Throughout the earliest stages of 300: Rise of an Empire's development, rumor-mongering pegged Xerxes, the megalomaniac antagonist of 2007's 300, as the sequel's presumed heavy; for nearly as long as that, early reports had Casino Royale leading lady Eva Green joining production to play returning actor Rodrigo Santoro's co-villain. Fast forward to today and both are, indeed, fully a part of the film, respectively portraying the tag-team nefarious duo of the once and future God King and his general, the beautiful, vengeful, utterly lethal Artemisia.
Now, a new featurette has popped up online that gives both characters their full due, though not necessarily in equal measure. The clip, despite its name, revolves far, far more around Artemisia than Xerxes, though perhaps there's sense in that; audiences know Xerxes well enough by now thanks to the events of 300, though with the passage of seven years there may be a need to reacquaint viewers with the leader of the Persian empire and his visions of world domination.
Yet interestingly, here, he's totally upstaged and out-muscled by his second in command. Artemisia, without a doubt, is exactly the kind of person you'd hate to meet in a dark alley, particularly if you're Greek; her story is all about her seeking vengeance against the kingdom that Gerard Butler's King Leonidas so bravely fought and died for in Zack Snyder's original movie. A featurette from a few weeks back already touched on the basics of her backstory, but this goes into even more detail and quite clearly demonstrates that Artemisia isn't one to be trifled with.
Turns out she's been training for war since childhood, following the mass-slaughter of her family at the hands of presumably unlawful Greeks. We get to see a good bit of that disciplinary upbringing here, and we get to see some of it put into practice as the adult Artemisia crosses swords with Athenian hero Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and a handful of nameless red shirts who wind up on the receiving end of her blades. She's like a screen cousin to Centurion's Etain, though Artemisia does have slightly more historical basis on her side.
All of that leaves Xerxes as a lesser presence in his own campaign for conquest; the featurette does re-affirm his rise to prominence following a fateful dip in the drink, brought on by Artemisia's urging, before he has his Angelina Jolie/Beowulf moment and declares war on Greece. Comparatively, the material devoted to him feels like a flash in the pan, though the hint of tension between Xerxes' macro goals and Artemisia's personal mission might add an interesting element to their dynamic.
None of this is to say that he won't have an impact in 300: Rise of an Empire, mind, but we'll find out for sure once the film hits theaters in March. Suffice to say that if nothing else, the flick has at least one really great villain to call its own.
300: Rise of an Empire arrives in US theaters on March 7th, 2014.