3 1/2 StarsThere can never again be that sense of thrill and innovation that was so present in 300. That film was a transformative experience for audiences and a major influence over action directors since. Now, seven years later comes the prequel/sequel 300: Rise of an Empire and it is a rollicking, erotic, blood-thirsty follow-up that is nearly as exhilarating and bold as it’s predecessor.
300: Rise of an Empire lacks a strong central figure, lets face it Gerald Butler is tops as King Leonidas, growling and ripped under a mountainous beard. Here, we have the more slender and angular Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, a hero for his slaying of an enemy king at the Battle of Marathon. As the Spartans prepare for their battle with the Persians on land, Themistocles and his fellow Athenians set out to the sea to engage in naval warfare against a ruthless Persian female warrior, Artemisia (Eva Green).
The warring and gruesome deaths are a plenty, stylishly shot and beautifully rendered images dominate the visual landscape. The screenplay by exiting director Zack Snyder is clear and lean, and has been interpreted by newcomer Noam Murro in a manner that mimics Synder’s blueprint from the first movie. Setting the story predominately at sea and presenting itself as a concurrent storyline to the events in the original was a masterful stroke, making this film feel like a welcomed addition to the fold, rather than a cash-grab re-visiting.
Two times around the block is about all this hyper-stylized world requires, any further follow-ups will be hard pressed to match this pair of films in energy, audacity, and visual beauty. Finally, Eva Green must be singles out for her fearless, sexy, and brutal character. Ms. Green holds her own on the battlefield and in her closed quarters with the finest of Greece’s warriors. 300: Rise of an Empire wouldn’t have the same weight if it weren’t for the fantastic villain, by the film’s climax a fight between Themistocles and Artemisia seems evenly matched. Credited must be given for the strong writing and excellent portrayals for making this machine thrill.
Director: Noam Murro
Stars: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey