by Adam Chitwood
The wait for a sequel to director Zack Snyder’s 300 has been lengthy, but the follow-up 300: Rise of an Empire finally hits theaters next year. Director Noam Murro takes the helm this time around, as the pic takes place both before and during the events of 300, centering on the naval battles between Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia (Eva Green). During the film’s Hall H panel at Comic-Con today, Murro took the stage with Stapleton, Green, and Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes) to show off some footage from the pic that actually turned out to be quite promising, not to mention intense. The panelists also talked about the flashback elements of the film and revealing Xerxes’ backstory, Artemisia’s drive for vengeance, shooting the naval battles, differentiating the film from 300, and more.
Hit the jump for my full recap of the Comic-Con panel for 300: Rise of an Empire.
The panel began by showing some extended footage that really pleasantly surprised me. It opened with Xerxes standing over the dead bodies of the 300, as he chops Leonidas’ head off in slow motion. It then flashed back to Themistokles (Stapleton) killing King Darius, who turns out to be the father of a human Xerxes. Darius’ trusted warrior Artemisia (Green) then coerces the grieving Xerxes into seeking vengeance, as she sends him off to begin his transformation into a god. Back in present day, we see Artemisia leading her forces into naval battles against the Greeks, presumably at the same time that Xerxes is taking on the 300.
The naval battles looked great, and highly stylized. It’s a nice change of pace from the land battles of the first film. The action moved forward as an Ozzy Osbourne mash-up played, and the intensity on this thing is very high.
Murro said that the film mostly takes place at the same time as the events of 300.
Green said that it’s the toughest character she’s ever played. “She’s so ballsy and so brave, independent, fearless, ruthless.” Green described her as a ruthless Joan of Arc.
Artemisia was raised by the king of the Persian empire who made her the commander of the Persian navy. When Darius dies, he makes his son swear that he will have to end the war with the Greeks.
Artemesia is driven by vengeance because her family was killed by Greek warriors, so she throws herself head first into battle.
Stapleton described his character as a Greek navy general that tries to unite all of Greece.
The return of Xerxes:
Santoro doesn’t think that Xerxes is evil. “He had his reasons to do what he was doing. He was trying to do what his father was doing, conquer the world.” We’ll get to see in Rise of an Empire where his drive and motivation came from.
Murro’s relationship with Zack Snyder on the film:
Murro said that it’s a dream collaboration because Snyder helps when you need help, and he steps away when you need the freedom to do what you need to do.
The director revealed that they’re done shooting but the film is still “a work in progress,” referring to the lengthy post-production.
Differentiating Rise of an Empire from the first film:
Murro wanted to do something that has a relationship to 300 visually but advances it. “There is a DNA in the way it looks that makes you go, ‘Yes this is 300,’ but this is something completely different in the way it looks and feels.”
Murro said that there are very distinct naval battles in the movie, all of which have their own specific look and style.
Shooting the naval battles was a challenge because there was no water. They had to imagine it and solve it from a naval point of view.
As someone who isn’t crazy about 300, I wasn’t really impressed by anything I’d seen from Rise of an Empire thus far. The Comic-Con footage, though, was really impressive, and it looks like Murro has put something really fun together. The naval battles ensure that the pic doesn’t feel like a reshash of the first movie, and Green is genuinely frightening as Artemisia. I imagine the finished film will please fans of 300, but I’m happy to say that Rise of an Empire looks to offer something different as well.