300: Rise of an Empire Review

Genre – Action

Director – Noam Murro

Cast – Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, 

Alluring element – A sequel to the epic 2006 movie about the Spartan 300

Plot – 8
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 7
Logical consistency – 7
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 8

Rise of an Empire marks the return of the Frank Miller-based story of Greek’s resistance against the Persian Empire. After great success of the first film, ROAE builds on the story in a weird kind of backwards-spinoff way. We begin our tale a decade before the battle at the Hot Gates, where Themistokles (not to be confused with the Greek mythologist Themistocles – just so there is no allusion of historical accuracy here) leads the Athenians in a well-planned attack against the Persians. Themistokles ends up putting an arrow in King Darius and sparking his son, Xerxes, to give his soul to become a God-king. Xerxes, however, is just a token for the real story.

Well Scissor Me Timbers!
Well Scissor Me Timbers!

Judging by the trailers, I figured that this movie would follow the same formula as its predecessor. That is, Themistokles rises against the Persians, the Persians throw everything they can at the Athenians, and then somehow, one of them comes out victorious. I also thought that Xerxes would have a lot more screen time than he actually did. His whole back-story seemed for naught, because it added nothing to Xerxes’ character – or anybody else’s for that matter. Instead, the plot follows the strategic battle between Artemisia (Green) and Themistokles as they are in deadlocked in naval battle. It’s an interesting approach that gave it some much-needed separation from just being a 300 film.

That being said, Rise of an Empire brings with it the return of everything that made 300 such an enjoyable film. The bullet time kills are all there in its barbaric splendor. We didn’t see the film in IMAX 3D, but the way the fight scenes are orchestrated, we could tell that this was a movie that was made for, not adapted to, 3D film. The cartoonish way the blood flows and limbs are dismembered helps take away from the gruesomeness of the violence. The aspect that always stands out to me is the choice in colors. Themistokles’ royal blue cape is a sharp contrast to the Spartan red, and the melancholy grays of the Greek skyline.

300 blue

It’s not just limited to color swaps, though. The difference between the Athenian and Spartan army is very apparent. The Athenians know it, the Spartans know it, and now we know it. The Athenians are stout politicians and strategists, where the Spartans rely on unwavering strength and brotherhood. The fact that the Athenians were everyday tradesmen really rings true; they’re still incredibly fit, but nowhere near the 24-packs the Spartans sport. The Immortals, for one, are much more terrifying in this film as they tear through the Greek ranks of farmers and sculptors. The battle scenes are also distinct from 300. Most of the action in Rise of an Empire takes place on the Aegean Sea. So, it’s not as breakneck paced as 300, but there’s still an ample amount of bloodshed.


300: Rise of an Empire clocked in just less than ten minutes less runtime than the original, but it felt a whole lot shorter. It felt as though there were more moving pieces and more character development. While Themistokles hogs up most of the screen time, the real winners of the film are Artemisia and Queen Gorgo – the two lead women. Both are characters that viewers will gravitate to for their fortitude and wit (“You’ve come a long way to stroke your cock while real men train!”). They are strong and they are respected; they have the most powerful position among the two armies, and yet they’re still objectified. It culminated in one weird, hardcore display of affection between Artemisia and Themistokles that left me laughing out of confusion and discomfort; I felt the same way watching this scene with two of my best friends as I did watching Kate Winslet’s boobs in Titanic with my parents… at ten years old.


Honestly, with the blockbuster that 300 was, Rise of an Empire could have coasted the whole way through on the coattails of the original – and in many ways, that’s exactly what it did. However, the formula didn’t always work, as the “inspirational” speeches from Themistokles pail in comparison to the cries to battle that Leonidas gave his troops. The development from farmers to proud warriors happens too abruptly to be believable. The story feels incomplete, as nothing is really resolved once the credits roll, and unlike 300, there are no real lessons to learn at the end of Rise of an Empire.

Make your own 300 war face at http://appcloud.warnerbros.com/300/warfacempc/index_flash.html?cid=us&df=false
Make your own 300 war face here

There was plenty of visual stimulation; from the killing to the unique cinematography, I was enthralled throughout. However, the abrupt climax and logical missteps really take away from any movie empire that Frank Miller had been hoping to build upon. Rise of the Empire a clear case of style over substance, but it’s enough to tip the scales in favor of wanting to see the film.

