In 2007, Zack Snyder’s “300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE” stormed into theaters, leaving an indelible mark on audiences.
Loosely based on historical events and inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel, the film took the box office by storm with its R-rated tale of swords, bloodshed, and sculpted abs aplenty. It became one of the year’s most successful movies, earning both fame and fortune. With such success, an inevitable sequel was on the horizon, and Warner Bros. didn’t disappoint. Years after the release of “300,” the long-awaited sequel arrived in the form of “300: Rise of an Empire.” Directed by a new filmmaker and boasting a considerable gap between the two films, does this sequel ascend above its revered predecessor, or has the momentum waned for this visually stunning sword-and-sandals epic?
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The Story: 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
Long before the heroic stand of Leonidas and his 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE Spartans at Thermopylae, another pivotal battle took place: the Battle of Marathon. It was during this battle that Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), a skilled Athenian warrior, slew the Persian king Darius, sparking a deep-seated vengeance in Darius’s son, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santos). Years later, as Xerxes’s army confronts the Spartans at Thermopylae, his naval commander, Artemisia (Eva Green), a formidable female warrior with a personal vendetta against Greece, commands the Persian fleet to destroy the Greek navy. Without assistance from Sparta, Themistocles must rally his meager forces to thwart Artemisia’s invasion of Greek soil. The clash unfolds on the high seas, with battles waged using boats, swords, spears, and men, in the ongoing Greco-Persian War.
The Good / The Bad
I distinctly remember watching the trailer for the original “300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE” and not being particularly impressed. Consequently, I opted not to see it in theaters and only watched it on a plane during a European vacation. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. While undeniably violent with copious amounts of blood and gore, it was stylish in a way that set it apart from contemporary Hollywood movies, especially those rooted in ancient Greek mythology. I promptly purchased “300” on DVD (and later on Blu-Ray) as it became one of my personal favorites in the action genre. Although talk of a “300” sequel circulated, nothing materialized for quite some time. When I saw the trailer for “Rise of an Empire,” I was captivated and hoped it would pick up where the original left off. After viewing the film, I found “300: Rise of an Empire” to be an intriguing continuation that retained the stylish bravado of its predecessor. It was a solid sequel but remained overshadowed by the first film.
When crafting a sequel, filmmakers typically choose to continue the story beyond the original film or delve into its prequel territory. “Rise of an Empire” takes a unique approach, presenting a narrative that unfolds concurrently with the events of the original “300.” The film transports viewers away from Leonidas and the 300 Spartans’ heroic stand at Thermopylae to the high seas, where Themistocles leads the charge against Artemisia in the Battle of Artemisium. These events occur roughly at the same time as those depicted in “300.” While this storytelling decision is bold and rarely seen in movies, it also presents a major drawback. Many viewers, myself included, had waited years for this sequel and anticipated a continuation of the story left by the first film.
Regrettably, “Rise of an Empire” essentially concludes where its predecessor ended, leaving viewers in the same spot as they were seven years ago. It doesn’t significantly advance the story but rather provides additional depth and context to the people, places, and events surrounding the original “300” (which may be somewhat disappointing).