Cast - Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro
Director - Noam Murro
Rating - ***1/2
In 2007 when Zack Snyder's '300' hit theaters, everyone was awed by the amazing Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), the blood and gore that brought the graphic novel to life, and of course the well done battle scenes that encompassed most of the movie. Though Snyder opted to take part in the second installment in just a co-writer and producer capacity, his subtle insight is prevalent throughout the movie.
'300 - Rise of an Empire' is a step up from its predecessor in terms of story-line, acting and fighting sequences. Although the first movie focused more on the battles, the gore and the blood, this movie instead focuses more on the story-telling, the events that lead up to the first movie and well, of course, there's a fair amount of blood and gore as well. Firstly the film is not a prequel nor is it a sequel as such. The film occurs in media res, as well acting as a prequel/sequel. The film is based on the unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel 'Xerxes' and revolves on the Persian invasion of Greece traveling through the experiences of King Leonidas and his 300, the grief that is felt by Queen Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, the rise and transformation of Xerxes into the God King and the Themistocles, as he tries to unite all of Greece against the Persians.
The film is a great visual experiences, using shadow play and an artistic take on the 'blood and gore' angle. The cinematography and choreography of the battle scenes in particular are reminiscent of Starz 2010 series 'Spartacus', showing the same well timed slow motion action in key scenes. The movie works well with the CGI and is the perfect example of an IMAX 3-D movie. The scenes appear to be bigger than life as the direction and the camera shots work well together.
For the most part, the film surpasses the first film in terms of story-line. Lena Hedley (Who might have channeled some of Cersie Lannister's ferocity) gives a fantastic voice over at some points in the film, beautifully conveying the intensity and grief she felt during the movie. Sullivan Stapleton stepping in as the lead this time around did a fine job as the leader with the world resting on his every decision. Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender make cameo appearances through archive footage, incorporating the 300 storyline well with the new 'What happened back in Athens' viewpoint this film takes. Another great part of the movie was that it showed the transition of Xerxes into the immortal God King and the reason behind it.
But by far the best part of the movie was Eva Green role as the fictionalised version of Artemisia, the ruthless orphan turned general for Xerxes army. Now, from past roles, we know that Green can handle playing the villainous vixen, think the short-lived 'Camelot', 'Dark Shadows' or her stint as Bond girl in 'Casino Royale'. But in this film, she outdoes herself. Her performance is riveting throughout, using the anger of a hard childhood and converting it into a sadism that goes unmatched.
Bottom-line, the film exhibits a substantially better story-line, great performances from the cast, a slew of familiar faces from the first film and obviously excellent visuals.