Ask for a pointless and testosterone-driven banal bloodbath and you shall receive…at least the monotonous and myopic 300: Rise of an Empire is satisfying in that respect. Fanboys worldwide may cry foul when detesting the so-called insufferable and humorless movie reviewers that dare to tear into this ancient carnage caper that looks to continue stroking the favorable flames that surprisingly made 2006′s 300 a wicked and wondrous landscape of technical turbulence in its majestic mayhem. Basically, the sequel 300: Rise of an Empire is a dreary and dull showcasing of over-the-top decapitations, piercings and an indistinguishable string of battlefield bloodshed that has all the compelling flair of an infected punctured rib.
There was a sense of gallant purpose and poise behind Zach Snyder’s chaotic direction in 300 where the massive blood-spilling and detached body parts were symbolic of the machismo cause for liberation in the name of manhood, political strategies and honor. The decorative and innovative pummeling was oddly poetic and registered within the surrealistic realm of the confrontational story. Director Noam Murro, however, allows the senseless and bisected heads to roll aimlessly in Rise without really bothering to attach a credible storyline to compliment the visual barrage of throwaway destruction. The novelty of the wreckage in 300: Rise of an Empire wears thin and becomes a tedious eyesore despite Murro’s efforts to glorify the glossy sequences of its staged exuberance of synthetic video game violence.
300: Rise of an Empire is based upon Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes and strives to deliver the innovative slow-motion filming style and stamp visually that made 300 an action-oriented cinematic rage nearly eight years ago upon its anticipated release. Sure, when basing a frenzied film adaptation on a “graphic” novel one does expect the graphic imagery on the big screen to live up to its meaning and definition. Still, Rise arbitrarily pushes the button so eagerly to serve up the nihilistic notches at a higher level that the insanity and intensity is lost in its ludicrousness. The mythology behind Rise has a sleepy-eyed and ravaged look to its presentation: dour grayish-looking debris, cluttered cloudy skies above, murky weather conditions and of course piles of slaughtered muscular carcasses scattered across the war-torn landscape.
As recalled in the predecessor 300, the brutalities involved the Spartans holding down the fort at Thermopylae. Now in Rise the sparse volunteers of Spartans must work together to detain and combat the invading Persian army. Athenian general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), whose rag-tag collection of experienced but out-manned fighters, must lead his semblance of troops in order to prevent the Persian navy fleet from overwhelming their territory at Salamis. The Persians are under the command of sexy siren Artemesia (Eva Green), a sadistic warrior woman whose diabolical reputation in Greece is well known. The deadly diva Artemesia is not the only Persian agitator that Themistokles and his intimate group must contend with at the moment as Man-God Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is another threatening thorn in the vulnerable side of the disillusioned Greeks.
There never seems to be anything dynamic or angst-ridden behind the constant blood-spurting free-for-all in Rise that suggests a cohesive epic or even the philosophical rage behind Miller’s sensational tomes. The battles at Artemisium and Salamis were merely bewildering and hopelessly overwrought. One does not get a sense of the movie’s need to go berserk with madness when Murro never quite fleshes out the imperiled warriors’ need to decimate human bodies beyond the explosive gimmick of presenting grotesque mauling in the spirit of a pulsating popcorn period piece.
Whereas there was a solid messaging of humanity’s cynicism within the the clanging armor that echoed to well in 300, Rise is just satisfied with dumping its 3-D enhanced shadowy ultra-violent urges against a stone wall hoping that some of the exploitative gory gumption will stick in the giddy expectations of a juiced-up swords-and-sandals actioner. Indescribable rugged and ripped warriors engaged in slicing-and-dicing mode with painted grimaces on their hysterical slashed faces can only be slightly appetizing for so long. As for the fetching Green’s Artemesia, the ex-Bond girl is the only saving grace in this vapid vehicle as a curvaceous cutthroat cutie with a nasty nourishment for pain and warrior-like pageantry.
It is fine and dandy if 300: The Rise of an Empire is the type of erratic cinema smorgasbord that some may feel drawn to in the orgy of grossness, nudity, debauchery and tawdriness. Some may not need to get aRise out of Murro’s empty-minded salacious spectacle when they can merely look out of their windows or turn on the local newscast for the same mundane titillation.
300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro, Eve Green, Lena Headley, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan
Kurt Johnstad and Frank Miller
Warner Bros. Pictures
CRITIC’S RATING: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)