By Gary Murray

Starring Eva Green, Sullivan Stapleton and Lena Headey

Written by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller

Directed by Noam Murro

Running time 102 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Matinee


Here is today’s stumper.  You make a movie where every major character dies and it is successful at the box office.  The suits want a sequel.  What do you do?  That is the problem for the producers of 300.  The 2006 film was about a last stand of a group of Spartans who fight off the army of Xerxes. All were killed in this battle but the film did so well that everyone wanted more.  That more is 300: Rise of an Empire.

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, the story happens during the time of the first film.  While the men of Sparta are defending that pass, there is a sea battle. Themistokles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) commands the vessels.   At his control are a group of well-trained soldiers/sailors who are just as fierce fighters as the Spartans.  He goes to Queen Gordo (Lena Headey) to get help with the protection of Athens. 

We also get the back-story of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).  We see his rise as a god-king and how he is manipulated by Artemisia (Eva Green).  She is a commander of the high seas and truly runs the show.  She is a vicious warrior and cunning strategist.  Her goal is domination by being a puppet master.

But truly, the film is about battle.  The audience for these films, who wants blood, gets blood.  This is one of the most violent films of the year.  There are battles upon battles, all in slow motion and with gallons of CGI blood.  Extras are chopped to little bits and it is a gore-filled mess.

The film is directed by Noam Murro, the man who directed Smart People.  For a man who is not known as an action director, he does a workman job on all the action scenes.  Although he relies too much on slow-motion, in the end, Noam Murro does a good job of mimicking the style of the original director Zack Snyder.  He just does not have a style of his own.

Sullivan Stapleton is no Gerard Butler, the hero from 300, but holds his own as an action champion.   He handles a sword and shield with the best of them, battling his way on land and on sea.  This is much more of a reaction/action role and Sullivan Stapleton looks the part.

There are only a few scenes with Xerxes and it is sorely missed.  He was by far the most interesting character of 300 and a great villain makes for great drama. 

The introduction of Artemisia by Eva Green is an interesting addition.  Though not a classic beauty, there is a spark in the young actress.  She snarls and bites while being cunning and brash.  It is a scene-chewing bit of acting and she goes over the top again and again. 

The problem with the film is that it just ends.  It is set-up for the next 300 flick, with a cliffhanger ending.  That is just an exercise in frustration.  It seems that Hollywood realizes that if they make one of these cliff-hangers, the same audience will have to come back and see the conclusion.  It is a sneaky way to generate a wider box office and more cash from movie patrons. 

300: Rise of an Empire is a decent sequel but not on par with the original.  It will satisfy those who liked the first film but will win few converts to the genre.  This is an expensive style drive-in flick and should be noted in Joe Bob Briggs fashion.  It has eight breasts, three beasts and 100 gallons of blood.  Heads, arms, legs and other body parts roll.  Check it out—if you dare.

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