"a visual feast, and it's just as violent and bloody as its predecessor"
When it was announced that Noam Murro would replace Zack Snyder as director of the sequel to 300, it was met with raised eyebrows, after all, his only prior credit is 2008's romantic comedy caper Smart People, but to all the naysayers, it's fair to say he's done rather well.
300: Rise of an Empire is visually stunning, emulating what came before. It has been intelligently set up to be a sequel to 300 but has the adventures running parallel, implementing footage from the previous film, as well as a littering of nods to the exploits of Leonidas and the Spartans. We are introduced to Athenian general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he rallies Greece to fight the Persians who are commanded by the seductive and fierce warrior Artemisia (Eva Green).
The battles ensue by sea as the Athenian Navy gets the upper hand on the Persian armada, the set pieces are spectacular, and whilst the 3D seems unnecessary at times, you can't help but marvel at the spectacle on screen. There's a back story that we weren't given in 300 for the tyrannical God King Xerxes, played once again by the unrecognisable Rodrigo Santoro, divulging how he came to be and what he intends on doing, as we come to terms with his very existence. As the conflict between the Athenians and the Persians rages on, we are given a little bit of a father and son dynamic, as Calisto (Jack O'Connell) defies his father Scyllias (Callan Mulvey) to join the Athenians in war.
The cast are great, led by Stapleton and Green, both portraying fierce warriors who clash, while their characters share some explosive chemistry on screen, which helps the plot along as Artemisia sees an equal in Themistokles, which leads to a heated sex scene as well as some pretty vicious sword fights. Nonetheless, it's a shame to see Lena Headey's Queen Gorgo be somewhat underused, as one of the only characters from 300 that shows up in this sequel. She's such a talented actress, it makes you wonder why she's reduced to little more than a cameo, and the same can be said for David Wenham's Dilios, but given that he was a part of King Leonidas' band of brothers, it makes sense as to why he has only a handful of scenes.
300: Rise of an Empire is a visual feast, and it's just as violent and bloody as its predecessor and builds nicely on the world that Snyder introduced us to, and with the ending being ambiguous, it sets itself up quite nicely for a third instalment.