I revel in the magnificent blood, brawn and strong women of 300: Rise of an Empire listen to the soundtrack here - 300: Rise of an Empire Review ps the “The” is silent

Thursday, March 06, 2014 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

300: Rise of an Empire Review
300: Rise of an Empire Review 

More so than its glorious predecessor 300,Noam Murro's epic 300: Rise of an Empire is for a niche audience those that see the beauty in well made and magnificent muscle and brawn action films, those that love comics – particularly Frank Miller's bold blood splattered tales and those that love visually stunning films. Well 300: Rise of an Empire manages to add another audience segment that may enjoy it – those that love strong women in mostly powerful roles!

I say mostly as I suspect that a certain scene that despite trying to exhibit women in control of themselves may divide audiences on whether it works or not. It didn't for me but I'll watch as much of Eva Green as they are willing to put on screen without shame.

300: Rise of an Empire ATHENS WILL BURNS POSTER
I am of course not going to forget those that like myself, those who have been listening to Junkie XL's 300: Rise of an Empire Soundtrack on loop over the last week after seeing the stunning 3rd trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire that featured Jo Blankenburg's heart pounding mashup of Varien's The Sickness and Black Sabbath's War Pigs. For the best viewing experience of the trailer below select HD and full screen.

Generals gathered in their masses 
Just like witches at black masses 

The Establishing Shot: EPIC! 300 RISE OF AN EMPIRE TRAILER 3 - 7 MARCH 2014

In the fields the bodies burning 
As the war machine keeps turning 
Oh lord yeah! 

For those people I have embedded Junkie XL's 300: Rise of an Empire Soundtrack further below.

300: Rise of an Empire

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war.

Noam Murro


Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Frank Miller

Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O'Connell

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I have been waiting for 300: Rise of an Empire since I finished reading Frank Miller's 300 in 1998. Based on another graphic novel from Frank Miller called Xerxes. Wait there is a graphic novel? Well there is but it will only be released after the film so as to avoid spoiling it. I suspect that the Xerxes graphic novel will  include some surprises as there are threads from Rise of an Empire that could indicate there is more story to come.

As a primer here is a quick timeline of key events in the Greco-Persian Wars

492 - 490 BC: The first Persian invasion of Greece ended with...
490 BCE - Battle of Marathon as seen in 300: Rise of an Empire

480 - 479 BC: The second Persian invasion of Greece 
480 BC - Battle of Thermopylae as seen in 300
480 BC - Battle of Artemisium as seen in 300: Rise of an Empire
479 BC - Battle of Plataea as seen in possible finale to the 300 trilogy starring Jack O'Connell? Just saying.

So as you can see 300: Rise of an Empire is not a sequel, it's more of a prequel, meanwuel (copyright pending), sequel. As the story may start with a prophecy from the Oracles retold by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) who picks up narration duties from the one eyed Dilios (David Wenham) for the most of the film. The prophecy foretells that if the Persian god king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) burns the city of Athens made of stone and wood to the ground, Greece will follow and the rest of the free world shortly afterwards. Hence the stakes for conflict in 300: Rise of an Empire are far higher.

We are then taken back 10 years to events prior to the original 300, to the first Persian invasion of Greece and the bloody beach battle of Marathon. Again the Persian forces commanded by King Darius (Igal Naor) and his young son Xerxes outnumber the Greek forces and defeat is inevitable but out of this battle rises the legend of Athenian general Themistokles (the “The” is silent) played by Sullivan Stapleton, after he leads his men into fray with bravery, uncanny strategy and masterful hand to hand, hand to throat, hand to face, hand to bow as well as various other hand to-s combat. Fortune favours the brave and Themistokles (the “The” is silent) with luck on his side and a single arrow halts the Persian invasion. But this act has far ranging consequences for all of Greece as well as Persia as it is - this act that is the crux of Xerxes hatred for the Greeks and his overriding desire to enslave the population.

This early battle is mind-blowingly awesome and it is clear that care and attention have been put into these scenes, so much so that it rivals the compelling battles in the original 300 and the bloody 3D in the scene alone is worth the price of admission.

