Let’s state this outright: the 2007 war movie 300 is one of the best movies made in the 21st century so far. I don’t know a soul who doesn’t love this movie- a fact that gives me faith in humanity. It’s a modern-day masterpiece and one of my favorite films ever. It’s one of those perfect movies that I feel can’t be touched… but they did. Among hearing of the sequel to 300 I rolled my eyes. But as the trailers began to show themselves, I decided it was a must-see. What do you know; it totally is.
300: Rise of an Empire is the sequel to the 2007 film 300, based on the events of the Persian Wars. The film takes place during and after the events of the first film, this time from the perspective of the Greeks, who also face Persian invasion. King Xerxes of Persia specifically targets Greece as revenge for his father, who died at the hands of Themistocles during battle. Themistocles is the ruler of Athens, Greece, the world’s first democracy. With the threat of his people incoming, he and his army pursues the Persians by sea.
In canon to the previous film, Themistocles attempts to ally with the Spartans but is unable. At the same time the Greek army prepares for battle, Leonidas is leading his 300 men to fight the Persians.
I remember hearing about this film a couple years ago. My reaction was that this was an entirely unnecessary sequel to what should’ve been a standalone epic. And in practicality, it is unnecessary, but that’s no reason to dismiss the film. Like I said, when I saw the trailers closer to release the film started winning me over. Seeing the film ended up being a fun experience and a decent follow-up to 300.
It’s important to state and acknowledge before seeing this movie is that this film is inferior to the first 300. I believe even the filmmakers knew that they couldn’t top it, and therefore sought to emulate the successes of the first film instead of attempting to best it. In that light, the film did manage to capture just enough of the feel of 300 to be enjoyable and, most of all, fun. This film is what is considered a “popcorn movie” and one of a pretty high caliber. And that fun time in the movies was enough for this to make it this high on my list.
If you see this movie, see it for the action sequences above all else. The action is where it’s at with this film. Many have complained that the action was too exaggerated and excessively gory; and that’s a bold claim when you consider how violent and bloody 300 was. This is because the action is the one place this film attempts to outdo the original at. While I’d concede that the action was somewhat generic and borders on forgettable, the moments you do retain from the movie were pretty awesome. None of the action outdoes that of the first film, but it comes close.
The story is another aspect you should see the film for. Now these are based on true events, loosely but surely. So, the writing is very deep and harsh with a sense of fantasy and romanticism reflective of the era. This film benefits from its use of the first film’s story. All you had to do was tie it together with the Greek aspects introduced here and make your characters interesting. The film does succeed in telling a story just as good as the original. In fact, it actually adds to the original.
For one, we get to see origin story of Xerxes. In 300, Xerxes came across to me as a threatening yet uninteresting villain. Only here do you see hist backstory, which ended up changing my outlook on his character. It’s a tragic and harsh story, fitting for a man who claims to be kind among men and can fool others into thinking so.
Another good plotpoint was the origin story of this film’s other main villain, Artemisia. She’s a new character and an actually great one (more on that soon), but the backstory given actually does give her proper motivation to fight the Greeks and to identify with the Persians. It makes her a better villain in effect.
This is one aspect that does match the original film, and a great reason for fans to want to watch.
The acting is superb in this movie. Like the story, the film benefits in this area by carrying over elements from the first film. It’s a given fact that the reprized performances of Lena Heady (Queen Gorgo), Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), and David Wenham (Dilios) are spot-on and excellent. The two performances worth mentioning are the new main hero and new main villain.
I’ll start with Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles. Let’s get this out of the way first: no, Themistocles is no Leonidas. Gerard Butler had the benefit of portraying a cocky, proud hero like Leonidas, and no one can take that away from him. However, as far as people to fill the void in a 300 movie, Themistocles is a good alternative. Many complain that the character is uninteresting, but I disagree. Compared to Leonidas, Themistocles is a more noble, reasonable leader. At the same time he has some awesome lines.
The second is Eva Green as Artemisia. She just may be the best part of this movie. What sets Artemisia apart from Xerxes (at least in the first movie like I said) is that she has reasonable motivation right off the bat. Plus, she’s a relatable reciprocal to our protagonist, being Greek by birth and visibly mortal. She’s a lot more human than Xerxes but also as much of a threat. She’s freaking twisted in this film, and I loved that about her character.
The 300 movies usually house great music, and this is no exception. They’re excellent in-the-moment songs that heighten the effect of the action. Just don’t expect to be humming these songs tomorrow. And the CG and effects are great as you’d expect. Again, the blood has been considered a bit overdone. It didn’t bother me, but it may bother you.
I understand that 300: Rise of an Empire doesn’t hold a candle to 300, but it had a lot to live up to. For what I wanted, I was blown away. It’s certainly one of the greatest action films of last year.
I recommend this to any action movie fan looking for a fun film to play at a get-together. If you’re a curious 300 fan who is hesitant, go in with your expectations no higher than medium. Simply acknowledge the film as just an action movie and you’ll be fine. If you haven’t seen 300 yet: 1) shame on you- go see it now; 2) while I wouldn’t advise you to start here, I guess you’ll be fine with watching this.
View #4 here!
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!