300: Rise of an Empire stars Eva Green's boobs but still falls short

Here we are, back in ancient Greece for 300: Rise of an Empire, and it is still the land of six-pack abs and ripped pecs. Just like in 300 (2006), the leather biker dudes of Persia are invading, but this time around they are led by a goth dominatrix instead of a giant gold guy, so you know there’s gonna be trouble.

Greeks (left) take on Persians (right)

Unfortunately, the whole concept of this movie is a bit screwed up – it’s not a sequel to 300, or a prequel, but a movie which is supposed to take place roughly simultaneous to the events depicted in 300. The plot machinations required to tie the two movies together are unnecessary distractions from some decent land and sea warfare scenes, but that’s not the worst of it.

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This movie is so many different kinds of wrong that it’s difficult to add them all up. The narrative is wrong, with plot elements that go nowhere and scenes seemingly spliced in from the first 300 film. The cinematography is wrong, with too many haze effects and lens flares obscuring the action. The 3D effects are wrong, distracting the eye with endless little motes of dust floating around. The amount of blood spattered about is wrong – the red red vino flies around in an amount that could only be pleasing to one of Alex’s droogs from A Clockwork Orange (1971) or maybe a Hillside Cannibal (2006).

Sullivan Stapleton, as Themistokles, doesn’t bring the weird intensity that this sort of cartoon-y movie requires, like Gerard Butler brought in 300. Eva Green as Artemisia is better, as playing a gorgeous babe with mental health issues is right in her wheelhouse. Rodrigo Santoro is back as the Big Gay Persian, and even though he gets an origin story, there isn’t enough of his character in this movie. Lena Heady, Mrs. Leonidas from the first film is here, but it’s not much more than a cameo performance.

The single biggest problem is figuring out who this movie is for. The fight scenes, complete with flowing blood and severed heads, seems designed to appeal to straight adolescent boys. But won’t they be turned off by all the fetishizing of the warriors’ sculpted bodies? And if you show up to see the half-naked men, won’t the blood and the weird right-wing messaging (“They hate us for our freedom”) be a turn-off? And what’s up with that insane sex/fight scene with Eva Green?

Give this movie a wide berth. If you must see a movie with Themistocles and Leonidas, The 300 Spartans (1962) is available on DVD.

If you really have to see Eva Green’s boobs, rent The Dreamers (2003), or forget her awesome rack and watch her turn in an excellent performance in the overlooked movie Cracks (2009). But don’t see this. Really really.

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