“Rise of An Empire” is more companion piece than it is sequel; either way it rises to the occasion. Hello moviegoers, “300: Rise of an Empire” is the follow up to 2007’s smash hit ‘300’, both of which are based on graphic novels by legend of the genre Frank Miller. The story in ‘Rise of an Empire’ picks up with Queen Gorgo -Lena Headey- king Leonidas’ widow, telling by narration the Battle of Marathon and the events that would lead to the transformation of Persian prince Xerxes, who’s played by Brazilian actor (Rodrigo Santoro), to a God-King.
‘300: Rise of An Empire’ (3 sweet potatoes out of four) Stars: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro; Director: Noam Murro; Genre: Period Action; Rated R; Runtime 102 minutes; Opens: Friday, March 07th 2014.
The events of present day, however, unfold concurrently with those of the first film where the Spartan army of 300 worriers led by Leonidas (Gerard Butler) would eventually fall to the Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae.
The Athenians led by Themistocles played by (Sullivan Stapleton) have multiple battles with the Persians on the Aegean Sea. The Greeks, always vastly outnumbered, rely on their agility and tactical expertise to excel in combat. Themistocles’ skill impresses a hard to impress, ruthless Persian general Artemisia, who’s played with convincing physicality by (Eva Green). Artemisia’s failed attempt to lure the Athenian general over to her side would mark the end of diplomatic efforts – the Greeks will rather die free than live as slaves.
A Greek spy learns that Artemisia is Greek by blood. Her family was killed by Greek soldiers and she was left for dead as a child when she was rescued and raised by the Persians. As it turns out, Artemisia’s thirst for vengeance is a key driving force throughout the movie. Her manipulation of a grieving son who saw his father, King Darius (Igal Naor), felled at the hands of the Greeks in battle exiles Xerxes to a desert cave where he would emerge from some kind of anointing pool a God-King.
With his metamorphosis complete, Xerxes with Artemisia leading his massive fighting forces will focus all their imperial vengeance on the Greek States. When word of the demise of Leonidas and his men at Thermopylae reaches Themistocles he sees this as the event that could unite a democratic Greece. He returns once more to Sparta and implores Queen Gorgo (Headey) to combine forces in opposition to the Persians prior to the decisive Battle of Salamis.
This story isn’t as tightly woven as its predecessor, but ‘Rise of an Empire’ features CGI production elements and dynamic action sequences that unfold mainly on the waters of the Aegean Sea that distinguishes it as its own movie, and at times exceeds the earlier film. My only issue with the movie is I would’ve liked to have seen a more original portrayal of the father-son conflict that existed within the warrior-culture of the Greeks this second time around.
The production outfits that were responsible for putting these movies together have created a visual landscape that’s home to an intense, idealized kind of violence that you don’t feel any need to avert your eyes and never comes across as gratuitous. And ‘300: Rise of An Empire’ raises the bar even higher. I give this movie 3 sweet potatoes out of four.
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