Noam Murro's 300: Rise of an Empire is a sidequel, showing events that took place during roughly the same time as Zack Snyder's original hit 300, but you probably wouldn't be able to tell that based on the marketing so far. It's being peddled as a sequel with suggestions that it will be about the Greeks taking vengeance on the Persians for the death of Leonidas and his army, but since the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Artemisium were two fronts of a simultaneous effort to block the advance of the Persian army, this revenge motivation will likely only come in towards the end, if at all.
The shift of focus also raises questions about how large a part Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) is likely to play in 300: Rise of an Empire, since her story was already told, at least partially, in 300. Relegated to the task of attempting to coerce the Spartan council into sending reinforcements, Headey had a fairly limited amount of screen time in 300, and her appearance in 300: Rise of an Empire may be limited to barely more than a cameo.
Nonetheless, Headey opened up a little in an interview with Total Film about her enthusiasm for the more violent and physically taxing side of 300: Rise of an Empire, though it's difficult to tell the extent to which she was involved in the film's action sequences:
"The film, visually, follows on very much from the original. It’s something that’s so beloved for its physicality and visceral content. I had fun; I got to hold a sword... I love all that, I'm such a boy! They're like, 'Do you want to come to fight training? I'm like, 'Yes!'”
The first trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire did feature Queen Gorgo giving inspirational speeches to the troops and providing some voice-over, but it's likely that Headey's role is being somewhat played up in the marketing due to her Game of Thrones stardom and a desire to appeal to fans of historical fantasy. It's notable that she only mentions holding a sword, not properly wielding one, and that she frames the invitation to fight training as an option rather than a necessity.
Leading the charge against the Persians is Animal Kingdom star Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, whose dialogue so far has been limited to yelling "Aaaaah!" and jumping on people, but who will hopefully be fleshed out a little more in the movie.
Themistocles will be defending Greece against the Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his Carian ally Artemesia (Eva Green), whose prowess in the art of battle reportedly led Xerxes to proclaim, "My men have become women, and my women men." Stapleton has also said that Artemesia is "a force to be reckoned with," and that she will be doing a lot of Xerxes dirty work, so it looks like she and Xerxes will be sharing the antagonist throne this time around.
Are you hoping that Headey will have a substantial role in 300: Rise of an Empire, or are you more interested in the new characters being introduced?
300: Rise of an Empire opens in U.S. theaters on March 7th, 2014.
Source: Total Film