300 was an overnight success story. Bringing the storytelling abilities of Frank Miller to life, his graphic novel drove legions of fans to the theaters in order to see what is regarded as one of the most epic films of the early century. Other than perhaps Sin City which also happens to be a brain child of Frank Miller’s, no other film has succeeded so well in mixing somewhat historically driven drama, heroics, romanticism, and straight up badassery like this film. Flash forward almost an entire decade (it was 2006 that this film first hit theaters. I know right?) and the second film in Frank Miller’s story of the Battle of Thermopylae is hitting screens, 300: Rise of an Empire. Fortunately enough, I got the chance to see this film and discovered just how hard it was to fill those flip flops. Sorry, I mean sandals.
The original 300 was groundbreaking. Frank Miller was able to succeed where many comic to movie adaptations have failed so many times before. If you’ve ever had the chance to read the original graphic novel please do. It’s an excellent adaptation. It tells a fantasized version of the 300 Spartans who defended Greece from the warmongering Persian Empire. King Leonidas sets out with little other than a tunic, a sword, and giant balls of steel, essentially to his death in order to show what true warriors Spartans really are. The film itself expresses one of my favorite lines from comics and film: “Our arrows will block out the sun.” Stelios replies, “Then we will fight in the shade.” I feel like this quote perfectly embodies the films entirety.
Since the cultural phenomenon that was 300 came along, Frank Miller has faced request after request of a sequel and began working on one for the comic soon after 300. 300: Rise of an Empire is the adaptation of his graphic novel sequel, Xerxes. The only problem is that this graphic novel isn’t out yet. It can play a role on the success of the film. Sometimes hype is all that is needed. This move makes me feel as if the film is a little less authentic, especially when it would be so easy to follow on the coattails of all the films that have come out recently based on a book. The foundation of a fan base of readers is a powerful thing. I honestly can’t say if this has given me preconceived ideas going into this film. I would hope not because I always like seeing comics get their due cred, especially stories like this one.
After seeing the film, I can say you will see a lot of similarities between the first and second. Try not to view this as a sequel, however. In a sense it is, but in Rise of an Empire, the storyline forms before, during, and after the original story. You will get a more in depth understanding of what led to the Battle of Thermopylae on both sides and afterwards. Try to remember as well that these films are not historically accurate either. They were never meant to be. They are meant to be a great story of passion, heroics, liberty, and strength which may have borrowed some influence from history. Take it for what it’s worth and you will enjoy this movie.
The film itself touches on a lot of key attributes the first film had; LOTS of fighting, the same rich color filled cinematography Frank Miller’s comics are famous for, a touch of folklore, and even some angry sex. Zack Snyder returns as writer and relatively new film director Noam Murro steps in. Murro does an excellent job of showing off the small details. While this is a great story, overall I expected more. There are a few things I think they could have done better. The story went in circles at times and could have used some different editing. Bouncing around could potentially leave a lot of people confused, especially when a lot of the soldiers are wearing the same tunic. Eventually, the helmets change and some colors, but the story was more or less over by then. I don’t think this film will grab most audiences like the original did, either. This film could be broken up into about four or five 300s. There are some excellent fight scenes that are 300-esque but they aren’t as in depth as the original 300 was. Naval battles make that difficult and the arrow missed the target on that for me. That being said the animation for those naval battles is rather impressive so there’s give and take for everything.
In the end, 300: Rise of an Empire is a solid story, but don’t go in to this film expecting another 300 like I did. There is something in it for just about everyone; lots of muscle bound buff guys for the ladies, boobies for the dudes, and a solid action film for both. Also, this should probably go without saying, children should probably stay home. Don’t be those parents who take their kids to see eyes getting popped out and throats cut. Save that for Christmas time.
I give 300: Rise of an Empire 4 out of 5.
by Jason Burleson