We then pick up again some 10 years later when the transformed god king Xerxes returns to Greece for revenge with his brutal commander Artemisia (Eva Green) commanding his super navy. Forcing Themistokles to try join forces with King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and the feared army of Sparta. Unfortunately Leonidas is occupied preparing for the battle of Thermopylae and the events  in 300 leaving the outnumbered & out armed Athenian army to fend for themselves against the Persian Navy.

Listen to: Junkie XL 300: Rise of an Empire Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

300: Rise of an Empire is pretty damn awesome blood pumping action film that is magnificently composed as it takes back to the fantastical times of ancient Greece and supplants the action to the seas, as the Athenian navy takes on the vastly superior Persian navy at the battle of Artemisium. I say supplants but the progression of events loosely follows actual events so it's not a case of 300 on a boat this time but rather a further exploration of mostly historical events during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

300: Rise of an Empire SEIZE YOUR GLORY POSTER
I may seem overly critical below, but this is only because, well these kind of films are my bag and I have such high and possibly unattainable expectations of Frank Miller and Zack Snyder's work that I can examine it endlessly, but rest assured if you enjoyed 300, Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones or Spartacus you'll enjoy 300: Rise of an Empire.

This time we follow Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he leads the Athenian army into battle. The reds and yellows of Frank Miller's stylised 300 which symbolised the Spartan Hoplite warrior's uniforms, their blood and Earth have been replaces by a blue colour pallet symbolising the Athenian army, democracy and the sea. So get ready for epic naval battles.

300: Rise Of An Empire EVA GREEN as Artemisia
300: Rise Of An Empire EVA GREEN as Artemisia in  300: Rise Of An Empire ZOOM
The number of characters at the core of Rise of an Empire is slightly smaller but much broader and the performers have a struggle to forge chemistry and relationships at break neck speeds as we cross Greece and time to understand the characters and how they cleverly fit into Frank Miller's ancient Greek world. Unbelievably from what I can see the characters and events are loosely based on actual events and people. I was genuinely surprised to find out that  Eva Green's character Artemisia commander of the Persian naval fleet actually existed. This goes against everything we know of male dominance in the ancient world. In fact two of the most complex and powerful characters in Rise of an Empire are women - both Eva Green's Artemisia and Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo are pivotal to the story and for the most part the leads of the tale.

Along with Sullivan Stapleton's (Animal Kingdom, Gangster Squad, Strike Back) Themistokles we are only really  introduced to only other Greek warriors Callan Mulvey's (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hunter) Scyllias and his son Calisto played by Jack O'Connell (Starred Up, The Liability, Harry Brown). Both of which deliver able performances given their meagre screen time and dialogue. Keep an eye out for more of Jack O'Connell he is on fire and has yet to deliver a bad performance, he is a talent primed for stardom.

300: Rise Of An Empire SULLIVAN STAPLETON as Themistokles
300: Rise Of An Empire SULLIVAN STAPLETON as Themistokles ZOOM
Despite Stapleton's Themistokles getting the bulk of screen time and taking on the physical aspects of the role with vigour he is kick ass in the battle scenes, it never really feels like we know or understand him, something that my be true of Gerald Butler's performance as Leonidas on my first viewing of 300, but has since gone on to be one of the greats of comic based adaptations ever, Butler may never quite attain the heights that the emotive 300 gave him. Again the material and visual style of film does lean towards the beautiful simplisticness of Gerald Butler's character but Themistokles is a politician and strategist drawn into battle not only does he have to out fight and out think the Persian forces, he has to rally his rag tag army of farmers & poets into a hopeless battle to protect Athens as well as try unite a divided Greece - but he is never fleshed out past a one dimensional comic character. I do expect this to change after my next viewing of 300: Rise of an Empire at the IMAX though.

On that note I am also hoping that he is more fleshed out in another 300 story as there are several loose ends to tie into the final clash between Greece and Persian forces the following year at the Battle of Plataea. Which may explain the fast and loose way the tale plays out on screen

300: Rise Of An Empire War Ships
300: Rise Of An Empire War Ships ZOOM
Frank Miller has said that the story of Rise of an Empire, which spans decades, is much bigger than 300 which took place over 3 days and was meant to thematically tap into the small space of the pass that becomes their battle arena. Sadly the inverse is true, whilst much of the action takes place on the high seas with Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) trying to outwit and outfight the much larger Persian navy commanded by the brutal Artemisia (Eva Green) Rise of an Empire feels much smaller in scope.

