Movie review

Overly violent '300: Rise of Empire' falls flat as sequel

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Been there and done that -- with the manly man Gerard Butler the first time around on screen.

Seven years ago, almost to the day, he starred in "300" which opened with $70 million in North America and eventually pulled in $456 million worldwide. In a world of fast and furious cars, mutant monsters and superheroes, "300" improbably was about the ancient battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans fought to the death against a Persian force a thousand times larger.

'300: Rise of an Empire'

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey.

Rating: R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language.

Attempting to recapture lightning in a blockbuster bottle, some of the same team and actors return for "300: Rise of an Empire." They should have quit while they were ahead.

Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) faces off against the massive Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and led by Artemisia (Eva Green), commander of the Persian navy.

Noam Murro who made his feature directing debut with "Smart People" in Pittsburgh, directs "300" from a Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad screenplay based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, "Xerxes."

It spends most of its early time with long, drawn out narration attempting to explain who's who and what's what and then delivers battle cries that seem cliched ("Let it be known that we chose to die on our feet rather than live on our knees!) and allowing every man, woman and boy to turn their swords, shields, spears or flaming arrows into battle-ready Veg-O-Matics.

They slice! They dice! They slash! They plunge their blades with extra oomph and juiced sound effects into chests or skulls. Artemisia decapitates a man, holds his severed head, kisses the lips and then tosses her prize away. She also seems to invent or certainly be a very early adopter of the f-word.

Despite a gratuitous topless scene, the women -- including Lena Headey who returns as the Spartan Queen Gorgo -- are fierce warriors. Even in 3-D, though, the virtual world often looks flat, gray and/or fake and it's tiresome to watch the blood fly into the air and briefly hang there again and again and again.

I readily admit this is not my favorite kind of movie but I wasn't moved to care about the fate of most of the characters or their advocacy for democracy or quest for vengeance. It may be the rise of an empire, but not a favorite franchise.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:

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