Review: Eva Green saves '300: Rise of an Empire'

By Fred Hawson

Posted at Mar 06 2014 08:20 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2014 07:16 PM

The film "300" was a big hit when it hit the screens back in 2006. The film was directed by Zack Snyder, while writer Frank Miller served as executive producer and consultant. In order to approximate the artwork of the graphic novel, the film used a special super-imposition chroma key technique.

This anticipated sequel makes use of the same things that made the first film a hit to try to make this second film as big a success.

Athenian general Themistocles shot an arrow in the battle of Marathon that angered the people of Persia. The Persian navy was led by a Greek woman named Artemisia, under the name of their man-god Emperor Xerxes. The two and their armadas clash in the Aegean Sea in multiple bloody and explosive battles for supremacy. One fights for pure love of country, while the other fights for sheer vengeance.

Instead of the imposing Gerard Butler, we get a lesser actor, Sullivan Stapleton, as the central character Themistocles in this sequel. I thought he lacked charisma and conviction in his acting as the protagonist. There is that something lost or weak in his face that makes him less believable as the big hero. His lackluster screen presence and tentative performance almost ruined the film for me.

Fortunately, I was very much impressed with the performance of the antagonist. Thanks to Eva Green, who delivers a sexy and bad-ass turn as Artemisia, I was not totally disappointed with the film. At first I thought it was only a big gimmick to have a female as the naval commander of Persia. However, as it turns out, Ms. Green would completely own this film. If not for her, I believe this film would tank big time.

Rodrigo Santoro was again impressive as Persian King Xerxes, reprising his role from the first film. We see him evolve from a mere man to a man-god in an elaborate sequence of CG glory.

Lena Headey also reprises her role as Queen Gorgo of Sparta. She was the one who tells this story, but will also get in on the military action later. David Wenham was the survivor Delios who narrated the first film, but in this sequel, his appearance was merely a cameo at best.

The movie builds up on the first "300" film with a lot more Greeks (and their fabled abs) versus a lot more Persians. The first "300" was about the Battle of Thermopylae. This sequel is about the big naval Battle of Artemisia which happens at about the same time as the first battle, that is why there we can see this story weave in some events from the first film as well. The action here is a lot more cartoonishly gory, with blood splattering in all directions in generous amounts.

This is like "300" all over again, but without the benefit of novelty, without the powerful presence of Gerard Butler, and without the directorial skills of Zack Snyder. This sequel by new director Noam Murro is certainly not better than the first film. So if you liked "300" as I did, you may still like this as well. If you didn't, then this film won't convert you. 7/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."