A rare sequel that matches up to the original film, 300: Rise of an Empire is a brisk romp through the history books, filtered through the comic book imagination of Frank Miller and the bloody cinematic CGI heavy vision of Zack Snyder.
Interestingly, the events depicted in Noam Munro’s film wrap around the battle seen in the first film; the Spartans are seen heading off the Hot Gates 20 minutes in, and news of their sacrifice is received around the hour mark. The focus is wider, and begins with the birth of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). Popping out of the pool at 12 feet tall, the mortal turned god is mainly a peripheral figure as the Greeks, led by Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) ramp up for a sea-battle with the Persians. The Persian forces are under the control of Artemesia (Eva Green), whose backstory is fully explained through a graphic scene in which she watches her family raped and murdered. Trained as a warrior, she’s a worthy adversary for Themistokles, and they even get it on romantically, although the sex is anything but gentle.
With Snyder co-writing and producing, 300: Rise of an Empire is very much more of the same in terms of bare-chested speeches and heavy bouts of narration, but the epic sea battles are freshly presented, and the spectacle is huge throughout. Green and Stapleton both fill out their roles with venom, and gouts of gore spray over decks, extras and the camera lens; the promise of a ‘tide of blood’ is delivered on, including a choice decapitation.
300; Rise of an Empire is a rattling good watch for those who enjoyed the first film. With plenty of plot-lines left hanging, there’s plenty of scope for the franchise to continue after this solid, impressively handled entry.