By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The plot thickens in 300: Rise of an Empire. Not only does the story continue after the events of the first film, where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) led his men to slow down the advancing Persian attack force by bottlenecking them, but also a better historical picture is painted. Viewers do not have to turn to an encyclopedia of Greek History to know just how these films flow back and forth to each another. Historical accuracy is not what these movies is about.
Instead, these films present a phantasmagorical representation of the Greco-Persian War. The main point these movies wants to put forth is to show the people of Greece wanting freedom from all outside oppression. To see the various Greek city-states unite is at the heart of both films are trying to convey, but that plot point can get missed in favour for the visually over the top style of splatterpunk warfare. To see fights draw blood like that from a J-Horror product makes up a huge part of why the 300 saga is so appealing. Viewers who love MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch will enjoy 300 more than a general audience.
However, the grain that made the first movie gritty is sadly ditched in the second and that makes for an uneven product.
At least a few of the characters are further developed in Rise of the Empire. Queen Gorgo is the new leader of the Spartan Empire and Xerxes gets the development so his grudge with the Greeks gets understood. Sadly, their role is secondary to the actual plot of where Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) of Athens is defending his territory from Artemisia (Eva Green) of Caria’s advancing naval force. Tensions between them is more than hot.
It’s practically sizzling, especially for Green’s performance. She makes Goth in the Greek world look scalding. Between her many costume changes, some of which was not needed, and her origin story, this sequel does a better job of creating some savage characters. Family honour is important and when someone dies in this feudal culture, their deaths must be avenged.
Even the original Xerxes is a changed man. After seeing his father, Darius, slain during battle in the first Persian invasion, his descent to madness is finally understood. The world of 300 runs around in circles because everyone has a score to settle. While that does not make for a simple plot, at least the narrative is styled much like how Homer would write the Illiad.
Anyone who does end up looking at what will happen next in the actual conflict will no doubt find that another chapter can be told. As for whether or not that will be made into another movie will depend whether or not director Zack Snyder has the energy to make another film. Xerxes is the type of character who will not accept humiliation and in the history books, there is still the Battle of Plataea to cover.
3 out of 5