Zach Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 was a huge success at the box office and Warner Bros wanted a sequel. However, there was just one little problem – most of the film’s cast died at the end of the first film. The problem was solved by making 300: Rise of An Empire an prequel/sidequel. It’s a film that has events take place before, after and concurrently with the 2007 Gerard Butler starrer.
Director Noam Murro manages to pull-off the impossible by making this an engaging follow-up to Snyder’s film (Snyder returns to co-write and produce the film which is once again based on a Frank Miller tale). Meanwhile, Sullivan Stapleton holds his own as Themistocles, the Greek warrior who battles Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes, the Persian God-King who defeated Butler’s Leonidas in the previous instalment. Along for the ride is Eva Green’s Artemisia, the Persian naval commander who tackles Themistocles head-on.
300: Rise of An Empire could have been a disaster. The previous film’s style became so iconic and copied that it appeared to be nothing fresh left for Murro’s film to mine. However, this has enough new energy to differentiate it from its predecessor. Sure, Snyder’s ‘speed-ramping’ is present and correct along with the cast’s well-oiled abs but this has the added freshness of taking the battle onto the high seas. It’s a brave move as Murro and company could have simply coasted by having another 300 men face more unbeatable odds in an attempt to recapture past box office glories.
Another wise move was the introduction of Eva Green’s Artemisia. The original 300 lacked a strong villain. Sure, that film, like this one had Santoro’s Xerxes but he was peripheral to the film’s central action. Murro puts Green front and centre as Stapleton’s foil, adding a romantic angle that was missing from Snyder’s thinly disguised homoerotic affair. Although you still get plenty of muscly men in loin-cloths if that’s your thing.
300: Rise of An Empire is a visually stunning piece of big budget filmmaking. Admittedly the film’s style doesn’t have the ‘wow factor’ that the original 300 had back in 2007, but this is a dynamic and well composed actioner. It takes enough risks in its story telling to make it feel like an organic follow-up rather than a cheap carbon copy of Zack Snyder’s now seminal graphic novel adaptation.
Blu-ray is the best way to see 300: Rise of An Empire and Murro’s film looks great in the format. The disc also comes with a legion of behind the scenes documentaries which chart the film’s production. They’re a little short, but overall they’re well worth your time.