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300: Rise of an Empire ~ A Capsule Movie Review

300, Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp 

In 300: Rise of an Empire, the Persian god-king Xerxes, who we first met in the 2006 movie 300, is still intent on taking control of the city states of Greece. In 300, King Leonidas met the Persian army at the famous battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, with 300 Spartan soldiers. The outnumbered Spartans were badly defeated by the Persians, although they put up a valiant fight. Concurrent with the Battle of Thermopylae was the naval battle at Artemisium, led by the Athenian general Themistocles. 300: Rise of an Empire is the story of the battle at Artemisium, which had a different outcome for the Greeks, who were fighting for their freedom and for democracy (a new concept at the time). The story of the two battles is interwoven in 300: Rise of an Empire, which is more another chapter of the same story than a sequel to the earlier movie. The “third act” of 300: Rise of an Empire is what came about after the two battles.

The main character and the hero of 300: Rise of an Empire is the Athenian general Themistocles (played by Sullivan Stapleton). He has a toned body as did King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) in 300 and looks good in leather underwear. In fact, all the Greek soldiers, whether Athenians or Spartans, appear to be at the peak of physical perfection. There’s not a flabby gut in the bunch. Immodestly attired as they are, they are able to give the Persian army a run for its money. Maybe conquering Greece wasn’t such a good idea after all.

There are two strong female characters in 300: Rise of an Empire. Queen Gorgo, the recently widowed wife of the heroic King Leonidas, takes on the roll of warrior queen after her husband’s death. She engages in battle with the Persians the same as the men do. Artemisia is a Greek-born woman who, because she witnessed her family killed at the hands of a Greek army, has gone over to the Persian side. She is an advisor to King Xerxes, something of a military commander, and wants nothing more than to see Greece defeated at the hands of Persia. She cuts men to pieces as easily as she breathes. During a sexual encounter with Themistocles, she offers him a job with her if he’ll come over to her side. He refuses, of course, since he has devoted his life to Greece and to making the army strong.

300: Rise of an Empire (as 300 was before it) is based on a graphic novel and has a kind of other-worldly beauty (a world that exists only in the imagination). There’s lots of action, stylized violence—severed heads and limbs—and a generous use of slow motion. The battle sequences, especially the naval battle, are impressive and engaging. The pounding music score really stood out for me. If you are a fan of 300, as I am, you won’t be disappointed by 300: Rise of an Empire. 

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

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