300: Rise of an Empire (Warner Bros., 2014)
Less a “sequel,” and more of a simultaneous chapter along with the events of the original film, 300: Rise of an Empire continues in similar fashion while bringing a new variety of high-seas warfare and a set of new characters to expand on the overall story arc.
The film introduces us to Themistocles, an Athenian general on a quest to unite the Greek armies in battle against the approaching Persian forces. The Persian army is led by Artemisia, a fierce female naval commander, operating under the dictate of Xerxes, the new god-king. Artemisia is vengeful and fearless and challenges each of her generals to take a crack at subduing the Greeks at sea. When she underestimates Themistocles as a tactician, she opts to negotiate with him in a psycho-sexual fashion. When he refuses her offer, she takes things to the extreme, using her personal squad of suicide soldiers to turn the waters into a sea of fire. Returning to Athens having barely survived, Themistocles is met by the treacherous hunchback who witnessed the fall of the 300. He warns of Xerxes plan to annihilate Athens. Themistocles persuades the remaining forces to launch a full-scale attack on the Persian navy. When Artemisia learns that Themistocles is alive, she gathers her entire fleet for a final showdown with the Greeks, who get a little bit of extra muscle from a reluctant ally.
Set against a darker blue color palette than the first film, we are treated to a similar, stylized slow-motion set of action sequences, blood-gushing sword slashes, grandiose speeches and sexually fervent dialogue. On the visual side, there is rich grittiness, sweeping views of the Persian Empire’s gargantuan fortresses, monolithic ships set against crashing waves and white-hot fires. The Blu-ray version includes a 7.1 channel DTS-HD audio option, enhancing the thunderous percussion and choral symphonies of the score.
By no means does the film attempt to portray historical accuracy, but if blood-soaked battle sequences are what you crave, then 300: Rise of an Empire is for you. While the speeches in the first film may be slightly more memorable and the action sequences more tightly choreographed, there is much to enjoy here, particularly Eva Green’s over-the-top and sadomasochistic portrayal of Artemisia. This film is generally good adult fun for a Saturday night viewing.