Because they couldn’t call the movie “Abs, Muscles, and Swords.” 300: Rise of an Empire takes everything you know about Greek history and adds extra slow motion, the occasional sea monster, and over-the-top action sequences. And why not? Director Zach Snyder is clearly enjoying himself and wants the audience to throw caution to the wind, sit down, and enjoy the hell out of his movie. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what I did.
Oh sure, there’s over embellishment, ridiculous backdrops, and mutants jaguars (?) for some reason, but none of that undermines the film. In fact, it all makes perfect sense within the Zack Snyder 300 universe. While the original 300 boasted burly men doing burly men things, i.e. being awesome, the sequel not only shows burly men doing burly things, but also makes us care about these Olympic level-looking fighters. The relationships are definitely more thought out this time around, with each character having distinct and separate motivations. Even the villains, if they can be called such, truly believe in their actions, feeling completely justified.
I suppose that’s a good segue to the Eva Green’s character Artemisia. She delivers the movie’s standout performance and makes everything that happens all the more watchable. Truly, an unapologetic female warrior, she outclasses and rules over all men who cross her path. The central villain, aside from the nearly comically evil Xerxes, I found it impossible not to root for Artemisia at certain points. Her backstory leaves way for plenty of sympathy, and it’s easy to understand why she does what she does with such conviction. Anyone else, given her early life experience, might have turned out similarly.
And the rest of the cast? They all do a standup job, considering their job is to mainly walk around all sweaty and shirtless, showing of their insane muscles, and occasionally grunting lines about honor and battle. Sullivan Stapleton, who plays Themistocles, leader of the Athenian forces, doesn’t carry the gravitas Gerard Butler did in 300. His speeches lack the weight and intensity that made watching Mr. Butler immensely entertaining. Yet he’s able to hold his own, his fighting prowess and grave stares doing most of the work for him and his character.
Ultimately, what we, the audience really want to see, is fighting, lots and lots of fighting, and believe you me, Zach Snyder delivers. With severed limbs and fountains of gore aplenty, the camera occasionally getting showered by bloody pellets, eventually, you start becoming desensitized to it all. Sure, it’s not extremely pleasant to watch someone have a random body part hacked off, but by the time the end credits roll, it’s become so over the top, we’re no longer fazed.
If anything, this movie has proved one thing for me: a Wonder Woman movie is possible. Get Eva Green to star as Cheetah or Circe, replace the men with women, throw in a little bit more fantastical circumstances, and bam! There you go. This can be done, it should be done, and the tools are there for it to be done. Your move, Hollywood.
The question remains, is it worth seeing? You’ve probably seen 300: Rise of an Empire by now, but if you haven’t, then it really depends what you’re in the mood to watch. Want to watch an outlandish sword and sandals flick? Then please, sit back and enjoy. If violence isn’t your thing, it might be best if you watch the History Channel’s version.