300: Rise of an Empire is dreadful from beginning to end and lacks anything that could even remotely be considered creative. There is no sense of a coherent story and the filmmakers do their best to muddy the waters even further. Whatever may be said about Zack Snyder’s original 300 it cannot be denied that he had a unique eye and a visual style that hadn’t been seen on that scale before. This film chooses to try and copy that style and does so in a woefully inferior manner. It is a film that fails on all fronts.
300: Rise of an Empire weaves its plot in and around the events from the first film. The film follows the charisma less Themistokles as he leads a charge against the Persian army. He adopts a wide eyed look of disbelief as his go-to facial expression for all occurrences both happy and sad, which seems all the more out of place seeing as the film appears to take place over the course of many years. I say appears because the timetable is less than distinct. I won’t worry about the plot any more seeing as the film spends the first twenty minutes or so narrating the events much as the prologue for The Fellowship of the Ring did, except that in Lord of the Rings it served as backstory and lead in for a plot. Here it serves as the plot in whole.
The actors serve as visual stand-ins seeing as they have no actual characters to play and any dialogue they have would have been better served as inter-title cards. In fact, not only would making this a silent film have been a bold creative choice, but it would have made it a better film overall. Eva Green, as Persian army leader Artemisia, is the only cast member to even attempt anything that could be considered acting, but even her vamping it up isn’t enough to save even one scene.
All of this brings me to the visual style and effects. The original 300 was stark and unique. The sequel has no creative life to it at all. There is no visual flair that isn’t a direct copy of Zack Snyder’s original and it gets old about 30 seconds into the film. There are all the geysers of stylized blood (that just looks like black oil), rippling male abs, and super slo-mo long takes that were present in the original film but here are done with less skill and artistry. Which begs the question: Why? Why see 300: Rise of an Empire? I have come up with no possible answer for that question. This film fails to deliver even a semblance of a story and contains completely wooden and uninspired acting. The special effects are badly done and in the case of the dust and fire embers that fly everywhere are actually distracting to the film. For the fans of the first film that may be excited to see more of the same I would recommend rewatching the original. Grade: F