Seven years after Zack Snyder’s graphic depiction of the historical fantasy 300 comes a parallel story which spans over 10 years taking place before, during and after the events of the first movie. Its focus is on Athens, another city of Greece, where men are not brought up as warriors and indoctrinated with the glory of ‘a beautiful death’ as they are in Sparta, but nonetheless have the same Greek patriotism and tenacity to cling on to their freedom. They are led by the legendary Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), who is not only the most adept warrior in Athens but also a creative tactician. Unable to gain any support from Sparta, the Athenian farmhands and sculptors must face the mighty Persian navy, led by the God-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and commanded by Artemisia (Eva Green), a formidable general fueled with vengeance against Greece.
There is not much of a plot, but honestly, this isn’t the kind of movie where one must forage for a good story or script. It’s a pure extravaganza of violent and stylized action supported by a sonorous background score. It is a grand feast for those hard-core action aficionados, who drooled over super slow motion war scenes in 300 and for zealous fans of Zack Snyder, who argued ‘Man of Steel’ was a good movie. I happen to be both of them, which is why I was overwhelmed by the visuals and music, which was all I expected from the movie.
Although the plot and script are secondary issues with such a flick, I will shed some light on what I felt about them. The storyline was simple and plain, in spite of the flashbacks and parallel story from the first movie intersecting frequently. It could have been spiced up a little and even the screenplay, which includes a totally gratuitous sex scene, doesn’t help much either. As far as acting is concerned, there are only two major actors who must carry the entire plot on their shoulders. Sullivan Stapleton might be convincing as the brave Athenian warrior, but does not have the commanding presence and impact that Gerard Butler did as King Leonidas in 300. Green easily stands out as the best performer as she portrays the ruthless, vengeful and relentless Artemisia with finesse. She shows disappointment at the incompetence of her men, admiration and lust for the enemy warrior and rage against his country with her expression. Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes doesn’t have much to do but strikes the right note with his condescension and smugness.
In comparison with the its predecessor, this movie is in fact a step down. It uses almost the same techniques such as chroma keys to give it a comic book feel and the super slow motion is pretty impressive but the Athenians do not make as much an impact as the 300 Spartans. And even though Rise of an Empire is the better film technically, 300 will always be the one remembered for bringing the historical fantasy comic-book genre to the big screen.
I will go with an 8 on 10 for the stylized action, the score and for Eva Green, but if you are not a die-hard action fan, it could be as low as a 5 for you.