So after seeing the sequel to 300: Rise of an Empire, I am trying to mull over what my opinion of it. I am unable to decide whether it is a bad movie or a brilliant movie that didn’t quite hit the mark. It is a weird position as the two extremes are so far apart, so I thought I would write down some quick thoughts on it to see if that clears it up in my head a bit. Apologies as I can’t remember any of these names.
The first thing is that the movie tried to make every speech an epic speech without earning it. The first 300 movie showed the brutal training, the Persian envoy coming and the march and preparations. So when it gave an epic speech, it was well earned with characters you were introduced to. The sequel felt like every battle and interaction tried to be epic, but without earning it like the original did it felt conceited and over-bloated.
The visual style did not match with the ship combat. The unique fighting style in the original was what the sequel tried to use, but the ship-to-ship combat didn’t suit it. The only time it worked was when they pretty much treated the ships like land.
The movie made a point of saying that they are just average people (rather than Spartan warriors) fighting. It even shows an interaction between father and son to contrast the father/son relationship from the first movie (keeping him safe v.s. earning a glorius death). This could have been an effective angle. However, when the fight scenes kick in, these ordinary Greeks seem just as good at chopping up people as the Spartans from the first movie. This is even worse with their leader, who is meant to be a statesman but matches it with a couple of SHIPFULS of Persians (including their super-assasin leader and several immortals at the same time).
I am still not sure whether we are meant to cheer the enemy or heroes. The Greek general is shown trying to defend an ineffective democracy while the Persian general has a tragic backstory based on being a Greek sex slave. I am not sure whether this is meant to be subversive with the original movies very black-and-white villains, but I was hoping the villain would have her just revenge.
The whole movie was spent building up the Spartans as superheros that would save all of Greece. In the same breath, however, it also insults and mocks the Spartans as a relic of a bygone age and arrogant beyond belief. And after the whole movie was spent building up the Spartans arrival to the battlefield, the movie ends when they arrive (without even playing out the final battle). And Sparta, the defenders of liberty from the first movie, only come seeking vengeance rather than defending Greece, which actually makes more sense based on their warrior-culture. It reminds me of a story that says that sometimes the world the warriors defend don’t always have a place for them (I think it was a Discworld book).
So these are some of the contradictions I am mulling over in my head. I think after writing them down, I think I am leaning towards it breaking the narrative too much to get away with it. But it came pretty close to being a good movie, but I think mimicking the style of the original ended up hurting it too much.
Or I could go for the simplest way to determine if I liked it. I was bored during the movie and had no emotional investment in the characters, therefore it was a bad movie.