One of the most annoying developments of Hollywood has been the rise of pointless sequels that are created solely to cash in on lucrative titles and get the world’s collective fat ass into an aisle seat.
The latest, and most disappointing example is 300: Rise of an Empire the sequel to the Identitarian classic 300. But we should’ve known that this was going to be a mere cashgrab – the genius behind the 300 graphic novel, Frank Miller, had no role in this new production and it wasn’t directly based off any of his work. Even the director of the film 300, Zak Snyder, took a distant role in the creation of the sequel by accepting only a producer slot and letting an unknown direct it in his place (the guy doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page).
Essentially, this film’s quality can be compared to that of a poorly made compilation of a favorite band of yours. There’s the old songs in there that you remember and enjoy, but there’s no coherency to the whole thing, and they even included that shitty period in their discography amongst the hits. Besides, what’s the point of buying an album of random songs when you can buy the original album with all of the compositions in the intended order and place?
Needless to say, 300: Rise of an Empire is not a well-thought out work, in spite of it echoing many of the themes of the original and retaining the vast majority of its aesthetics. The narrative of the film attempts to mimic the original in every possible way. The protagonist, Themistocles, tries to wrangle support from his reluctant city of Athens to fight the invading Persian hordes and is only allowed a few men and ships. Despite being heavily outnumbered, they keep winning battles against the Persian navy. And after that… well that’s the kind of the entirety of the plot. There’s a not well-thought out revenge subplot by the two villains against Themistocles; there’s the most unemotional death sequence ever where a father dies in his son’s arms – which has the same emotional significance as finding out your first goldfish perished; and there’s an incredibly awkward sex/rape scene involving the villain and the protagonist that has no point at all and makes you want to reconsider having sex for the next few days.
Oh, and the Spartans show up with their mighty navy at the end – despite the fact that Sparta’s identity was defined by not even having a navy. It’s also led by Leonidas’ wife, which makes absolutely no sense. But considering how this comes after the scene where the ragtag Athenian navy unleashes its secret weapon on the Persians (hint: it’s Themistocles riding a horse through a naval battle), I guess the filmmakers wanted us to leave our reason behind at the ticket stand.
There are some more logical incoherencies and plot holes riddled throughout the film, but I’ll leave it to the reader to see the film and find them for himself. For the film wasn’t a terrible experience as it still carried over 300’s great aesthetic sense and triumphant action. While it toned down the racial angle somewhat, it still has white Europeans defending their land from swarthy peoples of the Orient. And there’s thankfully no affable Ethiopian who managed to join the Athenian navy and become Themistocles’ joke-cracking sidekick, so we can at least thank the filmmakers for sparing us that embarrassment.
But in the end, while the film did have its enjoyable moments, it left me feeling emotionally cold and never managed to make me care about the Athenian cause in the story. In contrast, after 300, I felt like taking up a spear and shield in defense of European civilization. The song choice for the ending credits reveals how little care was given to this film’s themes and how the filmakers didn’t understand Miller’s vision for 300 as we are treated to Black Sabbath’s anti-war anthem “War Pigs” when we are exiting the theater and looking on at the animated figures continuing to slash their way through the battle.
So these men we have been rooting for the past two hours are “war pigs” just like the Persians? I think the ending credit choice wasn’t given too much thought, thus explaining its selection, but it once again shows how little understanding was given to making this a coherent work of art.
But let’s drop the pretense of labeling it a work of art and call it what it really is: a mildly enjoyable cash-in.