300: Rise of an Empire is a sequel that expands on the original film and manages to satisfy one's urge to see carnage and bloodshed on the big screen. Typically, sequels that are filmed years apart, like Escape from L.A. and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, are usually terrible in their execution and fail to get people excited about the property in the first place. Luckily, Rise of an Empire falls in the same category as Live Free or Die Hard and Rambo, in that it ups the ante, regardless of how long its been since we've in habited the world of 300. The film recounts two distinct battles, the Battle of Marathon and the Battle of Salamis, which take place before and after the Battle of Thermopylae, which was the main battle in the original film.
Sullivan Stapleton stars as Themistocles, a General of Athens, who we follow into both wars and is directly responsible for the Persian Armies invading Athens and Sparta. From his actions in the Battle of Marathon, Xerxes (Rodriogo Santoro) gets the opportunity and the ambition to take over the Greeks and Spartans. With the help of Artemisia (Eva Green), the only female general in the Persian Empire, Xerxes becomes a powerful force that proves to be a difficult enemy for the Greeks and must find a way to stop their unstoppable numbers.While I initially thought this sequel was going to be terrible, I immediately put those thoughts to rest when I saw the first trailer for the film. The action is intense, the story plays along side the first film and widens the scope of Frank Miller's original work. While one would think that due to the hyper stylized aesthetic and slow motion, that this is still under the helm of Zack Snyder, but Director Noam Murro (Smart People) does a fine job taking the reigns. One of the best aspects of the film is the performance that Eva Green offers with her rendition of Artemisia. While Green has done an incredible amount of performances that have solidified her abilities, we've never seen her deliver this kind of character on screen. Full of cunning and ferocity, Green chooses to bring about a stellar character in this genre piece.If there are any shortcomings of Rise of an Empire, it would have to be its narrow scope and presentation. While the film does expand on 300, it doesn't do anything new or different than what Zack Snyder had established in his previous entry. The film offers more blood, major naval battles and a lot of the flair of the comic book adaptation, but nothing insightful about the period or its major players. While I was entertained for its running time, Rise of an Empire presents itself as a major popcorn spectacular, that is worthy of someone's time, but not much of a repeated experience. It must still be applauded thought, that a film that had its predecessor filmed years prior to be as good as Rise of an Empire. With this in mind, the film is worth your money and time, but really one good as a single handed experience.