Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Heady, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O'Connell, Andrew Tiernan, Igar Naor, and more.
Directed by: Noam Murro Screenplay by: Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad Based on the Graphic Novel by: Frank Miller Cinematography by: Simon Duggan Music by: Junkie XL
Premise: Starting before the events of the "300", Queen Gorgo tells the story of Themistocles and his inadvertent triggering ten years before of events which drove Xerxes to wonder the dessert and absorb pure evil to become a God King with only one goal, the complete destruction of Athens and all Greece and everything they represent. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Sullivan Stapleton did well as the tactician and guilt burdened Athenian Themistocles. Being made to follow the more intense King Leonidas (as portrayed by Gerard Butler in the original "300"), placed a major handicap on Stapleton's performance, as viewers can't help but compare the two, especially as Leonidas is mentioned several times. Lena Heady reprises her role as Queen Gorgo, and she makes it incredibly easy to believe she is a true Spartan Queen. Eva Green was great as the violated and vengeful Artemisia. She exuded both competence as a tactician and general and a poisonous sexuality that was enthralling.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: While the original "300" stuck to battles on land, "300: The Rise of an Empire" is filled with sea battles and close hand to hand combat. The recreations of the ships and execution of attacks looked amazing. Creative blood splatter and appendage removal populate the film throughout. In the beginning, the audience is given an unusual treat, by seeing first hand why helmets and other armor are quite important during battles, despite not seeming so in most movie combat. Helmets and armor/shields can definitely make the difference, even if later on helmets grew out of favor. (Hollywood has always appeared to believe that if you can't see an actor's face, the audience will think less of the film. Anyone who's watched "Dredd" with Karl Urban, can testify that not seeing the actors full face can actually work very well.)
The only thing that could have been done better with regards to the special effects and CGI would have been the introduction of certain details which were eventually revealed in later battles, but would have made the experience so much better if they'd shown them straight from the beginning. For example, the manner by which the Greeks kept their place on deck during ramming maneuvers, or the fact they too were using rowers to power their ships.
3) Story - Thumbs Up: Like the "300", "300: Rise of an Empire" clings to the general history of the period, then spices it up with a little mysticism for added flavor. The timeline pulls back to before the "300" then works up to it and beyond. The most fun was the fact they kept the tactics of several of the sea battles of the time, which were a lot of fun to watch being carried out.
Artemisia was indeed a female naval general in the navy of Xerxes, and she was deemed quite capable and intelligent, but the rest of the information imparted about her in the film is not accurate, although it did make for some great motivation for wanting to destroy Greece. From what I read, it was Xerxes who ordered the naval attacks against the Greeks in open water, while Artemisia had counselled against them, already aware of the Greeks prowess on the water.
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: The film has a beach side battle and many sea battles with close hand to hand combat. Several of these get the slow motion treatment, making their savagery beautiful. The shield and helmet use showed clearly why they were such necessary articles in warfare of this type. Outstanding choreography on all the battle sequences.
5) Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: The visuals close up were great, and so were the far off shots showing a burning Athens, the fields of ships poised for battle, and other locations. When the Greeks first go against the Persian's in the sea, just seeing the view of the hundreds of masts, then the giant waves bringing the ships down right on top of them was an awesome visual.
Conclusion: "300: Rise of an Empire" does not reach the heights of the original "300" but offers a lot to enjoy regardless. Seeing the sea battles and cool tactics employed was a definite treat. Getting to watch the Athenians battle with their shields offensively and defensively? Priceless.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)