This past weekend I had the chance to catch "300: Rise of an Empire", which is the follow-up to Zack Snyder's 2006 original hit film, "300", starring Gerard Butler as the tough-as-nails warrior king, Leonidas of Sparta. Without giving too much away, this newest installment to the 300 franchise tells the story of a Greek (Athenian) general, Themistokles (actor: Sullivan Stapleton), who leads his own battle against the Persian god-king, Xerxes (actor: Rodrigo Santoro), on the high seas, roughly at the same time that Leonidas is fighting his own battle with his faithful 300; there is definitely overlap of events occurring at the same time between the first "300" and this second film.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is visually stunning, filled with intense and cleverly-planned battle scenes, most of which were set on the high-seas as Themistokles commands his naval force to fight against the central antagonist of the film, Artemesia (actress: Eva Green), who impressively leads Xerxes' massive Persian naval force herself in an attempt to help the Persian god-king rule over Greece.
In comparison to the original "300" movie, I felt that this next installment was thoroughly entertaining, filled with great story-telling and epic battle scenes, more-or-less what you expect after watching the original "300". But while the overall movie was fun to watch, I definitely think that it suffered a little from the 'sequel syndrome' of not really living up to the quality and caliber of the first movie in terms of the acting and overall storytelling. I would say that much of these shortcomings are easily forgivable as the movie is flooded with ultra-visual richness and plenty of testosterone-filled blood-bath scenes, which is what we all want anyways right?
If you're holding out because you're on the fence, I'd say go for it and watch it, especially if you're a fan of the original "300". I just caution everyone to temper their expectations as you'll be disappointed if you're expecting the same caliber and quality of movie-magic as the original film.
And now, onto the 7 Things segment – random, fun, interesting factoids about the movie and the people who brought it to life:
1. Name that movie: there were a number of rumored movie titles before the film makers and studios settled on the current one. The prior versions included "Xerxes", which would feature the story around the Persian god-king's army and takeover of the Greek nations. Another consideration during pre-production was "300: Battle of Artemisium" to highlight the central antagonist of the film. Personally, I would have gone with "300: Blood Bath on the High Seas"
2. No water on the high seas: in an ironic twist of faith and despite the majority of the film setting taking place on the ocean, there was no water used in the making of those scenes; the water effects were all added later by digital effects artists after the live-action filming was complete.
3. Close to home: while the film is about and takes place in the country of Greece, filmmakers chose the capital city of Sophia, Bulgaria as the backdrop and set location of the shoot. Sophia translated in Greek means "Wisdom".
4. Abs that kill: we all know getting a perfectly toned body takes effort and good dieting habits. And in order for Sullivan Stapleton, who plays the lead character, Themistokles, to get in shape, he had to work out 3 hours every day for 12 weeks; 1.5 hours of training to get the killer abs, and the other 1.5 hours for sword-fighting training.
5. The lonely god-king: Rodrigo Santoro, who plays the Persian god-king, Xerxes, didn't have much companionship in shooting his scenes for the film. Because the director needed to give the impression that Xerxes was much much taller than all other humans (standing at 10 feet tall), Santoro was filmed in a green screen studio by himself and later edited to match the other actors in post-production. All that power and no friends, sucks to be a god-king.
6. The no-go king: speaking of kings, Gerard Butler who played Leonidas in the original "300" film was initially planned to play a role in the sequel. However, citing scheduling conflicts, but more interestingly, saying that he wasn't interested in reprising his role as the bad-ass battle-tested king because it wasn't his thing anymore, he declined the role.
7. From shy girl to on-screen: The beautiful and very talented Eva Green, who played the outrageously wicked and powerful Artemesia, is extremely shy in real-life; she doesn't really enjoy being on red-carpets; although you could never tell from her role in this film. In fact, Eva decided to pursue an acting career because she believed “This was a way of getting rid of all my demons.”
A behind the scenes of the making of the film 300: Rise of an Empire
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(price as of Jan 10, 2016)