300: Rise of an Empire — Everybody Loves a Sequel: Movie Review

Rise of an Empire poster, movie review
image courtesy: Warner Bros.

What does the trailer of Muppets Most Wanted (the puppets of Sesame Street, movie) say? When a movie is good, everybody would love a sequel. In the case of the movie, 300, it became a cash cow for the filmmakers that they wanted more... money. It's not as if the audience screamed for more 300, unless for more of Leonidas.


But what can be done when the King of Sparta is already dead? No more Gerard Butler with six-pack abs now, but he did appear in this movie in reference to the part where the protagonist visited Sparta and to let us know what was happening on the side (Athens) as King Leonidas and his men fight to death.

To let fans of 300 know that a sequel is coming, the filmmakers all agreed to put the word, 300 in the title which has nothing to do with the concept of 300: 300 Spartan men to battle against tens of thousands. 300: Rise of an Empire is a movie telling the story of what happened before 300 (which opted Leonidas and his royal guards to defend Sparta (or the whole of Greece) from the south shores) and where the movie 300 left off.

I don't think that I'll be spoiling the movie since it mostly is just world history that I'm sure everyone has taken up in highschool, save for a few changes.

The hero of the movie would be Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the general of the Greek naval fleet. He is the Greek hero who defeated King Darius I of Persia from invading Greece at the battle of the Marathon. That was 10 years before the events in 300. Young Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), son of Darius, saw as Themistokles loses his arrow and hit Darius in the chest. He swore to avenge the death of his father (just by continuing what his father has already started, expanding the Persian Empire and stomping on Greece).

With his father's death, Xerxes cried in grief and not long after, transformed into a huge monster—I mean God-king—with the manipulation of his (adopted) sister, Artemisia (Eva Green). I wasn't wrong when I said in this post that hottie Rodrigo Santoro will transform into the colossal monster that Xerxes is (the movie claimed that with the help of sorcery, the normal handsome Xerxes will transform into that monster). But I was wrong that the movie is a spinoff of Xerxes, he's just a background. This movie is Artemisia's.

While the trailer promised us of Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady) and Xerxes, apparently, you won't be seeing much of them in the movie. They will appear briefly at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. They're no longer the main characters of this film but Themistokles and Artemisia. I bet that there will be a sequel coming, showcasing the fighting prowess of Cersei Lannister Queen Gorgo.

I’ve watched 5 movies of Eva Green but the only movie I remember her of was Dark Shadows. She's a bitch of a witch there. In this movie, still she doesn't deviate from being the bitch that she was in Dark Shadows. Artemisia is one heck of a woman. If you are not going to see much of Themistokles, then you'll be seeing much of Artemisia. Her story would be one that girls of any age will sympathize with, despite her being a monstrous killer. To me, she's the best that ever happened in this movie. And because she is the best, I will be saving the best by not talking much about her.

image courtesy: Warner Bros.

If 300 is fought in land, Rise of an Empire is fought in the seas. If you're a first-timer in seeing battle maneuvers, then you'll be awed at the battle among ships here. In my case, I have seen lots of Chinese films that it's almost as if nothing is new in the movie, only that the graphics is of the highest level and unlike the low-budgeted looks of the films mentioned. But for Hollywood, this will be like the third, a predecessor would be Battleship.

When I saw the formation of Grecian ships, I was reminded of Art of War and The Red Cliff. And I have to say, I was anticipating what the formation was for. While I mentioned that as if nothing is new, I was still surprised and awed with the grandeur of Themistokles' naval tactics. The overall feel of that battle in the sea part I would be like the battle of Blackwater in Game of Thrones season 2.

In combats, going slow-mo was a prevalent style in the first movie and still very much adapted in this one albeit overdone. While the "3D maneuver" was looking good (the perspective just behind the head of Themistockles and going about left, right, top), the technique that was done for Leonidas was much better in 300, and that duo too (where one was decapitated). Even though the slow-mo style was applied in the gory details i.e. horse stomping on a man's head, limbs getting cut one at a time, the first movie was more visible than this one. Furthermore, Gerard Butler's badass acting was more convincing than Sullivan Stapleton’s. I don't know if it's just part of the package of being a Spartan or I just couldn't help myself but compare.

Sullivan Stapleton proves to be an old actor in Hollywood but I haven't seen him anywhere. Perhaps, this movie will be his huge break in landing big roles from now on.

In most cases, the first movie is always better than the second (the same goes for books) save for Harry Potter. So with all being said, 300: Rise of an Empire is less of what 300 has reached. But overall, Rise of an Empire is a good movie in its own.

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