It has been almost a decade since the original “300” was given a small glimpse to audiences in December of 2006 before getting it’s wide release in March the following year. It has since become a modern day classic. Is it perfect? No not by any means but still a well made, visually splendid, action fest that is so damn entertaining and watchable, that it still holds up well today. Never once did I ever think there would be a sequel even if the ending was a bit open ended. However that suited the story, so it didn’t need to end with a nice bow. The news came as a shock to me however was open to seeing how they could extend the story. Upon viewing the new film I came away with mixed but mostly disappointed feelings. The story is clucky and disjointed, and the action sequences are entertaining and feels too familiar in some spots and doesn’t live up to its potential.
During the battle against Leonidas’s army of 300, of which will end in defeat, Xerxes sends a separate force again the democratic city of Athens. Standing in his way is a naval fleet led by admiral Themistocles. Trying to unite Athens and Sparta together, in order to overcome the superior navel fleet, led by Xerxes best commander Artemisia. Both together want Themistocles’s blood.
In many ways this film tires to be more ambitious then it’s predecessor. Many audience members were confused going in, wondering is this a prequel or a sequel to the original? Well it’s actually all of those things plus some. Some events of the film take place before, some take place during and others take place after. It serves more as a companion piece to the original than an actual prequel or sequel. You get a much bigger understanding of the world that “300” exists in. In many ways it does enrich the world even more. But does it actually work as a story?
One of the film’s biggest strengths is actually one of its biggest weaknesses. In learning more about the world we sacrifice a cohesive narrative. The film has so many frequent time jumps that it feels jarring rather than an exploration. The script isn’t sure what it wants to be nor whose story are we going to focus on? In the beginning the film felt like it was Xerxes story, then it was Themistocles, but then the script shifted its focus yet again to Artemisia. Between the time jumps that creates a disconnect between the film and the audience and lack on main character focus this film suffers dearly. In the original “300” it was Leonidas and his army of 300’s story. In this, there isn’t a main character that audiences that set sail on the journey with. Towards the middle the story seemed more interested in Themistocles and Artemisia conflict but even then it lacks the focus and jumps around again. It’s not that there is a lot of characters, the script doesn’t know who their central characters are. The movie works more as an encyclopedia of the “300” world, rather than a narrative.
In the second act of the film, the movie starts to get redundant, and oddly familiar. That’s when you realize you’ve seen the same setup in the original “300””. In that movie the Spartan soldiers face wave after wave of enemy forces and always finding a way to take them out. In this it’s the same thing. Except trade out Spartans for Greek soldiers and put them on boats and it’s the same thing. The film begins to have “Hangover 2” syndrome, from the second act on.
To be fair though people are more apt to go see “300” for the action rather than the story. The movie does have plenty of action to spare. The Director amps up the blood and gore from the first film giving the screen plenty of red CGI blood flying. The action is for the most part exciting and well choreographed. For action junkies they should get plenty of enjoyment out of this film for that exact reason. Never as good as what Zack Snyder was able to pull off in the original but still pretty well done.
The filmmakers once again resurrected the art style that the original was so known for. However with so many imitators out there, it makes it hard to stand out amongst the legion of other look a likes. Although it does look better than the average “300” imitator, director Noam Murro does paint a pretty picture, it isn’t as fresh as it use to be. There is also a few moments of noticeably bad green screen effects.
The acting is surprisingly solid. Sullivan Stapleton steps into the lead role and very likeable and does a good job. Eva Green steals the show as Artemisa. She is tough, fierce, sexy and gleefully over the top as the main antagonist. This shows a different side of what the actress is capable of. Lena Headey returns and is a nice return from the first film. Everyone else does a decent job, nothing else outstanding or worth noting for.
When the credit roll, you come away with a very uneven experience. The narrative may open up the universe however it creates a very disjointed story that at times feels a bit redundant from the original. The art direction has lost its freshness and a few standout performances. The action will be enough to satisfy some but for me this is a letdown and doesn’t quite measure up with the original.