300: Rise of an Empire
In this movie poster, a bare-chested Thermistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is shown in the midst of battle, his face in combat rage. He carries a shield in his left hand, a bloodied short-sword in his right, and is stabbing downwards at an unseen enemy to the right. In the background floats the movie catch phrase, "Seize Your Glory".
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNoam Murro
Screenplay by
Based onXerxes[a]
by Frank Miller
Produced by
Starring
CinematographySimon Duggan
Edited by
Music byJunkie XL[3]
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
Running time
102 minutes[5]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$110 million[6]
Box office$337.6 million[6]

300: Rise of an Empire is a 2014 American epic historical action film directed by Noam Murro from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel Xerxes.[a] It is a follow-up to the 2007 film 300, taking place before, during, and after the main events of that film, and is loosely based on the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis.[7] The cast includes Lena Headey, Peter Mensah, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin, and Rodrigo Santoro reprising their roles from the first film, alongside Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Hans Matheson, and Callan Mulvey.

300: Rise of an Empire was released theatrically on March 7, 2014, by Warner Bros. Pictures.[8][9] Like its predecessor, it received mixed reviews, with critics praising the action sequences, music, cinematography, visual effects and Green's performance but criticizing the story and overstylized gore. However, the film was a box-office success, grossing $337 million worldwide from a $110 million budget.[6]

Plot

Queen Gorgo of Sparta tells her men about the Battle of Marathon, in which King Darius of Persia was killed by Themistocles of Athens. Darius's son, Xerxes, witnesses his father's death and is advised to never wage war against the Greeks. Darius's naval commander, Artemisia, persuades Xerxes to become a god and sends Xerxes on a journey through the desert. Xerxes reaches a cave and bathes in an otherworldly liquid, emerging as a "God-King". He returns to Persia and declares war on Greece to avenge his father.

As Xerxes's forces advance towards Thermopylae, Themistocles meets with the council and convinces them to provide him with a fleet to engage the Persians at sea. Themistocles travels to Sparta to ask King Leonidas for help but is informed by Dilios that Leonidas is consulting the Oracle, and Gorgo is reluctant to side with Athens. Themistocles reunites with his old friend Scyllias, who infiltrated the Persian troops and reveals Artemisia was born Greek, but defected to Persia after her family was raped and murdered by Greek hoplites. Rescued and adopted by a Persian emissary, she was trained and eventually rose up to become a naval commander. Themistocles also learns that Leonidas has marched to fight the Persians with only 300 men.

Themistocles leads his fleet of fifty warships and several thousand men, which include Scyllias, Scyllias's son Calisto, and Themistocles' right-hand man Aeskylos to the Aegean Sea, starting the Battle of Artemisium. They ram their ships into the Persian ships and attack them before retreating. The following day, the Greeks feigned a retreat and led a group of Persian ships into a crevice, where they became stuck. The Greeks attacked the Persian ships from the cliffs above. Impressed with Themistocles, Artemisia brings him onto her ship and attempts to lure him to the Persian side as her second-in-command, but he refuses her offer.

The Persians attack the Greek ships with tar and flame bombs, but an Athenian kills one of the Persians, who falls into the tar carrying a torch, damaging ships from both sides. Themistocles is thrown into the sea by an explosion and nearly drowns before being rescued by Aeskylos, and stands by Scyllias's side as he succumbs to his injuries. Believing Themistocles to be dead, Artemisia and her forces withdraw. After recovering from his injuries, Themistocles learns that only a few hundred of his warriors and six of his ships survived the disastrous attack.

Daxos, an Arcadian general, tells Themistocles that Leonidas and his 300 men were killed after Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks to Xerxes. Themistocles returns to Athens and confronts Ephialtes, who reveals that Xerxes plans to attack and burn Athens. Ephialtes regrets his betrayal and welcomes death, but is spared so he can warn Xerxes that the Greek forces are gathering at Salamis. Themistocles visits Gorgo in Sparta to ask for help, but Gorgo is mourning Leonidas's death and refuses. Before departing, Themistocles returns Leonidas's sword, which had been delivered to him by Ephialtes under Xerxes's orders, and urges Gorgo to avenge Leonidas.

In Athens, Xerxes's army is laying waste when Ephialtes arrives to deliver Themistocles' message. Upon learning he is alive, Artemisia leaves to ready her navy for battle. Themistocles inspires all of his remaining forces to continue fighting. The remaining Greek ships charge into the Persian ships, beginning the decisive Battle of Salamis. Themistocles and Artemisia engage in a duel, which ends in a stalemate with both receiving severe injuries.

