300 Rise of an Empire

It’s hard to believe that Zack Snyder’s ‘300’ came out seven years ago. It was 2007 when King Leonidas and his Spartans met their “beautiful deaths” on the big screen, although for this moviegoer it felt like yesterday. Love or hate ‘300,’ it’s a movie that was unlike anything else around at the time, and it inspired a slew of imitators.

Due to the some of the lackluster derivatives of ‘300’ that have come out over the years, audiences could be forgiven for walking into ‘Rise of an Empire’ with a healthy dose of skepticism. Regardless, after having seen the film I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. A friend of mine put it nicely: bring on ‘300: End of an Empire’ with the Battle of Plataea.

Sullivan Stapleton plays Themistokles, the kind of politician-warrior the world has long forgotten. (Can you imagine Harry Reid at the Battle of Salamis? Western Civilization would be doomed!) Themistokles has seen battle — watched men die because of the decisions he has made — and so does not take the decision to go to war lightly. Like King Leonidas, however, he understands the danger of attempting to negotiate with the world’s “wolves.”

“Negotiate with tyranny? Give me one example of when that has ever profited a nation? My fellow countrymen, we can only judge the future from what we’ve suffered in the past. Now many of you here stood with me at Marathon. And for those of you who served with me and suffered the cut and thrust of battle, you know how true peace is forged. Xerxes, the son of Darius, is a wolf at our door. Right here, right now we must choose — do we stand and fight for Greece or not? … We must persevere as one nation or we will perish clinging on to our own self interests.” — Themistokles

Stapleton’s Themistokles could never live up to Leonidas, but director Noam Murro wisely doesn’t ask him to try. He’s very comfortable in his own skin. No one can match the awesomeness of the Spartans, but they could be the best Athenians they could be. It was actually satisfying to see men who weren’t born and bred to be soldiers charge into battle in defense of higher ideals.

The flip side of the coin is Eva Green’s Artemisia who, quite frankly, might be one of the best movie villains of all time. She’s got strength and intelligence mixed with pure evil and sexuality. Green delivered a hell of a performance; when she was on screen you couldn’t take your eyes off her — even when she was kissing a man she just decapitated.

Eva Green Artemisia

To understand how evil Artemisia was the audience just needs to have a sense of history. During ‘Rise of an Empire’ she meets with Themistokles and tells him that if he does not join her, then he will die simply because she has the numbers to overwhelm him. As it is with all dictators and despots, people are merely their pawns; the person with enough pieces to send to the slaughter “wins.”

Remember Ho Chi Min’s warning to the French? I do: “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.” Human life means little to Communists in real life, and it meant little to Ms. Green’s Artemisia.

During the same scene she also promises Themistokles freedom “without consequences or responsibilities.” The Spartans and the Athenians knew that it is the fusion of freedom and liberty that is worth dying for, and not some definition of freedom that would require no concern for the man next to you. Strangely enough, when people talk about “freedom” today in America they are most often (sadly) using the term as Artemisia defines it.

Those who think “freedom” from consequences and responsibilities are what our founding fathers envisioned for the country have been mislead by individuals who are just as manipulative as Artemisia.

Finally, it would be a case of gross negligence to discuss ‘Rise of an Empire’ without talking about the blood spilled and the battles fought. Long story short, if you enjoyed the original ‘300’ then you will enjoy ‘Rise of an Empire.’ The movie is beautiful to watch, and director Noam Murro did a worthy job of displaying Themistokles’ strategic and tactical prowess. The movie messes with historical accuracy a bit, but then again it’s not vying for a prime time slot on History.

In short, if you miss Leonidas and the gang, then checkout Themistokles and his men. They’re not Spartans, but they’re pretty darn entertaining.

Editor’s note for regular readers: The book I’m working on references the Battle of Salamis, which was depicted in ‘Rise of an Empire.’ My characters need to get out of some dicey situations, and one in particular uses the strategies and tactics employed during some of the world’s most famous battles to do so. I’ll continue to keep you posted regarding the book’s progress.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

16 comments

  1. Good review. Although one correction: it actually was released in 2007, not 2006. 🙂 Man, that seems like a long time ago! I only saw the original movie once and don’t really remember it well. I remember when it came out, although I didn’t see it until a year or two later. I was in my junior year of high school and I remember there was a group of kids in my grade who went and saw it at a local IMAX theater right after school. I wasn’t invited, but I had Quiz Bowl that weekend anyway.

    1. Good cartch, Carl. Fixed. 🙂 I saw it in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. with my wife and a buddy and there were some annoying frat guys who were sitting by us who I wanted to punch in the face.

    2. LOL. I heard some people complaining about it being historically inaccurate, but that personally doesn’t matter to me as long as the story is good. I enjoyed movies like Gladiator and Braveheart, after all.. And say that as a history buff.

      And there are always bound to be a few rude moviegoers at the theater that want to spoil everything. I’ve dealt with more than a few. When I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 2003 there were some kids who kept repeatedly kicking my seat. There were also some losers who kept shouting, “GET SOME!” at the top of their lungs whenever Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom had a romantic scene together. At the Dark Knight Rises in 2012, there was one douche who kept pointing at the screen with a laser pointer whenever something important happened and there was also a girl in front of me who was on her cell phone the whole time. That’s usually why I go see movies during the day.

