300: Rise of an Empire is the ill-advised sequel/prequel to 300. I gather it was shown in 3D, because there’s a lot of really fake looking CGI slow motion blood splattering directly at the camera. There’s a lot of fighting, sometimes I forget how hot Lena Headey is with dark hair after seeing her so much on Game of Thrones, Eva Green is looking good too, and the animation that plays over the first bit of the closing credits is pretty awesome. But I didn’t enjoy the movie very much at all (you can tell how much I didn’t like it by the fact that I never picked up anyone’s name other than Xerxes, Leonidas doesn’t appear in the movie and I don’t remember the Queen’s name). Possibly because I overthought the entire thing. Going in, I wondered how a sequel/prequel was even possible given the structure of the first movie.
It was framed as a tall tale being told by Faramir (or whatever his name is in the movie). He told the tale of Leonidas the total badass who marathon-bangs his wife before leading a tiny force to war to fight off a million monstrous pervert Persians and nearly won. This ridiculous and unrealistic story told to inspire the subsequent troops to actual victory. But we were to assume that in reality, the Persians were just regular people, there were probably more Spartan fewer Persians, and that the Spartans probably weren’t quite as great as Faramir’s story would indicate. And that was basically knew nothing about any of the characters we saw, we just knew the story Faramir was telling. So having a sequel or prequel wouldn’t make sense since we have no reason to believe any of the events of the first movie happened the way we saw them.
But they frame this one as a story as well. Lena Headey is giving a speech to Spartan troops, and for some reason decides what would be inspiring is a lengthy history lesson. Spoilers to follow:
They get a little bit nonsensical, as inside of Lena Headey’s stories about Xerxes is someone else’s story about Eva Green’s character (which hilariously includes the “this is madness” guy who got kicked down the bottomless pit in the first one), so we get flashbacks inside of flashbacks. And flash-sideways, as the people in her story start to overlap with the events of the first movie and mention the 300 Spartans. Lena Headey is basically telling an extraordinarily complicated story, probably the same style of storytelling as Bob Saget in How I Met Your Mother where 10 minutes into it you’d be like “wrap it up already, what is the point of all this?”
Presumably, Lena Headey heard Fararmir’s story or they collaborated on it, because her story and Faramir’s basically agree about everything. In addition to the messenger guy, Xerxes, and Lena Headey, Faramir and the deformed guy from the first one appear. And they’re just like in the first one.
The really confusing part is that the end of her story is about Eva Green and the main character guy in a sword fight on a boat, then the reveal is that she’s telling this story while on a boat going to the battle where that fight is happening. And then the story ends and we’re in the “present” and the story she was telling about events she couldn’t possibly know about lined up perfectly with the subsequent events. Main guy and Eva Green were in fact having that sword fight on that same boat. What are the odds? It doesn’t really matter, but I was trying to understand the structure of the story, and that is just a disaster as far as sense-making goes.