The third and biggest-budgeted sword-and-sandal action movie to arrive this year, 300: Rise of an Empire unfolds in 480 B.C., but it might as well be “K.C.,” or Known Commodity. Such is the laid track that this punishingly brutal follow-up to Zack Snyder’s influential 300, which told the story of the battle of Thermopylae and a group of Spartan soldiers’ valiant but ultimately futile defense against a marauding army of Persian invaders, unfolds upon. With its low-angle shots, ominous thunderclaps, glistening pecs and bellowed celebrations of freedom, Rise of an Empire peddles a very particular, fetishized form of masculine hero worship in telling the story of a concurrent naval campaign, but all in service of little more than a state-of-the-art showcase for unremitting violence.
Snyder and Kurt Johnstad’s script, based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller after the first film’s success, is a mélange of familiar bits and half-cooked motivations ladled over graphic bloodletting. There is absolutely a place for this sort of faux-historical entertainment — for bombastic films of representational value — but Rise of an Empire lacks the characterizations and intrigue to make it work. This film could be fun, or it could be grisly and of more consequence. Instead, it’s like watching someone else play a videogame. For the full, original review, from Screen Daily, click here. (Warner Bros., R, 103 minutes)