    3. A couple years ago my friend and I went to a movie theater and some high school kids kept laughing, using their cell phone, texting each other, etc. They were sitting next to us, so I told them to stop it. They stopped for about 30 seconds. I then told the one main kid that if he didn’t stop I was going to shove his phone down his throat. The kid looked at me, stopped for a couple minutes and then started again. My friend hulked out grabbed at the kid’s phone. When the kid refused to let it go my buddy just crushed the kid’s hand and then walked out of the theater. Since my buddy is a personal trainer, let’s just say he has pretty good grip strength. 😉

      I’ll never forget the look on the kid’s face and the sound he made as he looked at his hand afterward. He just went “Arrrrrg!” as if my buddy broke it. I got up to leave a few minutes later and as I was complaining about the kid he came out and told the manager he wanted to file a police report. The manager was like, “Wait, so you watched the warnings before the movie, ignored them, and then you ignored multiple warnings by the audience to shut your phone off, and now you want to file a police report?” The kid said, “Let me call my dad.”

      Since I didn’t touch the kid I just walked away and met up with my friend in the parking lot. Good times…but another reason I like to go to early Sunday shows. There are less losers out Sunday morning.

      I figured the kid learned a good lesson: Don’t f**k with complete strangers. Don’t be a jerk in public, because if you do, then you might not like what happens next.

    4. Yeah, I hate self-entitled punks like that. Stuff like that is a reason I go to movies on weekday afternoons, when all the punks are at school or at work. I’m glad that the manager called out the kid on his immature behavior. Did he ever file charges against your friend? I hope the kid did some growing up after that.

      I remember I turned around several times and told the kids who were kicking my seat to “knock it the f***k off.” My dad, who also had his seat kicked, did as well. Not surprisingly, this angered the punks’ mother, who told us not to “lecture” her “little angels.”

    5. I try and avoid Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Tuesday are reduced tickets and Wednesday are buy one get one free. These offers bring in the worst people.

      I would also like to apologise to anyone I have been in the same cinema as. unfortunately if a film bores me I fall asleep and sometimes snore.

  2. I can’t imagine Harry Reid (or any of our so-called “leaders”) at the battle of Salamis. But, according to the MSM, Obama personally led the mission to rescue Captain Phillips, and the mission to whack bin Laden.

    1. LOL, Tom, I can’t imagine any of our so-called “leaders” at the Battle of Salamis, either. Harry Reid would just surrender to the Persians, I imagine, like the coward he is. And if Persians were killing Greek children and they were asking him to stop it, he’d probably respond by saying, “Why would we do that?” (something he actually said in response to funding child cancer research)

      The MSM views Obama as some kind of Greek god that can do no wrong and that he personally went to Osama bin Laden’s hideout and killed himself, even though it was SEAL Team 6 who actually did it.

  3. I tend to wait and watch movies at home. Nice couch cuddle with my wife and son…I can pause to get coffee…all a win in my book.

    1. I do not plan on it, I have been reduced to kid friendly movies for the time. Thank you for the warning!

  4. And when the tyrants are at the edge of Athenian or Spartan blades, they get eviscerated, which is what should be and what movie goers are entitled to. Such pleasure to see them fall and die….exactly the opposite of what happens to villains when facing that fake comic book hero, DE, and there is no denying the difference, now is there…

    1. I don’t think you’ll ever turn me against Batman, my friend. 😉 Batman killed — when he had to — in the past, but modern writers decided to ignore that. That’s not the character’s fault… I’m also not sure why Gotham’s criminal justice system is so horrendous, but that’s a whole other story.

      And when the tyrants are at the edge of Athenian or Spartan blades, they get eviscerated, which is what should be and what movie goers are entitled to. Such pleasure to see them fall and die

      As much as I enjoy the Spartans, and agree that there are few deaths more honorable than dying for the man next to you, I can not say that I would take pleasure in the act of killing, even if it was the “scum of the earth.” At least not the “me” of 2014… If I was ever put in Batman’s shoes, I would like to believe that I would do what had to be done — even if it meant taking a life — but I would not enjoy it.

      Hopefully, when my book comes out and I’m officially plugging the done deal on my blog I’ll be able to convince you to check it out. I have a feeling that you’d really like one character and really dislike the other.

      Speaking of my book, I better get writing…

    2. Well you’ve escalated beyond my meaning — I make no claims about how I’d feel if my own hand were on the blade.
      But when I’m sitting in a theater, there comes a moment when the vile scum of the earth stares at the hero’s blade, and in the next moment there is only one acceptable, moral, righteous, correct, and enjoyable outcome. 300 Rise of Empire of course understood this, and how would it feel at the end of such a story if monsters such as Artemisia were let go by those who could put an end to them?

      Your passion for your book is quite something, godspeed to you.

    3. I agree with you that the seeing characters who personify pure evil meet their end is gratifying, particularly when I think of its effect on the audience and the culture at large. I’d like to see more moral clarity from Hollywood, although I don’t see that happening anytime soon… Perhaps world events will one day change its perspective.

      You’re right, it would feel rather odd if Artemisia was just randomly let go. Although, Artemisia was given the option to live if she called off the attack. When she refused, she gave Themistokles no choice…

      If a hero is the only one who can put an end to evil and he chooses not to, then that is a moral failing. In the case of Batman, like I said… a.) the writers have changed him over the years to reflect their own politics, which is sad … and b.) Batman at least pseudo-operates under the understanding that, once convicted, Gotham’s criminal justice system will take care of the rest. I place more blame on the city officials who are handed criminals and then let them walk then I do Batman. It’s like one giant stupid revolving door where Batman catches the bad guy, they’re locked up for a few issues and then they’re at it again in no time. I’ll cut the writers a little slack because if Batman decided to kill the series would be over by the 5th issue.

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