Blood splatters across the big screen in 300: Rise of an Empire, an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes and a follow-up to 2006’s 300. Newcomer Sullivan Stapleton grimaces and struts into the role of Themistocles, a Greek admiral defending his people from the Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who’s hell-bent on conquering the world alongside his beautiful yet vicious commander, Artemesia (Eva Green), who frontlines his ruthless invasion.
This movie serves as both a prequel and sequel to the first 300 by showing the Athenians’ perspective of the Persian invasion while the original 300 Spartans fight in the Battle of Thermopylae. The movie begins with the origin story of how this nationwide war began and how Themistocles, Artemesia, and Xerxes took on their roles. Themistocles then desperately tries to rally all of Greece against Xerxes’ massive force while his own ragtag force defends their land using guerilla tactics.
An interesting change in this movie is that the vast majority of the war is fought at sea by naval forces; the obnoxious amount of blood spilled is enough to turn the Aegean Sea crimson. This movie has something for everyone: numerous six-pack abs to keep girlfriends blushing and enough over-the-top gore to have boyfriends wide-eyed. A romantic aspect is even forced into the film via the twisted sexual tension between Artemesia and Themistocles.
The audience is bound to feel a bit more seasoned in Greek history due to the long narrations that could be mistaken for a lecture. They can be difficult to follow because of the many complex names of people and places—it’s hard to distinguish between them at times.
Director Noam Murro was passed the fading torch by Zack Snyder (who helmed the original 300) and he successfully presents an over-the-top, bloody war between Greek skins and Persian shirts. Repetitive slow-motion spurts of infinite blood lose their stunning visual factor after the first few hundred times they’re shown. The Spartan queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey), reprises her role and provides the narration for the movie, which at times is overwhelming. The unending bloodshed throughout the movie leaves the plot faint and forgotten, turning the film into one extended action sequence.
300: Rise of an Empire fails to rise high enough. MM½