In 2007, director Zack Snyder and author Frank Miller gave us the visually stunning violence-filled 300 which told the tale of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors at the ancient battle of Thermopylae where they take on the massive army of the Persian Empire in a futile attempt to stop the force that has been crushing every foe they've faced. It was a brutal film that had a unique look and told an ancient story in a unique way.
In 2014, we get 300: Rise of an Empire, which mostly takes place at the same time as King Leonidas' stand at Thermopylae but this front is at sea in more of a naval battle. Greek general Themistokles is leading the charge against Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy. The story is told in a similar style of 300 and we get a brief and interesting origin story of the Persian God-King Xerxes.
This time we don't have Zach Snyder at the helm but director Noam Murro tries to capture the imagery and the style of its' predecessor and succeeds in the style but after so much time has passed and Zach Snyder has utilized this style in so many other films, it feels stale and a honestly a little tired. Granted, it's still a visual smorgasbord with entrails and blood flying towards the screen in 3D and the action is still on par with what we saw in 300.
Gerard Butler burst onto the action scene in 300 with his commanding performance as King Leonidas and Sullivan Stapleton tries to pull off the same gravitas as Themistokles but it's rarely there and when it does it feels like a rip-off of Butler's performance. Eva Green is the star of this one as the evil, vengeful and calculating as Artemisia. Her origin story is just as interesting as the one given for Xerxes, a girl whose parents were murdered before her eyes, sold into slavery by the Greeks, discovered by a Persian messenger and trained by their finest warriors she waited for her chance to wage war on the Greeks. Eva Green lets the hate shine through and steals every scene she's in.
At the end of the day, 300: Rise of an Empire is not even close to being as good as its' predecessor but it's still an easy watch and will fill whatever need you have to see violence in a visually stunning medium. There's a whole lot of violence too. It's rated R and earns every bit of that rating.