Say whatever you may about Zack Snyder’s 300, but you can’t deny that the film definitely stood out when it came to visuals and sequences. Even if negatively, the film knew how to be prominent. On top of that, it did adapt a visually rich Frank Miller graphic novel. This second film of the franchise, on the other end, is not rich enough even in the visual aspects, and it only overdoes a bunch of visual techniques that the first film had used. The visual style of the first film may have been repetitive and a little too slow, but it did manage to give the film an identity of its own, which is something that 300: Rise of an Empire fails at. All we get is a sequel that’s without the visual uniqueness and the narrative coherence.
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The Movie Review
The film begins with Queen Gorgo of Sparta narrating the Battle of Marathon to her followers, which happened ten years earlier, and in the events of it, General Themistocles of Athens killed King Darius of Persia. Darius’ son Xerxes, traumatized by the event is instructed not to continue the war due to the superstition that only the Gods have the power to defeat the Greeks.
On the other end, Darius’ naval commander reveals that Darius’ last words were a challenge, and he sends Xerxes on a journey through the desert, where he bathes in a magical liquid that makes him emerge as an 8-foot tall “God-King”. Upon his return to Persia in his new form, he declares war on Greece to avenge his demised father.
The film unironically allows you no moment to breathe, and Xerxes’ forces already begin to march towards Thermopylae. From then onwards, continue the events of the first 300 film, but from a different POV that regardless feels all the same due to the lack of nuance in this film’s style. It all continues from the war of the 300 against the Persians to the aftermath of those events.
The film works as a documentation of everything that went behind the scenes before and after the war. But unfortunately, it fails to have a script that’s engaging enough to interest one in the characters or the situations that they’re in.
Zack Snyder, who directed the first film, was also a part of the screenwriting but writing has never been among his talents. Even in direction, he’s the only one who’s able to make this particular style of direction somewhat tolerable, because Noam Murro brings a completely disappointing result out of it. And unlike this film, the first film was actually based on a pretty good graphic novel, which would aid its writing to at least some extent. This film, on the other end, is full of amateur writing mistakes.
The unlikable writing by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad is really what makes this film subpar. It’s not very intriguing even in premise, and the way things play out makes it all even less interesting. Noam Murro’s direction barely stands out, and besides repeating the techniques of Zack Snyder, almost all of it is worthy of criticism.
War films are generally quite violent and raw and require well-written scenarios and characters to garner one’s interest, but here, none of that happens. Junkie XL’s original score is one of the few good things, but even that is used in a highly repetitive manner and fails to make the film’s moments magical. Simon Duggan’s cinematography attempts to replicate the first film but fails for the most part. The film manages not to check most of the good boxes.
The Bottom Line
300: Rise of an Empire is a subpar sequel to an above-average film. A badly written film that misses out on the original’s visual authenticity and ambitious premise. Even in premise, the film seems quite unnecessary, but it could still have been executed with more originality. There’s barely anything that makes this film essential to watch, even for those who’ve watched and loved 300.