300: Rise of an Empire is a fantasy action film. It is a sequel to the action movie 300.
Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady) opens with an announcement of the fall of Leonidas and his 300 Spartan soldiers. Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) rides horseback though the field of corpses and beheads Leonidas before pillaging Greece. With the Persian soldiers raping, killing, and destroying everything they can get their hands on, Gorgo recounts a particular Athenian soldier to serve as an inspiration to soldiers. This segues into Themistocles (Sullivan Stimpleton) and the Battle of Marathon, where he orchestrated an ambush of Persian soldiers. In the concluding moments of the battle, Themistocles slices his way to the coast and grabs an enemy’s bow and arrow to kill the then-king of Persia, Darius.
Themistocles, now hailed a hero in Athens, calms a large group of fretting city officials in a town forum. Persians have made advances to the Greek cities with the intention to seize it if they don’t submit to the will of Xerxes. Themistocles gathers a modest naval fleet after asking support from all of Greece. Sparta refuses to send help, instead informing him that they plan on holding the Hot Gates (Thermopylae). Themistocles gathers more information about the Persian fleet and discover that the commander is Artimesia, a Greek-turned-Persian-soldier after hoplites destroyed her village and forced her into prostitution. Artemisia vows to make every effort to watch Greece burn by destroying its fleet and demoralizing the nation.
Hell hath no fury, indeed.
The plot will mostly follow the singular plot of the naval battles of Persia’s second Greek invasion, but on three occasions will stop to develop a major character. There will be some sort of audience surrogate in the movie to justify the exposition, but it seemed a little off to blend character development with the plot. Another thing is that the movie spans events before, during, and after the plot of the original movie.
Spectacle and special effects are as much as you can expect, much like the first movie. However, with the stable popularity of 3D movies, there is the added effect of making the blood and weapons jump off the screen to maintain the rule of cool. However, much like the first movie (and other movies where Zack Snyder’s name is attached), ramping is all over the place. For those unfamiliar, Ramping is the method of slowing down footage of cool scenes and then speeding it back up again. For some battle scenes, it’s pretty cool. For others, it’s literally one ramp after another. The worst offender is at the beginning of the movie where Xerxes yells at the corpse of Leonidas before beheading it. The entire beheading sequence is about 7 seconds.
Something else that really struck me were the thematic elements of the movie. The most obvious is the strength of conviction and fighting for freedom. In some spots it is made clear that Greeks fight to maintain their democracy, which will certainly resonate with the American audiences. Another theme is with the power struggle between two leaders. The scene in question involves Themistocles and Artemisia. Use your imagination.
Keep things SFW? Not in this movie.
Finally, something that’s hard to miss would be the inflated egos. For the antagonists, I suppose it would be necessary to try and intimidate their enemies. But at one point Queen Gorgo attacks Themistocles’s masculinity in relation to Spartan training. The movie is already testosterone-driven enough with muscular men that are three-quarters naked throughout the film, the added insults weren’t necessary.
Plot: 6/10 (Themistocles leads the fight against the naval invasion of Greece)
Characters: 7/10 (Interesting characters, but bogged down in how the exposition was carried out)
Language: 6/10 (Accents are maintained throughout, but some modern vernacular slips in as well)
Theme: 6/10 (Strength of conviction, fighting for democracy, revenge, and masculinity/power struggle)
Music: 7/10 (Dramatic war music to keep up with the action scenes, as well as a slightly altered “War Pigs” during the credits)
Spectacle: 6/10 (Copious amounts of blood and action, but bogged down in slow motion ramping)
Star Power: 7/10 (Sullivan Stimpleton, Rodrigo Santoro, and Lena Heady return, as well as Eva Green and Sullivan Stimpleton)
Who to watch with: 4/10 (Limited demographic here, Action fans and those who loved the previous movie mostly)
Post-movie thought: 6/10 (I’d classify this movie as a guilty pleasure than anything fulfilling)
Based off of source material: 5/10 (This is odd, because at this point Frank Miller’s Xerxes is unreleased, but the movie obviously follows characters that aren’t Xerxes)