Main cast: Sullivan Stapleton (Themistocles), Eva Green (Artemisia), Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), Jack O’Connell (Calisto), Hans Matheson (Aeschylus), Callan Muley (Scyllias), and Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo)
Director: Noam Munro
Should you watch 300: Rise of an Empire? That depends. If you like CGI-enhanced male pectoral muscles and taut thighs on full display, then yes, dive right in, the water’s fine. If you prefer female nudity, well, Eva Green and some female extras try their best, but they can’t keep up with the amount of male flesh on display. This movie is like a fiesta of hairless roided-up beefcake outside of a Falcon movie.
Set at about the time King Leonidas invented the meme “This is SPARTA!”, this one focuses on Themistocles, a General of Athens. It turns out that he’s the Ken doll to blame for everything, as he used his magic mojo and shot King Darius with an arrow from a zillion miles away when the King led an army to attack Athens, and Darius died, causing his son Xerxes to vow revenge. Xerxes’s vengeance is fueled by Artemisia, Darius’s naval commander who has her own reason to see the destruction of all Greeks in the world.
Xerxes wanders through the desert, stumbles upon some dirty old men, and ended up having his skin turned all gold while he paraded around in tight baby shorts. I wish I am kidding. Fueled by their king’s new-found hotness, the Persians marshal for an all-out assault on Athens. Themistocles has to save everyone, of course – Leonidas is dead already by this time – but first, he has sex with Artemisia so that the movie meets its quota of female nudity (“See? No homo movie here!”). Then Queen Gorgo comes in a flowing dress and starts swinging her sword, somehow managing not to trip on her skirt while acting like She-Ra on a rampage. Is this the end?
The story is completely ridiculous, and it is so artificially stylized that the whole thing resembles a B-grade montage of video game cutscenes. Actually, the collective cut scenes of the recent game Ryse: Son of Rome tell a far better story than this entire flick. Worse, while Gerard Butler can bare his ass and strut around in loincloth while looking like the boss that has the entire cell block bent over in the shower, Sullivan Stapleton doesn’t exude the necessarily butch alpha top in a gay pornographic movie vibe to make his role work. Just take a look at his character’s sex scene with Artemisia – it is supposed to be a fight for dominance, but poor Themie looks like he’s being bitchslapped by the bitch of the block. Eva Green exudes the right amount of sexy evil vibes for her role, but her efforts are wasted as Themie is nowhere the foil for her character.
Still, there’s no harm renting this one for cheap laughs and good time with some eye candy, I suppose. If you want over the top manliness to go with your beefcake muffin, though, there’s always the previous movie.