I got in to see 300: Rise of an Empire at an advanced screening (thanks, Buffalo.com!) and I left shaking my head. It’s basically the ‘rest of the story’ about what’s happening in Greece while the Spartans are kicking messengers into pits and defending gates. Themistokles is a Greek general known for his cunning, trying to unite the various city-states to defend against the Persians. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo in a framing story of her retaliation against the Persians for killing her husband, I imagine so they could put her on a poster. Gotta make sure to grab those Game of Thrones fans. Sullivan Stapleton has all the presence of a tree stump, and his underlings don’t fare much better. There’s an eye-rolling father and son playing out the tired “You’re too young to fight!”/”I’ll sneak away and fight anyway!” trope (I was taking bets on which one would die as soon as they appeared on screen).
If you go to this for any reason, it’s to see Eva Green having a blast as Artemesia, a Greek general who was taken in by a Persian man (apparently the dude Leonidas kicked down the pit) after she was betrayed. She trains and becomes their fiercest and most blood-thirsty warrior, gleefully presenting the severed heads of her enemies to King Darius. When Darius gets killed (by an arrow from Themistokles, because OF COURSE) she manipulates the dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers Xerxes into undergoing the transformation that makes him 10ft tall. Doesn’t make him any smarter though.
On the positive side, the final battle scene is good. Some of the earlier ones are a little hokey (oh, we see a body falling on the camera and splashing blood? never seen that before). There are some humorous moments, though not all of them were intended. The sex scene is ridiculous. I did like that they didn’t try to make Themistokles and the other Greeks the equal of the Spartans in a fight – their wins against the Persians came from outsmarting Xerxes and Artemisia’s lieutenants.
If you think you might want to see 300: Rise of an Empire, I’d suggest waiting for the Rifftrax after it’s on DVD. This is VERY riffable, I couldn’t resist a few comments while we were watching it.