'300: Rise of an Empire' heads to new seas
05:00 AM, Apr 08, 2013
Sparta’s warriors may have waged fierce land battles in the 2006 box-office hit 300, but they hadn’t even gotten their feet wet yet.
In the parallel film 300: Rise of an Empire (out Aug. 2), which takes place at about the same time as its predecessor, Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his common-man troops fight the rest of the Persian army at sea.
The aquatic setting allows for a completely new dynamic even if both films take their stylized look from the original graphic novel by Frank Miller.
Empire “is tied visually to the original,” says director Noam Murro, but with so much happening within small boats, “there is a whole different choreography of fighting and war.”
The sea battle also allows the scale of the movie to change. The first 300 took place primarily on a narrow pass known as the “Hot Gates,” where the Spartans sought tactical advantage due to their significantly smaller numbers. But Empire “happens over time in many different locations,” says Murro. “The opportunities for the six distinct battles are even greater with different locations and tactics.”
The David-vs.-Goliath theme remains intact, however.
“The few against the many is still here,” says Murro. “It’s hundreds vs. hundreds of thousands. It’s about taking on the mightiest power of all with wisdom and tactics.”
In this case, the mightiest power is primarily led by Artemesia (Eva Green), the vengeful commander of the Persian navy, who is second in command to the mortal-turned-god leader Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). She has the added incentive of seeking to settle a blood score against the Greeks who killed her family when she was a child.
“She does most of Xerxes’ dirty work in this film. She’s seeking revenge, and she does it well,” says Stapleton. “She’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Amen, says Murro: “She’s got sex appeal, she’s ruthless and conniving. All the things that kill men. And she has a sword. I wouldn’t mess with her.”
Zack Snyder, who directed the 2006 film, co-wrote the screenplay for Rise of an Empire and incorporated thematic differences on everything from the hero-general to the people he leads. Themistokles is a more complicated leader than the original’s Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler).
“Themistokles is battle-scarred and a warrior, but at the same time he’s a politician,” says Murro. “He’s not the king. He has to rule in a democracy. It’s a different complexity of character.”
His fighting men drawn from humble citizenry are not the born-and-bred fighters that the Spartans are either.
“These people don’t want to fight, they even say that they are not Spartans,” says Murro. “They are common people who have to do this to not be in under the rule of a dictator. This is not a duplicate movie or a cookie-cutter. It’s a very different story to tell in keeping with the original flavor of 300.”