When King Leonidas I led 300 Spartans against 300,000 Persians in Zack Snyder's liberally embellished historical epic 300, their struggle was actually just a single drop in the ocean of the Greco-Persian Wars. As Leonidas and the 300 fought at Thermopylae, a slightly more even-handed battle was taking place off the shores of Athens.
This is the story being told in Noam Murro's upcoming sidequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, and a new featurette for the film outlines some of the historical background, as well as introducing the main players in this arc of the story, including returning characters Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).
Despite taking place at roughly the same time as the first movie, 300: Rise of an Empire will also have its share of flashbacks, one of which will reveal the origins of Xerxes' "birth" as the god-king. Apparently he was once a mortal man with hair, until one day Artemisia (Eva Green) encouraged him to take a bath, at which point he turned into a bald, golden, deified monarch. As with the first movie, 300: Rise of an Empire probably shouldn't be relied upon for historical accuracy.
Artemisia herself seems like a gratifyingly vicious new villain; the featurette opens with her talking about the horrors of war in the kind of tone usually reserved for erotica audiobooks. She also gets a flashback revealing that her entire family was slaughtered by Greek soldiers during her childhood, which could explain her vigor for slaying Greeks in battle.
Directly opposing Artemisia in the battles for Athens is Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), a general who would eventually prove to be instrumental in turning the tide of the Greco-Persian war during the Battle of Salamis, which will presumably be depicted in the latter half of the film.
300: Rise of an Empire certainly looks impressive and packed with action, but will the writing be able to keep pace with the visuals? Tell us in the comments whether you think this follow-up will become as well-remembered as Snyder's original film.
300: Rise of an Empire arrives in theaters on March 7, 2014.
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