Gorgo arrives at the battle along with ships from numerous Greek city-states including Delphi, Thebes, Olympia, Arcadia, and Sparta, all uniting against the surrounded Persians. Daxos leads the Arcadian army while Themistocles urges Artemisia to surrender. Xerxes, watching the battle from a cliff, turns his back on her, acknowledging his naval defeat and continuing the march of his army. Artemisia tries to kill Themistocles, but he stabs her, killing her. While Dilios leads the Greek assault, Themistocles and Gorgo charge at the Persians with the entire Greek army.

Cast

Production

Development

In June 2008, producers Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, and Bernie Goldmann revealed that work had begun on a sequel to 300.[13] Legendary Pictures announced that Frank Miller, who wrote the 1998 comic book limited series on which the film 300 was based, was writing a follow-up graphic novel, and Zack Snyder, co-screenwriter and director of 300, was interested in directing the adaptation, but instead chose to develop and direct the Superman reboot Man of Steel.[14][15] Noam Murro directed instead, while Snyder produced and co-wrote. The film was centered on the Greek leader Themistocles, portrayed by Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton.[16] During pre-production, the film was titled 300: Battle of Artemisium (although this was widely misreported as "Battle of Artemisia");[17] the film was retitled 300: Rise of an Empire in September 2012.[18]

Filming

Principal photography commenced in early July 2012 at the Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria.[19] Underwater greenscreen scenes were also filmed at Leavesden Studios.[20] On May 10, 2013, it was announced the film's release date would be pushed back from August 2, 2013, to March 7, 2014.[8]

Music

Main article: 300: Rise of an Empire (soundtrack)

The film's score was composed by Junkie XL, being the first film in an ongoing partnership with Snyder.[21] He attempted to research on the ancient Persian and Greek music instrumentation to match the time period and culture, while also being a fantasy film, he tried to blend the sounds with electronic instruments here and there.[22] The album featuring Junkie XL's score was released by WaterTower Music on March 4, 2014.

Reception

Box office

300: Rise of an Empire grossed $106.6 million in North America and $231 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $337.6 million, against a production budget of $110 million.[6]

In North America, the film opened to number one in its first weekend with $45 million.[23] In its second weekend, the film dropped to number two, grossing an additional $19.2 million.[24] In its third weekend, the film dropped to number five, grossing $8.5 million.[25] In its fourth weekend, the film dropped to number nine, grossing $4.2 million.[26]

Critical response

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 45% based on 200 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It's bound to hit some viewers as an empty exercise in stylish gore, and despite a gonzo starring performance from Eva Green, 300: Rise of an Empire is a step down from its predecessor."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 48 out of 100 score, based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[28] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, down the A− received by its predecessor.[29]

Several critics compared the film negatively to its predecessor. Todd Gilchrist of The Wrap wrote: "Rise of an Empire lacks director Snyder's shrewd deconstruction of cartoonish hagiography, undermining the glorious, robust escapism of testosterone-fueled historical reenactment with an underdog story that's almost too reflective to be rousing."[30] Nicolas Rapold of The New York Times gave a mixed review: "The naval collisions and melees play out in panel-like renderings that are bold and satisfying for the first half-hour but lack the momentum and bombastic je ne sais quoi of 300."[31] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter thought it was "more monochromatic and duller in appearance, lacking the bold reds and rich earth tones" of the earlier film.[32] Scott Foundas of Variety gave a positive review: "This highly entertaining time-filler lacks the mythic resonances that made 300 feel like an instant classic, but works surprisingly well on its own terms."[12] Soren Anderson of The Seattle Times thought it "very impressive in its single-minded dedication to creating a moviegoing experience designed to totally engulf its audience."[33] James Rocchi of Film.com gave the film a zero out of ten and called it "a 3D joke."[34]

Kyle Smith of the New York Post felt "The film works as a high-tech boy-fantasy successor to Conan the Barbarian."[35] James Berardinelli wrote, "The movie delivers all the necessary elements but their impact is dull."[36] Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News thought it looked "like an ashen video game. It's even more muddy in IMAX and 3-D."[37] Colin Covert of the Star Tribune felt it "plays like a collaboration between the Marquis de Sade and Michael Bay. Or maybe the History Channel and the Saw franchise."[38] Guy Lodge of Time Out wrote, "It's flesh and carnage that the audience is here to see, and Murro delivers it by the glistening ton, pausing only for stray bits of backstory."[39] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post said "Rise of an Empire is no fun at all – even those famous six-pack abs from 300 seem to be missing a can or two."[40] In a negative review, Drew Hunt of the Chicago Reader wrote "The slow-motion battle scenes are technically impressive and occasionally elegant, but there's enough machismo here to choke a thousand NFL locker rooms."[41] Richard Roeper called the film "A triumph of production design, costumes, brilliantly choreographed battle sequences and stunning CGI."[42]

