doesn’t either. This goes for the whole cast. There are no mythical characters this time round, no wonder and no awe. No one liners either.
The other significant problem is the direction. Noam Murro, like Stapleton, is in over his head. Why he got the job in the first place is an interesting question, with one failed B-movie under his belt. During the Battle of Artemisia, it’s very difficult to join the strategical dots, as a viewer. We don’t really know what either side is trying to tactically achieve. All we see are some boats meeting up and repeated clashes between their crews. The director is so preoccupied with close-up spectacle, he forgets to illustrate the story itself. It’s frustrating and frustration quickly turns to boredom. This wasn’t a problem in the original movie where the goal was clear for all to see – bottleneck Xerxes’ forces and butcher them. I’d stop just short of calling it a mess because the director steadfastly avoids shaking-cam-syndrome – the fights are clear and cohesive with mature editing, but mediocre and predictable.
The original movie is a Manly Movie classic and was ridiculed for its right-wing overtones, which in my book is a compliment. I can’t say the same of this movie in any regard. Green’s Artemisia is a poster for feminism, if Butler’s Leonidas was a poster for mandom. Worse, the whole thing is just a drag. It has no character and makes little sense despite being a relatively simple movie. Right down to the dialogue, it’s as if all involved have never even seen the first movie or at least just didn’t get it. The only good scene is where Stapleton gets a huge handful of Green’s tits.
So this is what we’ve waited seven years for? It’s boring and unworthy. Get it right with the sequel or don’t bother.