When I first heard there was a new movie in the 300 series I was not super excited. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed 300 (2006) starring Gerard Butler, but that was 8 years ago. The first 300 blew crowds – generally, but not always, dudes – away with its stylistic action violence and epic narrative-driven story. Since that time, however, several carbon copies of that movie have been released: Immortals, Hercules, and Clash of the Titans to name a few. Most of these titles were not worth the money I paid for them. But, since I’m reviewing movies now, I figured I would give this one a shot.
300: Rise of an Empire is neither a sequel or prequel to 300. Rather, it is the meta story in which 300 takes place somewhere in between. I found this to be an interesting story arch; though, it led to a lot of name drops, specifically of Gerard Butler’s character from the original Leonidas. Throughout the movie you hear of the progress and overall “failure” of the 300 Spartans guarding the Hot gates against Xerxes’ million man army. We know from 300 that this is what unites Greece against the Persian empire. We see that begin to play out in this movie. I believe it was the thought given to Rise of an Empire‘s story that surprised me the most. There were several original 300 cast members apprising their roles as supporting characters including Lena Heady, David Wenham, Andrew Plevin and Peter Mensah. It would have been easy to have a standard hack n’ slash epic war movie. Tying it in with the original story was a nice touch.
Rise of an Empire is based Frank Miller’s Xerxes, a graphic novel that expands the 300 universe and will be released sometime in the near future.
Based on the source material, you may expect to learn more about this bald fashionista, the god-king Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro. While you do get some interesting back story on how Xerxes came to be the gold-dipped king we love to hate, the story is more focused on his general Artemisia played by Eva Green. Artemisia (are-teh-me-zha) is a Greek by birth – the beautiful, ruthless, vile, and brilliant general of the Persian Navy. Themistokles (tha-mes-tick-lees), a brilliant Athenian General, is played by Sullivan Stapleton. Though dry and somewhat forgettable at times, he plays a hero you’re on board with from the beginning. His brilliance as a tactician and warrior is seen in the first battle, which ultimately sets the movie’s narrative in motion, as well as several intense naval battles. Battles which force Themistokles to carry the weight of this war and all the men and women who die on his shoulders.
In keeping with the original, Rise of an Empire is jam-packed with brutal stylized action violence and gore that make the Aegean sea run red with the blood of fallen soldiers. Unlike the Spartans, though, the death of fallen comrades is mourned not celebrated. This makes the Athenians much more relatable than the Spartans with their greased up bravado.
I got a lot more than I bargained for in this movie.
I expected to mock this film to no end; I was engrossed. I expected a thin plot and worse acting; I was surprised. This movie is likely better than you expected. Go in with low expectations and come out satisfied. 300: Rise of an Empire is a worth a watch.
There are several scenes that match nudity and sex with violence including a key “negotiation” with Artemisia and Themistokles. For a full rundown on content check out the plugged in online review. Needless to say, be wise when deciding on whether you will make it to this movie. This movie is not for everyone.