Scott Bowles of USA Today gave the film two out of four stars: "For anyone looking for a sense of script (forget plausibility), Empire is a Trojan horse."[43] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times thought "The spectacularly brutal fighting is the film's main calling card, and in that Rise of an Empire doesn't disappoint."[44] David Hiltbrand of The Philadelphia Inquirer praised "its slo-mo ultraviolence" and "impressive 3-D effects", calling it "a fan boy's fantasy, a four-star wonderment."[45] Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film a D, "a bloodbath and not much else."[46] Adam Nayman of The Globe and Mail called it "an add-on content pack for a video game."[47] Mark Jenkins of NPR gave the film a negative review, saying "If the movie's action recalls video games, the dramatically artificial lighting suggests 1980s rock videos. Indeed, Rise of an Empire is so campy that it might work better as a musical."[48] Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "There is much grinding of teeth, and mauling of history, and anachronistic use of gunpowder, until we plug our ears and desperately pray to the gods of Olympus, or the brothers of Warner, that they might make an end."[49]

Despite mixed reviews for the film as a whole, Eva Green's performance as the naval officer Artemisia received positive reviews, with some going so far as to say she was more interesting than the heroes, and saved the film. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe stated, "Rise of an Empire may strike some as an improvement on the first film, if only for two reasons: naval warfare and the glorious absurdity of Eva Green."[50] According to Rafer Guzman's Newsday review, "The one bright spot is Eva Green as Xerxes' machinator, Artemesia, a raccoon-eyed warrior princess... Green plays a snarling, insatiable, self-hating femme fatale and completely steals the show."[51] Stephanie Zacharek writing for The Village Voice exclaimed, "Mere mortals of Athens, Sparta, and every city from Mumbai to Minneapolis, behold the magnificent Eva Green, and tremble!"[52]

Historical accuracy

The Guardian's historical films reviewer, Alex von Tunzelmann, discredited the film's historical legitimacy, giving it the classification of "History grade: Fail." She itemizes numerous historical discrepancies in the film, including the pivotal scene in which Themistocles kills Darius the Great at the Battle of Marathon even though he was really absent and died of natural causes only years later.[53] Tunzelmann further quotes the Persian Fire author and historian Tom Holland, who translated Herodotus's Histories, and who is an expert on the Greco-Persian wars, as comparing the film to a wild fantasy substitute for actual historic reality.[53]

Paul Cartledge, a professor of Greek culture at Cambridge University, also noted historical inaccuracies in the film. For example, Darius was not killed as depicted, and neither he nor Xerxes was present at the Battle of Marathon. Artemisia, historically a queen and not an abused orphaned slave, actually argued against sailing into the straits and survived the Persian Wars. In addition, the Spartan Navy contributed a mere 16 warships to the Greek fleet of 400 warships in the ending battle scene, rather than the huge armada shown.[54][55]

Some critics have identified the film as an example of Iranophobia.[56] Tunzelmann found the film being the same "massive gilded embodiment of orientalism from [its predecessor]".[53][57] According to Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Professor of Ancient History at Cardiff University: "Indeed, the Persians of 300: Rise of an Empire remain the incarnation of every Orientalist cliché imaginable: they are as decadent and oversexed as they are weak and spineless. They are also incapable of winning battles without the help of a Greek traitor: Artemisia, a woman who may be costumed like Xena, warrior princess, but whose heart is consumed by a crazy desire for power and destruction."[57]

Home media

300: Rise of an Empire was released on the iTunes Store on June 3, 2014, and was released on DVD and Blu-ray 3 weeks later, on June 24.[58]

Sequel

In a 2016 interview, Snyder stated that more sequels to 300 would focus on topics beyond Ancient Greece, such as the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of the Alamo or a battle in China.[59]

In May 2021, Snyder revealed that he had written an Alexander the Great film that was intended to function as a conclusion to the 300 trilogy, but it evolved into having a greater focus on a love story between Alexander and Hephaestion, leading Snyder to think it could not function as a third 300 film. The script was retitled Blood and Ashes but it failed to be greenlit by Warner Bros. Pictures.[60][61]

In December 2023, Snyder revealed that he has regained the rights for Blood and Ashes from Warner Bros. Pictures and is planning on developing the film in the future.[62]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Unpublished at the time of the release of the film.[1][2]

References

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