Reviewed for The Skinny:
Part prequel, part sidequel (parallelquel?) and part sequel, this belated follow-up to 300 takes place before, during and after the events of Zack Snyder’s 2007 epic. It details how previous antagonist Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) became a towering God-King, but the focus is an ongoing sea battle between the Athenian fleet and the Persian navy. Leading the former is Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a war hero who attempts to hold off Xerxes’ vast armada in the hope that the forces of Greece will unite behind him.
What follows is another stylised orgy of hacking and slashing. Incoming director Noam Murro adopts the same hyper-real visual style as Snyder, not to mention directorial techniques like slow motion and speed ramping. But the imagery and fight sequences feel more derivative than distinctive, while Stapleton doesn’t possess the same commanding presence as the previous film’s lead, Gerard Butler. Still, Rise Of An Empire is worth watching for Eva Green, who devours everyone in her path as Xerxes’ ferocious second-in-command.