After the massive success of Zack Snyder's 300, a big screen sequel was inevitable. That sequel is finally upon us, and we're sorry to say that it isn't even in the same ballpark as its predecessor in style or quality. Directed by Noam Murro, 300: Rise of an Empire sacrifices storytelling and acting for gratuitous 3D fight sequences and one really horrible sex scene that do nothing to forward the story in any way. Gerard Butler's charismatic King Leonidas is replaced by a bored-looking Sullivan Stapleton, whose performance as the skilled but soulless Themistocles is as uninspired and dull as everything else the movie has to offer. Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, and David Wenham reprise their roles from the first film, but the absence of a solid script and a good director appears to have taken its toll on them. They spend their scenes in trances, moving from green screen to green screen in a stupor brought on by bad co-stars and lack of energy on set. This lack of energy is apparent from the get-go, and really takes away from what is supposed to be an energetic, high octane action flick.
While King Leonidas(Gerard Butler) and his mighty 300 are off fighting King Xerxes(Rodrigo Santoro), the brilliant military commander Themistocles mans the naval side of the conflict and prepares to square off against the deadly Artemisia(Eva Green). But Artemisia is more than competent as a leader, and it will take a united Greece and a shit ton of boats to defeat her once and for all.
Everything that made Zack Snyder's 300 entertaining is missing from this shipwreck of a movie. Gerard Butler makes a cameo as a corpse, but as you can imagine, that isn't really acting. The film's new protagonist, Stapleton, isn't much livelier than a corpse, and many will find his lusty, battle weary Themistocles to be a far less likable and interesting character.
The most glaring issue with this big screen foray into Greek history is its frequent misuse of close-up shots and slow motion. It happens WAY too much, and at the wrong times. If a film is shot well, there is absolutely no need for slow motion. Don't get me wrong. There are some phenomenal action scenes in this movies, action scenes that would have been even more fun if they'd cut the damn slow motion close-ups.
All in all, 300: Rise of an Empire is a monumental disappointment, saved from total disaster only by a handful of pulse-pumping fight scenes and some well-done naval shots. Do I recommend it? Yes, but only if you can get in for free.