On the surface, the idea of a sequel to the 2006 film “300” may seem like a typical Hollywood ploy to franchise a movie into a series not to extend an unfinished story, but to purely to capitalize on the immense profits the first installment generated.
This would not be overly cynical thinking, seeing as the 300 Spartan soldiers in the film were all killed in the first film. It may restore some faith, however, when you discover that “300: Rise of an Empire,” sees the return of source material from graphic novelist Frank Miller, as well as the involvement of Zack Snyder, who adapted Miller’s work for the first film. That faith goes rewarded in this new chapter, as “Rise of an Empire” provides enough substance to not be dismissed as just a studio cash grab.
The film follows Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in his battle against the Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), whose father Themistocles killed, and the Persian naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). The movie takes an interesting angle by giving the Greek perspective of the war, with the events of the film book-ending what happens before and after the Spartan’s battle in the original “300” movie. Also different from the original film is the naval warfare: the battlefront is the Aegean Sea.
On one of the posters for “300: Rise of an Empire,” we see Themistocles standing before a massive tidal wave of blood, signifying all that movie goers need to know before walking into the theater. Like its predecessor, “Rise of an Empire” is heavy on the body count. It’s safe to say that if you enjoyed the first film, the new installment will get the job done for you as well.
As we’ve come to expect from a Miller/Snyder collaboration, it is visually stunning. The unique trademark use of blinding light shielded by a blanket of the darkest clouds is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with their work and makes it easy to slip right back into the world of the first film.
Stapleton proves to be a worthy successor to Gerard Butler as protagonist, as the film calls for somewhat over-the-top and melodramatic acting. Green serves as a very effective villain, and you will have no trouble rooting against her portrayal of the vengeful naval commander. Santoro’s Xerxes makes a successful return in the sequel, and we get to see his origin story.
“300: Rise of an Empire” accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, which is all that can be asked of any film. The original film made such an impact on pop culture that viewers should know what they’re getting into by now, and if they found they were satisfied by the 2006 installment, they will likely get similar enjoyment from the sequel.