In 300 King Leonidas had upwards of 300 men in the fight, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) has the whole Athenian army at his disposal yet too often it feels like there are only a handful of people populating this world. In fact it is very evident in some scenes that much of the film overly relies on green screen and a couple of actors only, this may work in a comic where simplification is key but on screen it becomes a wasted opportunity.

300: Rise of an Empire Athenian warriors charge
300: Rise of an Empire Athenian warriors charge ZOOM
Sure the same can be said of Zack Snyder's 300 but Snyder is a master of the visual arts and this type of work is what he excels at, his task was made easier/harder by having Frank Miller's iconic graphic novel as a working reference as many of the fans that saw the film. Against the odds Snyder faithfully adapted the look and feel of 300 to the screen and it was clear that it was the work of someone who understood the medium, was completely committed to making it work and had the vision to prepare and  execute the work.

So it may seem that director Noam Murro whose previous work has focussed on modern relationships (the smart kind) is a bold choice to take on the sequel with such a high level of stylised visuals, particular ambitious as most of the action takes place on the seas – which could only have been a logistical nightmare to recreate.

300: Rise of an Empire Prepare for war
300: Rise of an Empire Prepare for war ZOOM
Ironically another weakness of Rise of an Empire is that the chemistry and dynamics of the relationships between the key characters is lacking. I suspect this is in most part due to the heavy level of time and effort needed to get the many technical aspects of the visual elements of the film right, apparently it took 60 days to shoot. What made the original 300 a high water mark is that not only were the visual aspects of the film brilliant but the characters were given depth beyond the comic pages or what we see on screen. This may be a bit unfair criticism as the much of 300 is focused on the core set of characters Leonidas's personal guard of 300 professional warriors, so we become part of the band of brothers whose simplistic take on war and honour was easy to understand. In Rise of an Empire we deal with a much broader set of characters in a larger world. This is also echoed in the tight fighting style and bond between the Spartan warriors whereas Themistokles leads an army of mainly citizens drawn into a war by necessity so there seems to be less conviction in their motivations.
300: Rise of an Empire Jack O'Connell as Calisto & Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles
300: Rise of an Empire Jack O'Connell as Calisto & Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles ZOOM
The story doesn't make it any easier for Murro either as it jumps around from location to location, time period to time period at a breakneck speed without any natural transitions and it is a little jarring. The original 300 was 15 minutes longer, some may have complained that it was 15 minutes too long, but those 15 minutes would really have benefited Rise of an Empire in giving some emotional weight to the characters, relationships or giving deeper context to the scenes. Hopefully the home release will have a slightly longer run time where we can really get into the world of 300: Rise of an Empire a little more.

All in all 300: Rise of an Empire is an entertaining and rousing addition to the swords and sandals genre that will certainly keep fans of the genre satisfied and is sure to get better and better after each viewing even though it does feel a bit of a stop gap before a final epic tale of the Greco-Persian Wars is told.

300: Rise of an Empire Poster
300: Rise of an Empire Teaser Poster ZOOM
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is released in cinemas & IMAX on March 7th 2014

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war.

“300: Rise of an Empire” pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures present, a Cruel and Unusual Films/Mark Canton/Gianni Nunnari Production, “300: Rise of an Empire.”  The action adventure stars Sullivan Stapleton (“Gangster Squad”) as Themistokles and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows,” “Casino Royale”) as Artemisia.  Lena Headey reprises her starring role from “300” as the Spartan Queen, Gorgo; Hans Matheson (“Clash of the Titans”) stars as Aeskylos; David Wenham returns as Dilios, and Rodrigo Santoro stars again as the Persian King, Xerxes.

The film is directed by Noam Murro, from a screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel Xerxes, by Frank Miller.  It is produced by Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann.  Thomas Tull, Frank Miller, Stephen Jones and Jon Jashni serve as executive producers.

The creative filmmaking team includes director of photography Simon Duggan, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editors Wyatt Smith and David Brenner, and costume designer Alexandra Byrne.  The music is composed by Junkie XL.

Opening in 3D and 2D in select theatres and IMAX beginning March 7, 2014, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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Slideshow: 300: Rise of an Empire


Craig Grobler
Craig's a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, mentally storyboards the greatest film ever made & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

A list of his 133 favourite films can be found hereIf you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: 

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