Release Date: 7th March 2014
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey
It’s easy to forget just how much Zack Snyder’s 300 has influenced popular culture since its release in 2006. It went on to create its own sub-genre of sorts; the “adult” historical fantasy as it most likely wishes to be known, or more accurately “tits, gore and swords” as it actually is. The likes of television’s Spartacus series and even the incredibly popular Game of Thrones have ridden on the back of 300‘s success. Eight years later we have a sequel, and it feels much the same as it did then: with all the maturity of a penis drawn in the condensation of a bus window.
300: Rise of an Empire isn’t so much a sequel as an expansion of the original story. Set concurrent to the events of 300 (before, during and after the Spartans are defeated), Thermistokles (Stapleton) leads Greece in an attack against those pesky Persians, headed by warlord and Xerxes’ sister, Artemisia (Green). The notable difference here is that it’s mostly taking place at sea. 300 on boats is essentially the premise; Lena Heady in an opening voice-over warns of a “tidal wave of blood”, which is not far from being exactly what this delivers. The word “Subtle” does not translate in Ancient Greece, it would seem, and so we get scene after scene of bloody cartoon violence, shouty-nonsense dialogue, and rippling six packs.
The entire thing is ludicrous, and is at times eye-roll inducing in its unrelenting shallowness. The narrative allows for a prominent woman among the cast in the form of Eva Green, but then descends into those continued pitfalls plaguing female villains by involving sexual assault in her back story and having her needlessly taking her clothes off. The men don’t fare much better: for much of its running time this feels like a live-action historical Chippendales calender, while they all pose manfully and talk about honour and family and sacrifice and blah blah, who cares, FIGHT. The script also feels like Lord of the Rings as re-written by a 15 year old in his sleep; there are approximately 5 or 6 rousing battle speeches in this, and precisely none of them are actually rousing, rather a collection of words spoken rather loudly and at no-one in particular. Lines like “his eyes had the stink of death” and “Leonidas has been betrayed by a hunchback!” will also provoke unintentional laughs. To be fair you most likely won’t be listening anyway; you’ll be too busy enjoying the 3D ultra-violence set against sepia-tinged CGI.
It’s utterly, completely and quite remarkably stupid, and yet there’s something about 300 on Boats that just about elevates it from utter pap to enjoyable nonsense. It’s that certain breed of uber-machismo descended into parody which generates laughter in place of derisory comments and tutting. Desperately wanting to be cool, it is ultimately too immature and lazy to come anything close. All in all, there’s fun to be had in amongst its flaws: but let’s face it, Sullivan Stapleton is no Gerry Butler.