When 300 came out in 2006 it was breathtaking in its originality and use of visual effects. We had literally never seen anything like it.
Eight years later and unfortunately, Rise of an Empire, which is not so much sequel as companion piece, doesn’t have the same impact. This isn’t because of the look of the film (it is still awesome to see in all its 3D glory) it’s just the acting is a bit dodgy, the dialogue mumbled and extremely difficult to decipher and it adds nothing to the story.
This is a kind of top and tail of the original 300, telling how the man god Xerxes came to power and how his brilliant naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) turned herself into a killing machine. Having beaten the Spartans, the Persians under Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) are now marching on the whole of Greece, but if the Greek fleet can beat the Persian navy, then Greece will not fall. Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) vows to lead his vastly outnumbered fleet against Artemisia, using his wits and superior battle strategy to keep the Persian navy at bay.
If anything, this is even bloodier, gorier and more unmercifully violent than 300, as you see heads severed, limbs chopped and guts spewed in gallons of blood and the luxury of slo-mo. But with Aussie accents creeping in all over the place, Eva Green’s eye-liner getting thicker by the minute and would-be rabble-rousing speeches lost in the general din, it’s all a bit mushy and indistinct.
In fact, the only two people who enunciate perfectly and are intelligible throughout the film are Eva Green and Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo.
Director of the original, Zack Snyder, here provides the screenplay and produces but doesn’t direct (Noam Murro does) and this may be one reason why it lacks the distinctive edge of its predecessor.