The Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) seeks to unite Greece after the fall of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans against the self proclaimed god king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his Persian naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green).
300: Rise of an Empirefalls into a very strange category since it serves not only as a sequel to 300 but also a prequel. When the sequel was initially announced, I was truly curious in seeing if 300 could be topped in terms of effects and story and while Zack Snyder succeeded in building a solid follow-up, I do feel that the film lacked some polish – which I attribute to Snyder's involvement with Man of Steel. Director Noam Murro definitely followed the Snyder blueprint established by 300 but like I said the film seemed to be missing something.
Sullivan Stapleton who some may recognize as Damian Scott from Cinemax's Strike Back series does a decent job as a leading man, but at times seemed out-acted by Eva Green, who's portrayal of Artemesia was one of the film's high points. I definitely feel Stapleton's involvement served dual purpose as it allowed him to flex his acting chops as a leading man, but also put him on Hollywood's radar for future films. Rodrigo Santoro continued to impress as Xerxes and has to be commended for enduring countless hours in the make up chair to reprise a role that quite honestly could not have been played as effectively by someone else. It was great to see Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo and David Wenham back as Dilios since it not only tied everything together but really helped the climax of the film, which was quite a sight in IMAX. The rest of cast were relative unknowns who were fodder for both Persian and Athenian blades, spears and various other weapons utilized throughout the film.
I had the chance to watch this film in 3D/IMAX after seeing the trailer attached to Robocop and while the IMAX portion helped with my enjoyment of the film, mostly due to the large screen spotlighting the larger ships and set pieces, the 3D itself really was a non-factor. Effects wise this film does hold its own against the original 300 but I will say that the overuse of slow motion definitely took it's toll. While it did have its place, it took away from the film in some instances and made a slightly awkward sex scene in the film even more awkward (and yes, Eva Green was nude for those that were curious.)
Does 300: Rise of an Empire capture the same cinematic magic that made countless people love 300? It does to an extent, albeit with overused elements that made the previous film memorable. If you enjoyed 300 and are a fan of the sword and sandal action genre made popular by the previous film and the Spartacus TV series, then you'll enjoy this film. While I did enjoy it, I did not feel the first film needed a sequel – much less one that took all the great visuals and made them appear like quick-time events from a video game while using CGI blood as a crutch to hide some truly wooden acting performances. If there is a theater that offers it in IMAX I recommend it, but it is not mandatory to enjoy the film and if, per chance you miss it in theaters you honestly can enjoy it just the same at home.