Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Sullivan Stapleton as the hero, statesmen, general Themistocles; Eva Green as Artemisia, Commander of the Persian Navy ; Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo; Hans Matheson as Aeskylos, Callam Mulvey as Scylias; David Wenham as Dilios, and Rodrigo Santoro as or main villain, Xerxes.
5th century BCE, Greece, Athens, Persia, Straights of Salamis.
Summary of Film
Picks up where the earlier 300 movie (2006) left off: Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) the self-absorbed megalomaniac who believes he’s a god, prepares to continue his quest for total dominance over all lands and people. He is aided this time by the temptress and more than competent commander of his Persian Navy, Artemisia (played by the alluring Eva Green). Their opponent this time is our new 300 hero, an equally godlike Athenian warrior-statesman, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). We have some great land battles and even grander sea battles; the best of which are at the latter half of the movie. There is a lot of violence, blood and some “skin” moments late in the film so this is not a children’s flic. I hate to admit it – but this one is better than the 300 (2006).
Some movies do best when the action is non-stop. They are usually the stories that have little need for exposing or providing any background information for character or event development. That is not the case in 300: Rise of an Empire. If it was not for the momentary segments that hint to, or clearly explain why we are at this point in the action, or what is the character’s motivation, it would greatly change the dynamics and the relationship between the movie viewer and the characters on the screen.
There are moments in this intense action film when the story might seem too slow, yet those moments serve the purpose of stepping back to provide the viewer an opportunity to place past and current events in proper perspective. This "perspective and motivation" issue is especially true in understanding the actions of the characters Artemisia, Xerxes and Queen Gorgo.
Pacing of the big-picture action-events is reasonably and gives the viewer a moment to take a breath so as to put past events in perspective with current actions. This creates a roller-coaster experience that plays well for the story.
Case in Point
Eva Green’s character, Artemisia the skilled fighter and Navy commander of the Persian Fleet. If it were for the time taken in the film to tell her story about why she hates the Greeks, being Greek herself, how she became a skilled fighter and reached the level of command in the Persian kingdom, well frankly, she would just be another hateful witch. However, her revealed past allows and encourages a viewer to admire her character in the as well as hoping for a positive outcome in her personal store. I must add that she does a great job playing the role of an imposing warrior leader while maintaining the dark sultry look – Kind of a Xenia Warrior Princes image going for her.
As for Xerxes, the character is visually imposing, yet his behavior and personality is almost an over-grown immature spoiled brat whose real power comes from the image he created for himself and the skill of the leaders that support him. The good thing is that we get to see how he came about and why his appearance looks golden.
How does the earlier 300 (2006) stack up against the latest 300 (2014)?
If you saw the earlier film 300 (2006) starring Gerard Butler and his portrayal of King Leonidas; you saw a physically intimidating, gruff, tough leader who clearly knew when the battle arrived, that he and his men are destined to die. His military tactics were simple, although sound in planning, did not take into consideration potential risks. He spent most of his time propping up the spirits of his men in the face of those proverbial overwhelming-odds brought to bear by Xerxes. In the 300 (2014), you find an even more imposing hero in Sullivan Stapleton’s performance as Themistocles. Not just that the performance was great, but the character himself is more intelligent, crafty, audacious in military tactics, is not planning on dying – and a “winning at all cost” mentality.
This is a must see film for anyone who likes Bronze Age warfare movies. The earlier 300 movie used a film styling that limited the color content displayed so that the movie appeared dark almost bronze and monochrome in appearance. This sequel also uses this technique except that it adds color selectively by placing accents of gold, red and blue on the clothing or uniforms of the key characters of the story. Scenes with fire and explosions also keep their blazing glory of color. By using this color control technique, crucial action scenes take on a greater dramatic appearance, popping out of the screen as seen against the bronzes, blacks and greys of the background.
I’ve done my best to peak you interest in seeing this film without spoiling the real content of the story. As much as I’ve told you in this review, is nowhere near all that this film has to offer. This is the kind of film I will watch twice; that is as soon as it hits Cable.