Zack Snyder’s 300 – based on the comic book of the same name by Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns) – was one of the more surprising successes of 2006, particularly as a (relatively) hard R comic book action film. It was so successful, in fact, that a follow-up film was bound to come down the pike at some point.

Neither a prequel nor a sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire will take place more or less concurrently with the events of 300. Today, the first official images from the film have been released. Plus, director Noam Murro and star Sullivan Stapleton (Gangster Squad) talk about what we can expect from the film and how it’ll differ from its cinematic predecessor.

For those unaware, the film will center (at least in part) on the real life Battle of Artemisium, a naval engagement fought between Greek city-states and the invading Persian Empire in 480 BC. Though it hasn’t been confirmed yet, the film will likely also detail the Battles of Salamis and Marathon and some of the back-story of Xerxes, the Persian “God King” (Rodrigo Santoro) from 300.

First, check out the images below (courtesy of USA Today):


Obviously, the images aren’t particularly revealing or anything. The first one features Stapleton (as Greek General Themistocles) seemingly doing his best impersonation of Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas.

The second image, on the other hand, provides us but a glimpse of the naval warfare we can expect from Rise of an Empire. There doesn’t seem to be any serious warfare going on – unless you count a bunch of Greek soldiers waiting around on a boat as “serious warfare” – but it does give us an idea of how the ships and costumes will be designed. Plus, it pretty much confirms that the film will share a strong visual continuity with Zack Snyder’s adaptation.

But while the semi-sequel will be “tied visually to the original [film],” director Murro says there will be “a whole different choreography of fighting and war.” That’s because much of the action – even the melee combat – will take place on tiny boats, which will be in stark contrast to the mountainous terrain Leonidas used to his advantage in the Battle of Thermopylae.

Still, there will be plenty of similarities to the original 300 aside from aesthetic. For example, Rise of an Empire will also be a David vs. Goliath tale. Says Murro:

“The few against the many [theme] is still here. It’s hundreds vs. hundreds of thousands. It’s about taking on the mightiest power of all with wisdom and tactics.”

Star Sullivan Stapleton discussed the main antagonist of Rise of an Empire, Artemesia (played by Eva Green of Casino Royale fame), Xerxes’ second-in-command and the Persian naval commander. Says Stapleton:

“She does most of Xerxes’ dirty work in this film. She’s seeking revenge, and she does it well. She’s a force to be reckoned with.”

And according to 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.”

Lastly, Murro talked about the protagonist, Themistocles, and how he’ll differ from Leonidas and the Spartans:

“Themistocles is battle-scarred and a warrior, but at the same time he’s a politician. He’s not the king. He has to rule in a democracy. It’s a different complexity of character. These people don’t want to fight, they even say that they are not Spartans. 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.’ ”

It’ll be interesting to see how much audiences are clamoring to see a non-sequel to 300 not directed by Zack Snyder and not starring Gerard Butler. As successful as the first film was, is that really a recipe for success? Of course, Zack Snyder is still involved with the production – he co-wrote the screenplay and is producing – but it obviously won’t be the same.

Then again, that could very well be a good thing. If the film and the story go in a diametrically different direction from the original film, the filmmakers could come up with something wholly original and interesting.

Are you looking forward to 300: Rise of an Empire, Screen Ranters? Drop us a line in the comments.

300: Rise of an Empire hits theaters August 2nd, 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Source: USA Today