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 (Sullivan Stapleton) 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 (Rodrigo Santoro), and Artemesia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
Not so much a sequel or prequel as a concurrently occurring story set in the ancient world popularised by 300 (2007), a fictionalised re-telling of the Battle of Thermopylae based on Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s 1998 comic book series of the same name, 300 Rise of an Empire looks to have much of the visual richness and dazzling storytelling technique that made its predecessor so successful.
It recount the story of the Battle of Artemisium – its original title, which frankly doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue and could have caused long lines at the box office as people tried to pronounce it and failed – which occurred at roughly the same time as the events of 300 when the navies of an alliance of Greek city-states went to war against the Persians.
And it is told from a female perspective with the trailer voiced by Lena Headey (Games of Thrones, with whom 300 Rise of an Empire shares a similar storytelling sensibility, not to mention many thematic similarities) who plays Queen Gorgo of Sparta, widow of Leonidas (Gerald Butler), the heroic Spartan leader who died valiantly fighting the fearsome might of the Persians in 300.
Granted it’s been a while since 300, co-written and directed by Jack Snyder, who has producer’s duties only on its follow up – Noam Murro takes up directing duties this time around – but this tale of vengeance writ large should still resonate with audiences eager for tales soaked in blood, lust and the righting of wrongs (or even the wronging of rights sometimes).
Working in its favour of course is that fantasy is very much in right now with Game of Thrones dominating water cooler talk around the world, with its season finale causing gigantic ripples across social media.
If ever there was a time to re-introduce the action-packed world of 300 to audiences, it’s now with the odds being good that it will garner an enthusiastic, wide-ranging following.
Long gone are the days where fantasy was purely the realm of the nerdocracy, with general audiences more than happy to take a chance of these tales of sprawling tales of larger-than-life valour in blood-soaked fields of valour providing they are well told.
And if the original 300 is any guide, the odds are it will be a well told tale, beautifully-realised with Murro promising more of the same and yet not, a wise move for a sequel that wants to stand on its own merits:
“It is tied visually to the original. But there is a whole different choreography of fighting and war.
“The few against the many is still here. It’s hundreds versus hundreds of thousands. It’s about taking on the mightiest power of all with wisdom and tactics.” (source: Bryan Alexander, USA Today)
300 Rise of an Empire opens worldwide in March 2014.