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Review – 300: Rise of an Empire

Review – 300: Rise of an Empire

| On 16, Mar 2014

If powerful women, hot dudes in skirts and naval combat are your thing, chances are you’ll love the second instalment in the 300 saga, Rise of an Empire.

Like its predecessor, Rise of an Empire is highly gory and stylised; however, unlike the first film, it breaks new ground in the generally male-dominated genre of fantasy-action with the presence of strong female figures.

Rise of an Empire picks up pretty much where the last film left off, with the death of Leonidas (Gerard Butler, wah) and the brave 300 Spartans.

Xerxes, the scary gold man with lots of piercings but no pants, is still on the warpath, however this time it’s not just the Spartans he’s chasing, but the Greeks as well. This match of David v. Goliath, Persia v. Greece (and Sparta, sort of), is nothing without its main players.

This guy’s back, still gold, still semi-nude – image by reelmovienation.com

 In the blue corner we have the Greeks, led by legendary warrior Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton). Technically, he started this whole thing by killing Xerxes’ dad, but we won’t blame him because he’s just a bloke fighting for freedom. Also, he has a great set of abs.

In the ring for the Persians we have Xerxes’ second in command Artemisia (Eva Green). She’s a welcome strong female force in 300, and of course she’s the brains of the whole operation. A female villain who you almost want to win, Artemisia has a tonne of ships, some pretty badass weaponry and a hectic diva attitude on her side.

Ships and egos collide multiple times during the course of the film, as Themistocles and Artemisia throw their smartest naval tactics at each other. In typical Hollywood fashion, there’s also a brief intermission from fighting for some romance between Artemisia and Themistocles. I don’t want to give too much away but considering the fact that they hate each other, and have only met once, it’s pretty confusing, mildly disturbing, and something the film could do without.

Artemisia (Eva Green), fiesty as ever – image by monstersandcritics.com

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) reprises her role as Gorgo, aka Gerard Butler’s wife, and after his death she steps up to the plate as yet another female to be reckoned with. Joining forces with the Greeks to seek vengeance on Xerxes and the Persians, Queen Gorgo even gives a pep-talk to the soldiers, before taking to the seas and fighting amongst the men herself.

Rise of an Empire is visually very similar to the first film, but in many ways it is inherently different. The violence and action sequences are similar, as are the grand speeches, but there’s less of a ‘good vs. bad’ feeling in the second instalment.

The absence of Gerard Butler from the sequel is very notable – Themistokles is nowhere near as awe-inspiring or charismatic, and as a result we find ourselves siding with Artemisia a lot of the time.

That said, it’s impossible not to get involved in the film, and by the end of Rise of an Empire, you’re guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat.

If you’ve yet to see the original 300, I’d recommend giving it a watch before tackling Rise of an Empire– if not for the backstory, then for Gerard Butler wearing pretty much nothing.

300: Rise of an Empire is in cinemas now.