300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel (or prequel?) to Zack Snyder’s 2006 film, 300, is an hour and a half of CGI blood splashed to the face. The film, now directed by Noam Murro, follows a Greek general, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he leads an army into battle against the Persian army lead by Artemisia (Eva Green). The movie picks up immediately after (or before?) the final shot of the original.
Xerxes rides through the dead bodies of King Leonidas and his army to retrieve Leonidas’ head, and thus begins the exposition. The film juggles between trying to pick up either right before or right after the events the first film. The narrative never really feels sure of what it wants to accomplish or in which order. Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) reprises her role as Queen Gringo and narrates an excruciatingly long bit of expository information about the films antagonists, Xerxes and Artemisia.
This part of the film drags on and had me dozing off. 300: Rise of an Empire peaks during its battle sequences, which are plentiful and full of as much blood and severed body parts you could ask for. All of the slo-mo effects are still a part of the film and Rise of an Empire keeps the same stylistic look that made the original 300 so iconic.
Even though Rise of an Empire kept the look of 300 and the same gory battle sequences, the film felt flat and dull compared to the first. The original 300 probably wasn’t meant to launch a franchise and this sequel is proof of that. The strongest part of the film was Eva Green’s strong performance as the main antagonist. She plays evil and malicious well and proves that she has the ability to play a strong, convincing villain. However, even Green’s strong performance couldn’t save this sequel from being anything more than a forgettable actioner. At the end of the day, it just didn’t feel right watching a 300 film without hearing Gerard Butler scream, “This is Sparta!” King Leonidas definitely would not have been entertained.