The most fun I had watching 300: Rise of an Empire was watching a friend try and figure out whether it was a sequel or prequel to 300. It was the story that ultimately let this movie down. If you want to know what it felt like watching this, read on.
I learned only today that Themistocles, the chief protagonist, was a real historical character (much like Saito of the Ishin Shishi who appears in several works of fiction). In the movie, however, he felt like a supporting character. I can’t quite decide whether Sullivan Stapleton was not up to the role, or if the material was just too bland for any actor to rescue. Either way, it took me at least halfway through the movie to realize, with a wry smile, that there wasn’t going to be any other major character involved. This was it.
Hope for something better was kindled whenever David Wenham (who played the one-eyed Spartan, Dilios) appeared, but this happened too few times, and the spaces in between felt almost like infinity. The same goes for Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo). In the end, it just felt like a sequel that was placed on the shoulders of lesser Greeks, at least in the field of battle. I might as well mention that the Persians looked less fearsome too, than in the original movie, as if commiserating with the audience on the absence of Spartans.
One can only hope that the upcoming Superman-Batman movie, to be directed by Zack Snyder (who wrote Rise of an Empire’s screenplay), will not follow a similar course. For now, as consolation, I’ll consider this as part of the price we pay for democracy.