300: Rise of an Empire is a 2014 American epic action film directed by Noam Murro from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes. It is a sequel to the 2007 film 300, taking place before, during, and after the main events of that film, and is loosely based on the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis.
To be honest, I had low expectations for this film. When it was first announced, I felt that there was absolutely no need for a sequel to 300 and this was simply a case of the studio trying to cash in on the original’s success (almost half a billion dollars worldwide). To all intents and purposes, it seemed to me that creator Frank Miller had been coerced into producing a sequel to 300 (viz. Xerxes), which remains unpublished. All of which spelled TROUBLE.
Thankfully, I’ve been proven wrong. Completely. With a story that focuses on events that happen before, during and after the events depicted in 300, Rise of an Empire is able to add weight and depth to the original narrative, providing the audience with a more comprehensive appreciation of what went on and around Leonidas and his doomed quest.
Thus this movie centers around the conflict between Themistocles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia I of Caria (Eva Green), and to a lesser extent Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Queen Gorgo of Sparta (Lena Headey) which represent the essential confrontation between Greece and Persia central to both movies.
Yes, whilst these are historical characters, do not expect actual facts to stand in the way of the movie providing an exciting & visceral story. Like 300, Rise of an Empire is more fantasy than fact but within that context it works very well. And even though Stapleton is nowhere as charismatic as Gerard Butler was as Leonidas in 300, Eva Green really steals every scene she appears in and makes up for Stapleton’s proficient if unremarkable performance. Dangerous and sexy throughout, I could not keep my eyes off her.
When released in 2006, 300 was a game-changer, Zack Snyder’s use of slo-mo effects to replicate the comic book page on screen providing a template for many historical fantasies that followed in the wake of its success. With the bulk of the battles taking place on the seas, Murro (with producer Snyder) has upped the ante somewhat with some of the best action sequences seen on film. Blood splatters frozen in time, bodies flying, decapitated limbs and immersive cinematography combine to make Rise of an Empire, the ultimate experience – watching in IMAX 3D is the best way to enjoy 300: Rise of an Empire.
300: Rise of an Empire is now streaming on Netflix.
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