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Reel Review – 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

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Last night I saw an advanced screening of 300: Rise of an Empire in 3D, and I have to say my expectations were exceeded.  Originally supposed to hit theaters last August, the film was pushed back a bit, and will now make its way to theaters this Friday.  There hasn’t really been a lot of talk about the sequel, whose predecessor was both critically and financially successful back in 2007; although it has been promoted pretty well, with a series of trailers and TV spots over the past six months.

Many people may ask how a movie like 300 could find itself a sequel, seeing as though (spoiler alert), the entire Spartan army was killed at the end of the film.  Rise of an Empire tells a story that takes place before, during, and after the events of the first film.  Returning cast members include Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), as Queen Gorgo, Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes, and David Wenham as Dilios; with new additions of Eva Green (Casino Royale) as Artemisia and Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom) as Themistocles.

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300: Rise of an Empire follows Themistocles of Athens as he leads his army against a Persian invasion, led by Artemisia of Caria, and overseen by the God-King Xerxes.  Taking place before, during, and after the events of 300, Themistocles must attempt to fend off the Persian empire, while trying to convince Queen Gorgo of Sparta to join with Athens to lead a united Greek force in order to avenge King Leonidas.

Unlike the first film, Zack Snyder is absent from the director’s chair, though he did write and produce the sequel.  This time, the torch is passed to Noam Murro, who utilizes the next installment very well.  The stylized action sequences made famous in 300 return in full-force, with non-stop prolonged action scenes, featuring enough blood and gore alone to keep you entertained.  The stunts and choreography were awesome to watch, leaving much of the audience cheering whenever a head was severed or bodies slashed.  While it’s not necessary to see this movie in 3D, the gore and action is actually really effective in the 3D format, for an extra few dollars.

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUM

Eva Green gave a mysterious, sexy performance as Artemisia, using her strength and sexuality to her advantage against her enemies.  She and Themistocles develop an aggressive relationship throughout the film, which ends up being entertaining, even laughable at times.  Rise of an Empire definitely had more of a comedic edge at times.  Xerxes is just as menacing of a character in the sequel, getting a bit of an origin story towards the beginning of the film.

Between good storytelling, acting, and action sequences that will leave you wanting much more, 300: Rise of an Empire pulls off the difficult task of creating a fun, action-packed sequel to a film which arguably could have gone without one.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Written by Josh Sazin on 3/4/14

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