‘Rise of an Empire’: Seven Years Later, Still Bleeding

March 7, 2014 Updated: March 10, 2014

The remnants of Zack Snyder’s “300,” which hit theaters in 2007, are the unforgettable Internet memes of Gerard Butler’s face, mid-scream, paired with his quote “This is Sparta!” 

Fast forward to 2014. What does its sequel bring to the table? In three words: weapons, blood, and well, blood. 

“Rise of an Empire” depicts heated tensions after the Persian invasion of Greece. The action takes us to the sea warfare between Greek general Themistokles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) and Persia’s commander, Artemisia (Eva Green), under the direct orders of King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro). 

As expected, “Rise” kicks off immediately with the familiar, graphic on-screen bloodshed and slow-motion fighting we’ve seen in “300.” Snyder’s “300” cinematography has also influenced films such as “The Legend of Hercules,” “Immortals,” and “Clash of the Titans,” which mimic the raw and faded tone. 

Snyder returns to the team not as director, but to write the script with Kurt Johnstad based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes.” This time, director Noam Murro continues the heated war stories between Greece and Persia. “Rise” manages to seamlessly flash back to what happens before, during, and after the events of the previous film. 

“Rise” doesn’t lack in appeal with an extremely well-rounded cast brimming with talent (and muscle), even recruiting back a few familiar faces from the first film—Lena Headey, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, and David Wenham. Murro draws references to the first film by editing in archival footage from “300” to piece together the aftermath of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler). 

Character Development Hit and Miss

Character development is shown mainly in Artemisia, a seemingly cold-blooded warrior who leads the Persian soldiers. As one of her subjects reveals, the Persian general is a Greek. We later learn the cause of her hatred for her native country.

Eva Green plays a chilling Artemisia: dominant, heartless, and feared. You will hate her at first but feel sympathetic when you learn her background. She easily outshines every character she shares a scene with, even Themistokles. 

Stapleton plays your generic Greek hero. His cookie-cutter role and cliché pre-battle pep talks to his men keep him from really impressing. Santoro, who plays Xerxes, is surprisingly not as involved in this film as he should be for a character who is central to the plot. Many of his scenes serve in a supporting role to the main story and, frankly, are disappointing. 

Credit is due to the special effects and editing team for creating dynamic graphics that won’t leave you bored. You won’t be disappointed watching the film in IMAX 3D, which makes stabbings and spearings, as well as little details you probably don’t care for, extra clear.

While this sequel seems more than a few years overdue, it is an obvious step for Hollywood to milk the franchise and saturate the box office with more ancient battles. Some fans of the first installment will be thoroughly satisfied. But the lack of plot development will leave others uneasy. The only purpose of “300: Rise of an Empire” is to serve as a gory, action-packed thriller. And to be fair, it does just that—bleed and thrill.

‘300: Rise of an Empire’
Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O’Connell, Andrew Tiernan
Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Rated R
Release Date: March 7

2 stars out of 5