Shallow, pointless and stupid: ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ falls on its face

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“Hear me out, what if you replaced any instance of bad plot and replace it with bad violence?” exclaimed the film executive in a moment of eureka upon reading the first draft of “300: Rise of an Empire,” “and cut out any ‘motivations’ or ‘character development’ so we can fill these spots with slow motion shots of swords slicing through people. Audiences will love that.” Thus a movie that could have been 30 minutes long is dragged out to 144 minutes because somebody must have thought that the same scenes of people being killed with gratuitous amounts of blood would make for compelling cinema. Granted I have nothing against gratuitous violence: When done right, violence can keep things interesting and reinforce the meaning of a film; unfortunately when your film has little to no meaning it comes off as shallow, useless, and mindless cashin hoping to make a quick buck off the 300 universe.

Taking place almost directly after the events of the first film, we learn that the contrived king-god Xerxes has declared war on Greece after the original 300 Spartans from the first film have been slain. We get a bit of backstory that let’s us know how the commander of the athens forces, Demisticles, killed the king of Persia, and how Xerxes came to power, which was through some masterful manipulation by Artemisia, played by Eva Green, who is basically the main villain of the film, and is just as useless as the rest of the characters. Her interactions with Demisticles range from laughably bad dialogue to some provocative scenes that were so conflicted with what tone they were trying to convey that I felt increasingly uncomfortable, and after “The Wolf of Wall Street,” I didn’t think that was possible.

When watching an action movie, it’s normal to expect good action, and in particular the action scenes were all right: nothing spectacular but it had its moments when I felt drawn into the action, and was the only time when I felt engaged. The highly stylized violence was cool in the opening scene, but things got old quickly as people can only cut off so many limbs with swords before it gets boring. Mildly entertaining slow motion violence combined with a lame plot doesn’t give this movie a leg to stand on. It feels like nothing more than a cash grab at the hype the original “300” created. I understand that this is based off the sequel of the original graphic novel but that doesn’t mean it had to adapted to film, especially if it’s not a story worth telling.

An uninspired sequel to a fairly revolutionary action film, and a third film to follow that will most likely be just as uninteresting with little to keep itself compelling. It reads like the summary of the Matrix trilogy but is equally applicable to this series. I understand it’s a setup for the third movie, but I don’t think this makes it better because it means that someone actually thought it be a worthwhile endeavor to make a sequel to a film as useless as this. The few moments I found myself impressed by highly stylized actions were quickly followed by groans from terrible dialogue that was practically laughable at times. It’s a movie sequel so far removed from the original that comparisons aren’t even warranted, so if you enjoy watching the same boring scene of boats attacking each other and limbs flying, this might be for you.