I didn't enjoy the first 300, even after several viewings I just didn't take to it. It was visually stunning and had an impressive cast but I felt it had nothing else to offer. So when this sequel was announced I had no intention of watching it. That was until I realised Lena Headey was returning along with newcomers Eva Green and Sullivan Stapleton, I got straight to it.
Totally taken by surprise, 300 Rise Of An Empire is a glorious film, a swords and sandals epic bathing in an orgy of blood and abs with a gleeful sense of fun and brutal violence. In this sequel, the battle for Greece takes to the sea, where invading Persian forces and vengeful Naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) rule the waters alongside mortal-turned-god Xerxes. Her opposition, Themistokles, sets out to unite all of Greece by leading an all-charge that will change the course of the war.
I loved the story, the tension between sides and the lengths they both go to for victory sets the stage for some truly amazing battle sequences. Director Noam Murro takes the chair over previous director Zack Snyder, and Murro ignites the screen with a surge of visual splendor, not a single shot goes by where something interesting or cool doesn't appear. The 3D only enhances the movie, the depth is astounding, most noticeably during the first strike that Themistokles leads. Arrows, arterial spray, flames, water and debris pop out the screen with force and it's wholly enveloping, this movie shows what 3D can do.
The special effects are jaw dropping, watch as Themistokles leaps onto a horse in the final battle leaping from boat to boat through flames and chaos, it's a seamless one-shot take that leaves a lasting impression. The sword fights, decapitations, punches and deaths hit hard and it's so enjoyable. For me, though, it's the performances that dazzle and the dialogue too. Sullivan Stapleton kicks ass, forget Gerard Butler and "THIS IS SPARTA!", Stapleton has conviction and revenge in his eyes and of course he looks the part, job well done. Callan Mulvey is superb, much similiar to Stapleton but Mulvey has the advantage of emoting more, especially in his superb death scene. Jack O'Connell makes a welcome appearance, his character doesn't have much development but he's a determined fighter.
Lena Headey is exceptional, her soothing toned voice narrates over the movie's key moments and I am so glad she had a fight sequence, right at the end she dishes out the pain and it's a fantastic way to end, Headey is magnetic and I could watch her all day. Rodrigo Santoro is suitably sinister as the God-King Xerxes, although he could've had more screen time. However, it's Eva Green that dominates the screen with authority thanks to her terrifying performance as evil commander Artemisia. Her eyes, the expressions of hatred, anger and passion envelop the screen, she is marvellous, much like Kate Beckinsale's performance in Total Recall, echoing the same determination and drive to win. Green's voice, much like Headey's, is what pulls you in. Watching Green cut a mans head off only to then kiss his head is something to behold in a visceral way.
Impeccably cast, well written, superbly paced and totally action packed, this is a magnificent sequel, one of the most memorable movies of 2014 and I'm so pleased I watched it, forget the original and stick with this one.