At the Movies - 300: Rise of an Empire - review

Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles of Athens.
Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles of Athens.

If an afterlife exists, Spartan King Leonidas and his band of 300 warriors must be spinning in their graves.

Leonidas and his men fought to the death against God King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) in Zack Snyder’s 2006 film ‘300’.

The Spartans and their leader were fearless, bold and heroic. It’s a pity the same can’t be said for ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ leading man Themistokles and his gathering of Greeks.

‘Rise of an Empire’ opens with Leonidas’ widow, Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady) explaining to the surviving Spartans how Xerxes became obsessed with visiting revenge upon Greece after his father was fatally wounded by Themistokles 10 years previous.

Xerxes returned to Persia with his dying father and was then poisoned by the words of Greek outcast, Artemisia (Eva Green), who convinces him he can become a God and seek out his vengeance.

Once Prince Xerxes is transformed into the God King, he unleashes the full force of his army on Greece.

While Xerxes is busy fighting Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, he dispatches Artemisia who controls his naval fleet, across the Aegean where they face the fearless and legendary Themistokles.

Let’s face it. The trailers for ‘Rise of an Empire’ looked pretty darn good. It was essentially a chance to revisit all of the components which made ‘300’ memorable, only this time on water.

In one of the trailers, Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ blasts out like a battle cry as muscle men aplenty stand on ships and face down what is almost a certain death against the might of the Persians. What’s not to like about that? Quite a lot, in fact.

Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas was Sparta. His character was big, brash and even fun. Even though the film is eight years old, men in their 20s and 30s can still be heard uttering the unforgettable line ‘this is Sparta’ once they’ve had a few beers too many at weekends.

If Leonidas was remarkable then Themistokles is forgettable, boring and dare I say it, a little annoying.

Australian, Sullivan Stapleton, is without question a talented actor.

Stapleton was fantastic in David Michôd’s 2010 film ‘Animal Kingdom’ but he doesn’t have the gravitas or the intensity required to make Themistokles a formidable successor to Leonidas.

Stapleton struggles desperately with an accent which is something in between Australian and South African and by the end of the film he ends up feeling too much like a poor man’s Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’.

If Stapleton is annoying then Eva Green made me want to pull my hair out and then set myself on fire.

Green is, for the best part of the film, the story’s villain. Instead of looking terrifying and sinister she ends up appearing more like an office employee who has had one too bevies at the Christmas party.

Green’s voice sounds like a creaking attic door in need of a generous helping of WD40 and there’s a sex scene involving her character and Themistokles which is so over the top it’s not worth talking about.

The film’s CGI looks threadbare towards the end and it boasts one of the worst scripts ever to be heard this side of the Aegean.

‘300: Rise of an Empire’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl. For full cinema listings visit

VERDICT: 2/5 - This is not Sparta!
Eva Green’s Artemisia is as threatening as a baby with a banana, Sullivan Stapleton’s Thermistokles is so devoid of leadership qualities that he makes Viktor Yanukovych seem credible and the film is full of so many slow motion sequences that come the end, you’ll not know your Athenians from your Persians.
Disappointing doesn’t do ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ justice. A sequel will follow.

God help us all!