300: Rise of an Empire serves as a companion piece or a combination of 'prequel, midquel and sequel in one film' for 300. The film provides a cast of new characters, with Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia (Eva Green) as the new leads, as well as a brief backstory for Xerxes, the 'God-King' of Persia.
The Battle of Thermopylae in 300 where King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors fight to their death against King Xerxes' Persian army happens when Themistocles, Greek general is leading his army against Artemisia, Persian Navy commander on a naval battle. The film further expands the 300 mythology, provides a deeper understanding of what really happened in its entirety.
The film does a good job in capturing the over-the-top, yet distinctive, slow-motion style of the first film. The violent 'slo-mo' battle scenes looks spectacular, seemingly allows the audience to indulge themselves in the mayhem, but the technique is overused many times in recent films that it doesn't feel as exciting as before, which is 7 years ago. Furthermore, the special effects team seems to overdo the CGI blood squirt to the point that it feels artificial on screen.
The male lead character in the film is rather 'weak'. The character of Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is rather bland and lacks the iconic look or screen presence of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler). The loud cry by Gerard Butler's Leonidas: "This is SPARTA!!!" while delivering a kick to the Persian messenger to fall in a bottomless pit in 300 still remains the most iconic scene in the franchise. Although the Greek general managed to employ some clever battle strategies to outwit the Persians, but it's nothing we haven't seen before...Anyone who's interested in war battle strategies should watch Red Cliff (Part 1 & 2), which is based on the Battle of Red Cliffs from Records of the Three Kingdoms of China.
On the other hand, Eva Green provided a superb performance and lasting impression as Artemisia, who dominates whenever she appears on screen. Overall, the film does not exceed expectation. It's just delivers exactly what's expected of it. The open ending suggests another sequel to conclude the mythology of 300.
- (For girls) The Greek men in this film are not as perfectly ripped and muscular as the Spartans in 300.
- Unfortunately, scenes with sex, rape or female nudity are censored by the film board of Malaysia. It seems that the board thinks that letting 18++ audience to see female naked body is far worse than gory violence involving decapitation or dismemberment of human beings with blood spurting around on screen...