300: Rise of an Empire (Noam Murro, 2014)

300‘s ability to target and subsequently enthrall a particular demographic is uncanny beyond the word’s definition. Based on the titular and historically inaccurate graphic novel by Frank Miller, Zack Snyder wholeheartedly employed his then creative singularity in a manner that delivered exactly what viewers anticipated and received. This in mind, said film capitalized enough on its testosterone-heavy strengths to warrant a sequel, even if such a follow-up somehow rings even more exploitative, hollow and lazy than its predecessor in nearly every aspect.

As its narrative embraces the considerably less impressive endeavors of the Athenian Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the proceedings do little to engage outside of doing what they do best – bleed blood. Bordering on absurd excess, “style over substance” can’t quite explain away the amount of over-stylized, dismemberment-heavy gratuitousness that plagues the production. Sure, entering the theater expecting anything other than what I just described would be silly, what with narrative poignancy predictably taking a backseat to it all, however the overt blandness of director Murro’s mimicry is too hard to ignore.

Bathed in a visual cohesiveness reminiscent of its roots as it remains glaringly ineffective, impressionability is virtually nonexistent despite Rise of an Empire‘s best intentions. Instead, ineffectual camp laces every bit of dialogue and exchange as jabs at shock value prioritize themselves over meaningfulness. Granted, the exercise as a whole is meant to instill within its audience a sense of pretentious nostalgia, more specifically one of action-oriented note, however nothing the film showcases is particularly engaging.

Unfortunately, I find it almost impossible to recommend this long-gestating follow-up to the largely beloved blood-bathed blockbuster. While fans of the original’s visual prowess will undoubtedly appreciate what’s presented, the blatantly unfettered recreation of Snyder’s approach coupled with an especially uninteresting central storyline is a bit unbearable. For what it’s worth, Rise of an Empire is a basally entertaining visual effects showcase but, let’s face it, you already knew that it would be. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be, and as for the purposeful 3D implementation, well, it’s nothing to write home about.

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