(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)
Zack Snyder’s 300, adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel, unabashedly flexed its testosterone from start to finish. It was a determined independent vision of the men of Sparta and lot of creative license was taken by both Snyder and Miller in both the story and characterization. There is more doggedness in director Noam Murro’s approach with the sequel – 300: Rise of an Empire – that focuses on the action, the graphic violence and graphic everything with just one small change. A little bit of reality to go with all the fantasy. There is a woman at the center of it.
The sequel has more prominent roles for its women. Well, two of them. Lena Headey reprises her role as Queen Gorgo of Sparta and doubles up as a sort of narrator for the initial parts and a warrior in the later portions. The events of the Rise of an Empire party occur in parallel to the events of 300. Leonidas has marched along to the Hot Gates with his 300 men to face thousands of Persians. Meanwhile the protagonist of this story is the Athenian general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) who with his vision of united Greece takes on the Persian navy in creative strategic warfare. The other woman Rise of an Empire focuses on is Artemisia, a Greek born Persian general with revenge on her mind. The fictitious Artemisia is a more sexed up, more mystic version of her real counterpart but in a film like this that’s rule zero. It’s a hammy scenery chewing performance from Eva Green but one that hits more delightful than false notes. The film is based on an unreleased work from Frank Miller called Xerxes but Xerxes himself has little to do apart from getting up and down pedestals and proclaiming his god status.
The palette here is darker than the earlier 300. The sea is more black, the characters given a darker shade and even the graphic blood is black as it splashes and gushes out. The choreography behind the fights and the sound design are the positive traits that this film can be proud of. Leave those two out, with all the blood and swords and words of valor, there is little soul in the film. This one unsurprisingly is for the action and the adrenaline that feeds on it.