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'300: Rise of an Empire' scrapes victory


The movie "300: Rise of an Empire" earns the right to call itself something of a prequel because the opening sequence starts years before where its 2006 predecessor "300" started.

It also can call itself a sequel because the film ends after the climax of the first film but, somehow, before the epilogue. However, the majority of both "300" films take place concurrently -- which is interesting and confusing.

While "300: Rise of an Empire" is a sequel -- kind of -- chronologically, it is more difficult to call it a sequel based on subject matter. The first "300" film was not really about the Greco-Persian Wars; it was about the Battle of Thermopylae and, more importantly, the embellished culture of ancient Sparta. "300: Rise of an Empire," is much a middle chapter in a story arc about the conflict between Greece and Persia.

Treacherous technicalities aside, "300: Rise of an Empire" is an exercise in cinematic preference. Those who want gallons of digital blood, one great performance and a fresh take on fantasy action, "Rise of an Empire" will deliver.

For me, the best part of the first "300" was the romanticized look into some of the greatest soldiers the world ever has known. Seeing a group of Spartans laugh hysterically while facing insurmountable odds is a fascinating glimpse of the line between greatness and madness. Since the Spartans largely are absent during this "sidequel" we are left with the also great, but considerably less-interesting Athenians.

This time around, it is Eva Green, who plays the villainous Artemisia, who flirts with insanity. Green delivers a resounding performance that keeps "Rise of an Empire" off the rocks and guides it into the uncertain waters between A-Movie and B-Movie territory. It's fitting super-human Greek soldiers be faced with a thoroughbred super villain -- complete with a broken childhood and an insatiable thirst for revenge.

While "300: Rise of an Empire" does score a sound victory, it won't echo through the years the way that "300" has.

* 4 of 6.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.