People were confused when Rodrigo Santoro said that the follow-up to 2006’s 300 would neither be a prequel, nor a sequel to it. However, only a few minutes into the movie, it’s glaringly obvious what Santoro meant.

300: Rise of an Empire chronicles the events before, during and after the Battle of Thermopylae. Xerxes’ commander Artemisia leads the Persian army in an attack on the major Greek city-states. As Athens is the first in their path, Greek admiral Themistocles steps up to defend his city-state. However, this proves difficult as the Persians have a much larger fleet and Sparta refuses to co-operate. The movie chronicles Themistocles’ attempts to defend Athens.

In a huge step-up from its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire contains many more action scenes. Each of these scenes are improved by the dazzling visuals and stunning cinematography by Simon Duggan. However, what makes these scenes truly remarkable is the choreography. A large part of the movie is the battle, and each of the scenes flow as smoothly as a ballet. Albeit, a very brutal one.

300: Rise of an Empire also proves that Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) is well-suited for epic fantasies. Like Snyder’s previous works, 300: Rise of an Empire is unapologetic in its display of gore and nudity. This is especially refreshing for action movie fans, who have to settle for watered-down films that can appeal to larger audiences.

However, even the breathtaking visuals are no match for the real highlight of the movie – Eva Green. It’s hard to take your eyes off Green, who plays Persia’s beautiful but ruthless commander, Artemisia. Though the rest of the cast performs well, all of them are pale in comparison to her. In fact, you often find yourself rooting for Artemisia, inspite of her being the antagonist! Only Lena Headey, who plays Sparta’s Queen Gorgo, comes close to Eva Green in terms of performance and charisma.

Another strong point of the movie is its pacing. 300: Rise of an Empire moves fast and does not dwell on scenes any longer than necessary. In this respect, it might just have surpassed the original. However, some scenes do seem longer than they are because of the dialogue, which tends to be choppy and over-the-top.

The movie also suffers a little because of its protagonist. Though Sullivan Stapleton is good as Themistocles, he fails to match up to Green’s charming performance. One has to wonder if he was the best person to carry the film on his shoulders. This movie is also not for people looking for an original plot. Much of 300: Rise of an Empire is a mere retelling of the events of 300. It’s also like its predecessor, in the fact that there’s almost no character development. In fact, the only character who’s actually fleshed out is the antagonist.

Why should you watch this film?

300: Rise of an Empire is visually-stunning and a must-watch for anyone who liked 2006’s 300. Though it’s not as good as its predecessor, it’s still an entertaining movie. Action movie fans, in particular, are bound to enjoy this flick.

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