All photos belong to Warner Bros. and Frank Miller

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Lupe Fiasco “Lightwork”

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Song: “Lightwork”

AlbumFriend of the People: I Fight Evil (2011), a mixtape that followed up his third studio album (Lasers). Free download here.

Lyric: “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures/Emperor is his alias, but not Marcus Aurelius/This is more like Sparta: kick you down a well, kid”

Character Reference/Meaning:

With the release of 300: Rise of an Empire, we felt that this week’s “Diggin’ Through the Crates” had to be a reference to 300. Most casual fans might not know that before Gerard Butler was dining in hell, 300 was a mini-series run published by Dark Horse Comics in 1999 written by Frank Miller, the same creative genius behind Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Not only does today mark the return of 300 to the theaters, but it also marks the return of Lupe Fiasco to “DTC.” A few months ago, Lupe made the pages of Hush for his Wolverine references. We try to switch up the artists as much as we can, but this was the best Spartan/300 reference out there – And believe me, there were plenty to choose from.

Just to catch some people up, the scene in 300 that Lupe is referencing is when a Persian messenger comes to relay a message to the King of Sparta, Leonidas. The message is this: we own you now; lay down your arms, kneel before us, and we won’t slaughter your men and enslave your children. It sounded like quite the raw deal, as Leonidas thought, and so he showed his hospitality by kicking the messenger down a giant well. Aside from being one crowd-pleasing moment, it’s also a sentiment that resonates within the Hip-Hop community.

In poor, urban communities like the ones Wasalu Jaco (Lupe) grew up in, there’s always somebody coming in to take what you and yours have. This might surprise you, but a lot of the time, that doesn’t always come in the shape of peers. The Athenians and Spartans frequently butt heads. They fought with each other for the dominance of Greece multiple times. When the Persian empire came to their doorstep, both were out-powered by the unstoppable force.

Today, gentrification and police abuse are the Xerxes and prison is the new slavery (oh yeah, I went there). Young black men are constantly antagonized by the police officers and ridiculed by white wealth. It’s no surprise that Hip-Hop artists gravitate towards being able to tell somebody to get the hell out of their home.

Fun Fact:

The line “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures” is a clever play on words, as the word “fiasco” is actually Greek for failure. Lupe also references Marcus Aurelius, a Greek philosopher that the Spartans saw as a personification for weakness. You can tell Lupe really does his homework.

Shut Up and Take My Money: 300 Helmet Licensed Replica

The money in our bank account is limited, so how unfair is it that there are endless gadgets, collectibles and toys out there that demand to be purchased? Let us help you sift through the crap, so you don’t can save that hard-earned cash for the things that deserve it. In other words, we give you the power to go to the counter and say, “Shut Up and Take My Money!”


Item: 300 Helmet Licensed Replica

What it is: What is it? IT IS SPARTA! The universally recognized headpiece from Leonidas and the 300 elite Spartans can be yours. Lucky for you, you don’t need to stab a wolf, kick a dude down a well or have a twelve pack of ab muscles. All you gotta do is put up the cash and order it online. This isn’t your average replica; it’s forged in hell itself…. Okay sorry, getting carried away. The helmet is made of steel, plated in brass and lined in leather. That last bit lets you know that this baby was meant to be worn, not put on display like some boy-loving Greek.

How Much it Costs: The retail price of this glorious headpiece is over $300. It’s a steep price for a replica, but when you think about movie and show replicas, it’s rare to find a collectible that embodies the spirit of the source material so fully. There are other options if you can’t throw down the full votive, there are tons of awesome-looking hand-made helmets that also bring glory to Sparta.

Is It Worth It?: Oh hell yeah it is. It is literally the coolest thing you can buy for the dollar amount. And you can wear it anywhere, literally anywhere. I mean, have you personally ever made fun of a Spartan helmet? No, you haven’t, because anybody that rocks a Spartan helmet is one bad mutha. Only thing is, you need some Xerxes type wealth to comfortably afford this. You could always spring for the hand-made models on eBay, but if we’re talking about a home-made model, I’d rather get my hands on a 3-D printer and make my own than spend $100 on somebody else’s work – as cool as it may be.


Bottom Line: It is almost too awesome to pass up. I can’t even imagine how cool it would be to go see 300: Rise of an Empire this weekend and find somebody in the seats wearing this. I couldn’t even get mad at him for blocking my view. All things considered, I wouldn’t mess with this collectible due to the price tag, but it is a beauty.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib