It's been 8 years since director Zack Snyder wowed audiences with his break-through, ultra-violent action flick 300. Now, Warner Bros. adds a new chapter to the highly stylized, R-rated world with 300: Rise of an Empire.
Snyder doesn't return as director for this one, but acts as writer and producer. 300: Rise of an Empire still has the feel of a Snyder film. Although Gerard Butler's character of King Leonidas was killed off at the end of 300, there are several returning characters that seamlessly bridge this chapter to the 2006 film. Lena Headey returns as King Leonidas' widow, seeking revenge for her husband's violent death. Actor Rodrigo Santoro reprises his role as the all-powerful God King Xerxes who is determined to conquer the world, wiping out all that stand in his way.
The movie spans the time before, during, and after the events of the first film, showing the rise of Xerxes, the fall of King Leonidas, and the conquests of Persian naval commander Artemisia, played convincingly by Eva Green. We are introduced to Greek general Themistocles, played by Sullivan Stapleton, who quickly makes enemies with Xerxes and is tasked with long battles against the great Persian army.
Battles are what drive this movie, as you might expect, battles and a lot of blood. One might even say that the explosions of blood that follow every slice of the sword are the very soul of these movies. If 300 was extreme violence on land, 300: Rise of an Empire is extreme violence on the high seas. The majority of the fighting in this movie takes place on the deck of ships, which is much different than the first movie. However, there is little variety in the action sequences, many of them feel like the same fight set on repeat.
Eva Green's character was the highlight of the movie, easily outclassing all other cast members. The lead actor, Sullivan Stapleton did a solid job, but wasn’t the convincing alpha male his character should have been. The dialogue is sub-par, but it is doubtful anyone who sees this is expecting an Oscar-worthy script. As you might expect the movie is not for the faint of heart, filled with ultra-violence, some brief nudity, and some language.
If you enjoyed 300, you are going to feel right at home with 300: Rise of an Empire. It’s not as innovative as its predecessor, but does a good job preserving the look and feel of the stylized universe. It’s not as quotable as 300, (“This is Sparta!”) but it is a complimentary follow up to the 2006 film. Unless you were a fan of the first movie, I would recommend you wait to rent this one.