Mar 10 2014 5:00pm

Eva Green Will Probably Eat You. 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green

Everyone knows why a sequel to 300 was made—it made monies and had lots of blood and swords in it and sequels are all we do now. Blood and swords can be fun; I made a trip to the first film to get a dose of exactly that. That doesn’t mean that a sequel is necessarily a good idea, though.

It wasn’t really, by the way. Unless you can tune out every time Eva Green is not delightfully gnashing her teeth at someone.

Minor spoilers for 300: Rise of an Empire.

I should begin by saying that I did not expect to come down quite so harshly on this movie as I am. The first film caught me off-guard eight years back, and I ended up enjoying it mostly because I assumed it was fine to laugh my way through. (The audience watching along with me could not figure out why I was so amused.) I’d been watching a whole lot of romantic comedies at the time, and was really glad for a change-up. Taking a deeper gaze at the film was not really an option.

Later on, when I thought back on what I’d seen, it suddenly registered in an anvil-like smack that every “evil” person in the film was horrifically othered in as unapologetic a manner as possible. I knew less about Frank Miller at the time, so I hadn’t really known what I was jumping into. To put it lightly, I have a much harder time with it these days. All the same, if you’re in the mood for something comically overblown and know not to internalize any part of it, 300 is at least fun as an action piece, filmed as though as a comic book really has leapt off the page.

It’s sequel is a very different beast, despite all intentions to the contrary.

What I did not realize going in was that Rise of an Empire is meant to take place relatively side by side with the first film. Turns out Leonidas’ troops were not going to be of much use to Greece if no one could hold off the Persians by sea. That is Themistokles’ job. He is the Main Dude of 300: the Two-ening, and he tries to get Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (that’s Lena Headey, Game of Thrones fans) to help him rally other Greek peoples in the fight. She’s less than interested, so he has to go solo. By solo, I mean ‘helped by a ragged band.’ You know the drill.

300: Rise of an Empire, Themistokles

Since evil Xerxes has achieved god-king status for his victory—he is super metallic and even more ripped than the last time... I don’t think I can discuss that aspect of the movie without a laugh track playing in the background—his stand-in for the prize fight is Eva Green. She’s sort of his sister? It doesn’t really matter? The cool part is watching her maim and murder while making broad declarations about her awesomeness and plans to conquer. This is literally the only reason to go see the movie.

I’m not quite sure what they were hoping for in Themistokles, but he’s not really a good follow-up act for Gerard Butler. He’s got muscles aplenty, but lacks Butler’s unexplainable presence amidst the carnage. He does make lots of speeches. In those moments, the movie feels a lot more like an Immortals remix, but then lacks Tarsem’s visual genius to make anything of it, even with its by-the-numbers plot and vacant dialogue.

It’s still utterly perplexing that a continuation to the story exists, no matter whose pockets are getting lined. By that token, it retroactively makes 300 less interesting (if it was ever truly interesting to begin with). It’s white noise on top of white noise. The action sequences don’t even stack up this time around, though I suppose we can attribute that to Zack Snyder’s directing absence. Say what anyone wants about the guy, he does know how to frame giant, gruesome battles. The film feels oddly generic in a way that its predecessor managed to largely avoid. It’s hard to even summon the energy to make snarky sideswipes at it.

Blah, blah, airbrush abs, blah, slow motion porn, blah-dee-blah, beheading fun for the family?

300: Rise of an Empire, Lena Headey

When all is said and done, I’m shocked that no one realized the easiest route to legitimizing this film—making Queen Gorgo the other primary combatant. I was honestly hoping for a gargantuan showdown between Vesper Lynd and Cersei Lannister, and I’m still pretty pissed off that I didn’t get one. Just take a moment to imagine that film. That glorious movie that never was. Ridiculous 300 sequel starring two powerhouse ladies who overshadow the first film in its entirety. I could forgive them.... maybe half their errors in judgment otherwise.

Well...I could forgive them maybe a tenth of their errors in judgment otherwise.

Emily Asher-Perrin wants to be Eva Green’s nemesis in a movie. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

John Hatteberg
1. Oronis
I liked 300, but I didn't like this movie. I tried to like it right up until the very end of the movie when the 5... yes 5 athenian ships sailed up and whipped the 1,000 Persian ships. Yes.. I know the Spartans came to save the Athenians... but remember in real life the Spartans only had 16 of the reported 378 Greek Coalition ships.

Yes, I'm criticizing a FANTASY movie for breaking my suspense of dis-belief with historical innacuracies.

