Eight years ago, Zak Snyder’s 300 was released. Since then, it has become some sort of cult favourite and understandably so. It was simple, stylish, violent, stupid and camp; in short, it was a lot of fun. Snyder was busy destroying Metropolis in Man of Steel, so he handed over the directorial duties to relative newcomer Noam Murro (Snyder remains as producer as and co-writer) for the prequel/sequel/equel/whateverquel 300: Rise of an Empire.
The result is as dull as its title. On the surface all the ingredients are there: huge battles, great CGI, slow-motion and countless (something tells me there were about 300 of them) topless, sweaty beefcakes. The action has been moved from a cliff to the ocean, where the Greek fleet tries to defend itself against the Persian invaders. The problem is that there is not enough of that. The film begins with 20 minutes of boring, pointless backstory explaining, in great detail, the origins of all the main characters.
The hero this time around is Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the leader of the Greek army who is very fond of delivering long, meaningful speeches while dreamily looking into the horizon. Apart from this, he has no discernable personality; he even looks boring. Say about Gerard Butler what you want, but at least he had an awesome beard.
The plot is appropriately stupid, but it lacks a sense of fun and silliness. There are some bonkers moments (at one point, Eva Green decapitates a prisoner and snogs the severed head for no reason) and funny one liners, but they are swamped by exposition and speeches. The less said about the misjudged sex-scene the better.
The one positive is Eva Green, perfectly cast as the Artemis, the ruthless commander of the Persian fleet. She dominates the screen with her chilly, menacing presence. Dressed in black, wearing more eyeliner than Johnny Depp, she seems to be the only one enjoying herself.
There is fun to be had with 300: Rise of an Empire: the effects are good, the action is well shot and there’s a horse on a boat; but overall it is a disappointment. The constant winks and nods to the original (yes, someone says “This is Sparta”) aren’t helping either, reminding us of a much better film. Let’s hope that Sin City 2, 2014’s other long awaited sequel based on a Frank Miller novel starring Eva Green, is better.