Verdict: 4 / 5
While 300 may have been about brawny men fighting other brawny men, while wearing brawny loin clothing and brandishing brawny weapons, 300: Rise of an Empire shows us a more tactical side to these battles, and how the average (though still brawny) man had to rise up and defend Athens. The original 300 (based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name) is the fictionalised telling of Sparta’s defence against the second Persian invasion. 300: Rise of an Empire takes place at the same time, but tries to show us another side of the Greek’s defensive. It begs the question: were 300 Spartans enough to send a message to the God King and his mighty empire?
300: Rise of an Empire is both a side-story and sequel to 300. It primarily centres on Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) – an Athenian general and politician – as he orchestrates, and implements naval battle plans against the impending Persian invasion. He asks Sparta to join Athens, but the Spartans have already headed to face King Xerxes – the God King – and his armies at the Hot Gates. Themistocles is left with assembling an army of farmers, workers and younger men to defend the seas.
A nice change from the original 300 is the antagonist. We’re shown Xerxes the God King isn’t the only threat, but a greater tactician is his right-hand, Artemisia (Eva Green). Her ruthlessness and command of military strategy is unmatched. She is a formidable foe, and I wished she were The God King.
Artemisia’s naval army is slightly different than Xerxes’ in that they are more “human” than their land counter-parts. This adds a nice bit of variety to the movie’s …… The directors are not re-using units we’ve already seen, even though some do make an appearance.
Rise of an Empire follows the same stylised direction as its predecessor. The movie is given a non-photorealistic rendering sepia look to accentuate its comic book style. Frank Miller’s signature art style is apparent when the Athenean’s clothes and blood contrast with the otherwise darker and washed out colours of the film.
The blood is a rich crimson, which reminds me of corn syrup used in most pre-90’s horror movies. It’s thick, unrealistic and goes well with the movie’s fantastical telling. When the Greeks land powerful punches, kicks or sword strikes the frame will slow down and focus on them, often giving us the sounds of muscle being hit or bones breaking.
It is a violent movie, yes, but still very enjoyable. Each fight scene – or tense moment – is strengthened by the music score as it lends some much appreciated atmosphere. This is the sort of movie you purchase on Blur-ray and watch with a 9.2 sound system setup, but I wouldn’t worry about the 3D edition. I found the 3D to be tacked on and not noticeable at times.
My other gripe with 300: Rise of an Empire is its pacing. The beginning and back stories are told in a rushed and confusing way. I felt the movie ended before it really got started. I would have loved another hour’s worth of fight scenes and some more story to go along with it.