Skip to main content

Sullivan Stapleton in "300: Rise of an Empire."

Warner Bros. Pictures

1.5 out of 4 stars

Written by
Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad
Directed by
Noam Murro
Starring
Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English

In 300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green commands a navy and bares her navel with equal aplomb. Cast as Artemisia, a Greek orphan adopted by the Persian conqueror King Darius (Igal Naor) – and thus the de facto stepsister to his sociopath-in-waiting son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro – Green revels in her warrior-woman character and her wardrobe, including some spiky body armour that makes her look like a sexy stegosaurus. Because Artemisia is on the wrong side of a brutal campaign being waged against her countrymen by the now-grown Xerxes, she is ostensibly the film's villainess, and plenty of Greeks die by her nimble hand. But Green's reckless abandon in the part makes it hard to root against her.

She's definitely more appealing than our nominal hero, the bearded Greek general Themistokles, played by the young Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton. In the original 300, Gerard Butler cut a kingly figure as the Spartan leader Leonidas but Stapleton doesn't quite have enough cartoon-brute presence to carry the day. In fact, fans of 300 might sit hoping for a cameo from Butler considering that the story here takes place mostly concurrently with the events of the first film. It's being marketed as a sequel, but Rise of an Empire is more accurately described as an extension of the 300 universe, like an add-on content pack for a video game.

Taking over in the director's chair for Zack Snyder, Noam Murro utilizes a similarly video-game-esque visual scheme, all digitally assisted tracking shots, teeming battlefield tableaus, and spurting carotid arteries. This Xbox aesthetic was at least somewhat unique when 300 came out in 2006, but seven years' worth of slicked-up sword-and-sandal epics has diminished its novelty significantly. At least one large-scale battle sequence, set aboard a flaming wooden ship and climaxing with the surreal sight of sea serpents snacking on the capsized casualties, has a certain loony grandeur, but Murro doesn't have Snyder's talent for either violence or velocity, even as he keeps doubling down on both.

Story continues below advertisement

Critics who called out 300's underlying political allegory – the democratic West staving off the Middle Eastern barbarians at the gate – will find more of the same here, as will those who giggled at the original film's homoeroticism find plenty more well-oiled torsos and basso-voiced speeches about brotherhood and honour. At the same time, Murro does his best to play up the lustful dynamic between Artemisia and Themistokles, whose mutual respect for the other's military tactics masks a palpable attraction. By throwing herself headfirst into scenes that a more cautious actress might beg off, Green earns herself a citation for valour – a Purple Heart in a movie that's otherwise way too grim and grey for its own good.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter