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'300: Rise of an Empire' review: The drunken stupor of warfare

300: Rise of an Empire


'300: Rise of an Empire' was theatrically released starting today, March 7 nationwide.

Themistocles and his army charges the battlefield.
Themistocles and his army charges the battlefield.
Warner Bros.
One of several official posters for "300: Rise of an Empire."
Warner Bros. Pictures

"300: Rise of an Empire" was originally going to revolve around Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his rise through the military ranks before becoming the 10-foot god king who came into power by wearing a lot of jewelry and glowing in the dark. What we get instead is the story of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), a Greek who thrives to unite Greece and decimate the Persians once and for all. Coinciding with the battle of Thermopylae, the events of "300," and the Spartans led by Leonidas (Gerard Butler), "300: Rise of an Empire" shows Themistocles trying to fight off the entire Persian army led by the merciless Artemesia (Eva Green) as he attempts to buy time in hopes of Gorgo (Lena Headey), Queen of Sparta, uniting the Spartans with the rest of Greece out on the battlefield.

"300" was really the film that put Zack Snyder on the map. "Dawn of the Dead" was the attention-grabber while "300" was the follow-up to see if Snyder could keep his momentum. The film was a success making over $456 million at the worldwide box office on a $65 million budget. The idea of a sequel was intriguing, but everyone involved waited too long to capitalize on the success of "300." Eight long years have passed since the original film and while "300: Rise of an Empire" feels and looks exactly like its predecessor it's also trying to ride the wave of success of a film that's nearly 10 years old.

The most impressive aspect of the fantasy action sequel directed by Israeli director Noam Murro is that all of the water in the film was digitally added in post-production. There are moments when the water looks halfway decent, but even as the strongest element in the film it's still fairly weak overall since you can still tell that everything you're looking at is computer generated. There's also one really fantastic sense of perspective that utilizes the 3D element incredibly well when Xerxes is standing over the masses at the beginning of the film.

You can expect to pack your bags and head back home after that since "300: Rise of an Empire" offers nothing you haven't already seen before. The action scenes are swift at times, but also incorporate those weird moments of slow-motion to highlight the film's gore with blood as thick as mud. The extremely filtered and sharp use of colors such as browns, reds, and blacks also return along with drastic lighting and heavy shadows. Extended fight sequences seem somewhat impressive at first until you realize that it's all computer generated and you're basically watching a glorified video game on the big screen. Every action sequence is the same series of movements and events repeated over and over again for nearly two hours; shields clang together, blades slice, men grunt loudly, and blood splatters everywhere in slow-motion. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the unrealistic amounts of blood that tend to explode and geyser out of mere slices of flesh. It's to the extent of squirting blood all over the wall from a paper cut; it's that ridiculous. Queen Gorgo repeats the same, "This is Sparta," line while Themistocles offers up the same kick Leonidas gave to Xerxes' messenger in the first film. That overflowing sense of stubborn Greek and Spartan pride is also still quite apparent as no one seems to listen to reason. Not only is there a lot of yelling, but there are nearly half a dozen motivational speeches to get the troops prepared to die horribly in battle. Why in the world would you go into battle wearing nothing but briefs and a pectoral buckle anyway? Is showcasing your beefcake manliness really that important? Do you really want to end up wearing your chiseled six pack of greatness as a hat by the end of the day?

The acting is very rigid since everyone in the film is portraying that determined warrior hellbent on glory for their people and they all say their lines very dramatically while screaming certain words to make a point like, "FOR SPARTA!" and "EEEYAAAAHHHHRRRNNNGGHHH!!!" But Eva Green seems to take it to this entirely different area of atrociousness. Her voice is very crusty as if she smoked seven packs of cigarettes a day to prepare for her role. Then she has the nastiest and most disturbing sex scene of 2014 that involves choking, hair pulling, slapping, squawking and grunting noises a hippopotamus might make when it's trying to defecate, and distorted facial expressions that look to be caused by pain or constipation. Not to mention Artemesia has some of the worst technicians any war could possibly ask for.

All of Greece seems to either be dusty or on fire since particles are constantly floating around in "300: Rise of an Empire." You get so sick of dismembered limbs, severed heads, and thick blood spouting out of the screen to try to stir up excitement. Abs jiggle, computerized gore is overdone, speeches lifted straight out of "Braveheart" nearly put you to sleep and push the definition of redundancy, and the acting makes you cringe in a contender for one of the worst films of the year. "300: Rise of an Empire" is so bad it nearly destroys what little hope "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" had of actually being worthwhile.