300: Rise of an Empire is a followup to the highly successful 2007 film 300 (which starred Gerald Butler). 300 grossed half a billion dollars worldwide at the box office, so you can imagine why another film was due. It took seven years to make it to the big screen, at a cost estimated to be in the area of $100 million, but every penny of this money is on the screen.
300: Rise of an Empire is not a sequel nor is it a prequel. It is, according to the filmmakers, a story that is told within the architecture of the first film. In Rise of an Empire, the story pits the Greek General Themistokles’ (Sullivan Stapleton, last seen in Gangster Squad, and stepping in for Butler who was slain in the first film) army made up of Greeks from various other city states pitted against the massive invading Persian army, ruled by the mortal-turned-God Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, who was in the first movie, again wearing nothing else but gold medal on his body, which in the same amazing shape), which is in turn led by Artemesia (an evil Eva Green), the commander of the Persian forces. Lena Headey returns as Spartan queen Gorgo, ready to avenge the death of her husband. She is one tough cookie.
Rise of an Empire takes place during the same three days in Thermopylae (a location in Greece with a narrow coastal passage), where Leonidas (King of Sparta) faced the Persians at the Hot Gates of Hades. So Rise of an Empire basically creates a second story within the first film – 300 – so you won’t need to have seen the first film to follow this new one.
And if you have actually seen the first film, then you will remember the amazing special effects. Rise of an Empire has even better special effects, and with the aid of 3D, these effects literally triple the viewing experience. The action shifts from land (300) to the sea where the Greeks face the massive and prepared Persian army. The sea battles are amazing to watch; boats as far as the eye can see, hundreds if not thousands of soldiers on the Greek and Persian sea vessels. When they start fighting and collide with each other the scenes are very dramatic and very tense, and dare I say it, very realistic. This is how good the special effect are in this film. Thunderstorms, dark clouds, a volatile and rough ocean, muscular men ready to fight at all costs with the fighting taking place in slow motion, with Themistokles leading the way, enhances the action in this film. Artemisia leads the Persians, standing on the bow of her vessel, ordering her men to attack the Greeks. Wow! What scenes. Just amazing.
Themistokles standing on a perch, overlooking his kingdom and speaking to his people is another amazing scene that utilizes 3D to its most effect. And while I’m not a fan (and can’t really understand or follow Greek mythology), one does not need to know it to enjoy the film.
There are a couple special effects that go wrong (including a scene where Themistokles is on a horse that gallops across a burning ship, into the rough ocean waters, and then jumps onto a Persian Vessel), doesn’t look authentic at all. But the rest of the special effects all look very real. Credit goes to Director Noam Murro and writers Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad who stay very close to the storyline of the original yet successfully achieve a new movie that stands on its own. The acting is fine, if a bit wooden (this film is NOT about the acting), and if seeing hundreds of half naked muscular men, all wearing very little, is your thing, then you will enjoy 300: Rise of an Empire even more. I actually plan to see it again.