300: Rise of an Empire – The Battle-Worn Review

300-Rise-of-an-Empire

 

Let me first call out the self-proclaimed “Awesome Crew” of about 15 people behind me that, unfortunately for everyone else, had to be interrupted by their incredibly cheesy jokes and comments prior to and during the trailers.  I’ve renamed you the “Jerkwad Squad” and I truly hope to never run into a theater with you in it again.  Geez.  Secondly, I must COMMEND the AMC Tysons Corner 16 theater that allows you to reserve seating so there was literally NO issue with people filing into their seats and not interrupting everyone trying to find a place to watch the movie.  I’m sure other theaters do this, but it’s the only one I’ve been to.  Kudos to you.

My first impression of this movie after about 15 minutes in was that this movie’s underlying story was going to really be dense about regret and the “woulda, coulda, shoulda”s moments in life.  What if I had talked to that girl in the coffee bar that day?  Could she have been my soul mate?  What if I hadn’t overslept and missed some classes?  Could my G.P.A. have been better and I could have that better job out of college?  Or the other philosophical/moral question; if you could go back in time, would you have killed Hitler as a baby?  What would have changed in history?  How many lives would have been saved?  What would the world look like 50 years in the future?  Of course these are all really pointless thoughts and discussions because in the end, if things hadn’t happened the way they did, there’s no guarantee things would have been better or worse.  However, there’s always that nagging thought in your brain during quite minutes when you can reflect on where you are in life.

Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) pondered this a lot as he took of the forces of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and the formidable, deadly and sultry Persian Naval General, Artemisia (Eva Green).  Greece, in the heyday of its democracy, was threatened by the vast Persian army and on the brink of invasion.  Should we fight, or should we bargain?  It would have been a piss poor action movie had they chose the latter, so fight on they must.  On the battlefield at Marathon ten years prior, Themistocles made a decision that put into motion the events that eventually led up the events in the first movie “300”.  He made a decision, probably out of mercy, that ultimately would come back to haunt an entire culture.  This was a much more expansive movie than the first movie.  This movie spanned the events that led up to 300, events that took place at the same time as the movie and ultimately to events that happened afterwards.

What I really liked about this movie was that it gave you some really good background on Xerxes, his rise to power and a true appreciation of the scale of slaughter that was about to befall Greece.  The main hero, Themistocles, was every bit as believable as King Leonidas as a leader.  Now I confess that King Leonidas was much more imposing and charismatic figure, but Themistocles was still an imposing figure and drew you into his desire to save his beloved mother – Greece.  The standout character though was Artemisia.  She was, in a phrase – a beast.  She was beyond calculating and cutthroat.  Without being too political, the best comparison I could make in modern times is perception people have regarding Bush and Cheney’s administration:  Bush being the leader, but Cheney being the REAL power behind the curtain – pulling the strings and influencing the course of events.  There’s all of the blood, sex and violence you would expect from this franchise.  There’s actually one sex scene that was so potent, violent and raw that a few of the men and women behind me were gasping and “clutching their pearls” so-to-speak.

The action scenes were relentless.  That isn’t to say there wasn’t some dialogue, funny dialogue at that at times.  However, when the action started, you couldn’t peal your eyes away.  There were some scenes that I expect to see memed for days/years on the internet.  The cameo appearances of Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) were particularly effective as her character wasn’t that prominent in the books.  However, they smartly used her in ways that made her appearances substantive and relevant.

I enjoyed this movie a lot.  This was 90-95% as effective and tantalizing as the first flick and I truly wonder if they won’t go for a third flick to end this franchise properly.  There are some unresolved issues by the time this movie ends, and that’s not a bad thing.  If this movie had bombed, then it left me in a good place.  However, it’s succeeded (to the chagrin of many elitist movie theater critics) and I want another film; preferably a little sooner than the 8 years between this and the first movie though.

This was a worthy sequel to 300.  It may have taken a while, but in the words of Spartacus – gratitude.

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