“Tonight we dine in …meh”

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James Bickford

300 poster2

Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire or, as I prefer to call it, 302, is a very dumb movie.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the original was also very dumb, yet I enjoyed it a lot. In the case of Rise of an Empire, however, the simple and enjoyable formula only goes so far. While 300’s sequel tries to replicate the success of the original, it fails with nearly every scene attempting to equal its predecessor.

First of all, if you aren’t at all familiar with the actual history of the time period, know that “302” is just about as historically accurate as Star Wars. Don’t believe a single thing about the people, the events, or anything else aside from the simple fact that Greeks and Persians fought each other.

300: Rise of an Empire’s biggest fault is the lack of fatalism. Though 300 didn’t have a story worth writing home about, the action was compelling, the characters more awesome, and deeds more heroic when we all knew that, inevitably, they would die; that everything they did was merely a delaying action to help the rest of Greece.

Themestocles, however, is known to have been responsible for winning the entire war, so we know he will win, making his story a lot more cliché, as he follows the typical heroic character arc. There was no dining in hell for the Athenians, and as such, no breakout moments of spectaculars that made the original movie special. Though the naval battles are epic, and the special effects are absolutely stellar, it really misses the mark on the concepts that 300 thrived on.

The acting is as over-the-top as the original’s, except Sullivan Stapleton’s performance as our hero, Themestocles, is as wooden as his ships. I understand he was going for the manly, quiet, emotionless action hero, but very few people can do that well, and Stapleton is not one of them.

Eva Green, who plays Persian admiral Artemesia, gives the standout performance. In a film with no subtlety, she is able to admirably develop the most complex character into a very cool female villain. She’s arrogant yet tortured. Easily the best part of the film is her early confrontation with Themestocles, where she is showing off how evil her character can be. Unfortunately, her character takes a hit of dignity after the obligatory “female villain tries to seduce the hero” scene, and it’s hard to take her too seriously after that.

“302” wasn’t all bad – the fight scenes were quite good, and Murro did great things with the naval setting to make the battles unlike anything I’ve seen before in visual effects. The character of Xerxes is developed in a really cool backstory, and a good soundtrack makes the grander moments of the film feel appropriately grand. It feels, however, that the filmmakers should have given more.