Remember 300? Lot of shirtless guys and CGI blood splashing around … gave the world Gerard Butler: movie star? Well, this begins seconds after that film ends – King Leonidas and his men are all dead; the evil Persian God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) triumphant – then flashes back 10 years earlier when Greek leader Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) thwarted the first Persian invasion and killed the (then) Persian king. That dying king’s last words to his son Xerxes were that only the gods could defeat Greece, at which point Artemisia (Eva Green) told Xerxes that clearly that meant he had to become a god himself. One quick wander in the desert later and he’s a god, the war’s back on, and we’re back where we started with a lot of shirtless guys sending CGI blood splashing everywhere.
The big difference between this and 300 is that here all the battles take place at sea. Which isn’t really that big a difference: the battles largely involve ships crashing into each other so the soldiers on board can hack and slash at each other. What this series does have to offer beside loads and loads of CGI gore – why stab someone once when you can stab them three times then have a horse crush their head – is hilariously bombastic dialogue. Unfortunately Stapleton isn’t in the same league as Butler when it comes to booming out a stirring speech, but what he lacks in bombast he makes up for by getting to have nasty sex with Eva Green on a war map.
300: Rise of an Empire is basically a series of battles loosely held together by the fact that Themistocles and Artemisia are in charge of each side. The fights are decent enough and the whole “video game cut scene” visual approach it has going on works fine, but without any strong character material to hang all this grunting and slashing on, it’s just a bunch of grunting and slashing. It’s a film that does everything it’s meant to without doing any of it all that well.
Written by Anthony Morris