I think the movie would have been much better if it had played up the tactical genius of Themistocles. The movie could have played up the idea that the Spartans are the straight up fighters and the Athenians are the cool headed, calculating thinkers.

But whatever. I hope someday that someone makes a hyper-realistic move of the Greco-Persian wars.
Colin R
3. Colin R
I went to see 300 with a bunch of friends, and as we discussed it walking out of the theater one of them commented that it was very well-researched and true to life. Srsly. I don't understand how anyone thinks that.

Anyway I briefly entertained the idea of going to see the sequel this movie, but... then I wondered, why? Eva Green was the only temptation. I stayed home and watched Clone Wars on Netflix instead.
Paul Weimer
4. PrinceJvstin
I thought this movie (for its historical inaccuracy) had some improvements over the first--a better plot, more fluid action, a through line on how the scenes build up, and a female antagonist.

The history made my eyes roll, but was I entertained? YES.
Jeremy Foote
5. 3SecondCultist
@2: I will say this for 300: Rise of an Empire. I admire what they tried to do. They actually tried to show off a lot of the elements you were looking for: playing up the tactical genius of Themistokles (Eva Green's character and her naval commanders continually being outwitted by him is basically like waving a big red flag saying 'Hollywood Tactics over here'!) and contrasting the brutal death seeker aesthetic of the Spartan war machine with the more cunning valor displayed by the Athenians. Needless to say, they failed pretty hard on both accounts.

But at least there was no horribly contrived, borderline sadistic sex scene right?

lodewijk jadwigo
6. jadwigo
Yup, somehow the only reason for this movie was Eva Green (does it really matter if I spoil this) playing the cool general with the backstory, with the quest for venegance, with the speeches, with the impressive battle to the death, hmm.... was that all there was to it? Oh yeah, she was also the bad guy girl.

Still... it was better than sitting at home watching TV.
Colin R
7. rea
The real Artemisia--to the extent we can catch a glimpse of her through Herodotus--was probably a far more interesting character than the one played by Eva Green in the movies, although a lot more middle aged.

Of the rest of the officers I make no mention by the way (since I am not bound to do so), but only of Artemisia, at whom I marvel most that she joined the expedition against Hellas, being a woman; for after her husband died, she holding the power herself, although she had a son who was a young man, went on the expedition impelled by high spirit and manly courage, no necessity being laid upon her. Now her name, as I said, was Artemisia and she was the daughter of Lygdamis, and by descent she was of Halicarnassos on the side of her father, but of Crete by her mother. She was ruler of the men of Halicarnassos and Cos and Nisyros and Calydna, furnishing five ships; and she furnished ships which were of all the fleet reputed the best after those of the Sidonians, and of all his allies she set forth the best counsels to the king.
Colin R
8. Johnnyboy
Not impressed by the sequel at all. It reminded me of the Spartacus TV show and Pacific Rim (no, really!) as all the drama seemed to consist of Australian soap opera hunks pouting and making speeches with no charisma or natural talent.
Tom Smith
9. phuzz
Ok, I get it, it's a crap film, but I can't resist a film with Eva Green looking hard as nails in it.
I'm sorry :(
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
I am so tired of the "rape as tragic backstory" trope. That's pretty much turned me off for seeing this movie, and I was truly excited, I really enjoyed 300(if only for introducing me to Michael Fassbender)
jen howell
13. jencat
It was just... unbelievably boring. Stupidly, insanely dull. And when you consider just how enthusiastically Eva Green was chewing scenery, that took some doing. I was so looking forward to two female lead characters in something like this, and while Eva Green is reliably... enthusiastic (and has some truly outstanding daft costumes), her dialogue got more and more loopy with every passing second. Add to the fact Lena Heady was mostly in it for a cameo of less than ten minutes, and no amount of her epic voice-over and creative disembowelings were going to save this one.

And I say that being quite happy to sit through Sullivan Stapleton in Strike Back doing most of the ridiculous stuff he does in this, only with a more believable accent, more guns and (generally) more clothes. But, bless him, he can't do a British accent. And every line of dialogue *he* had was just so... boring. The little glimpses of Dead!Gerard Butler every so often just made me antsy that there had been a better film going on somewhere else, and we'd seen it already.... There really is nothing quotable, no equivalent of "THIS. IS. SPARTA!" anywhere in this one, sadly (or for that matter, the unsettling nastiness lurking around the edges of the first film. As off-putting as the whole Oracle scenes are, at least they gave the plot something to hang on).

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