It’s been eight years since 300 blasted its way into theaters: making a star out of Gerard Butler, launching director Zack Snyder into the big leagues, and igniting a national controversy over its supposed political undertones. Next month, Warner Bros will unleash the prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. This past Monday night they presented a special screening of the first film at select theaters across the country, followed by the first thirteen minutes of the new film. Mania was there and presents a quick look at the footage.
It clearly takes its visual cue from the first film, using extreme CG to recreate the stylized world of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. The action periodically shifts to slow motion and the sheer intensity of the grandeur could just about drown you. It also adopts the same narrative technique as its predecessor, as an oral narrator tells the tale around a fire on the eve of battle. In this case, the narrator is Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo and the battle is the Battle of Salamis, in which the Greeks repelled a seaborne Persian invasion force enabled in part by King Leonidas’s sacrifice at the Battle of Thermopylae (i.e., the first film). Gorgo recounts how the rivalry between the Greeks and the Persians began, starting with Persia’s King Xerxes seeing his father killed by Greeks before his eyes. As he grows older, he’s egged on by the Bronze Age femme fatale Artemisia (Eva Green), who convinces him to adopt the persona of a god.
The footage delivers the same look and feel from the original 300, though whether it can evoke the same spirit has yet to be seen. Warners was quite proud of the visuals, however, which looked fantastic on the big screen. Rise of an Empire also embraces the pulpy potential of 3D, with all kinds of weapons, missiles and body parts coming right at us. It drips of grindhouse exploitation, which should please hardcore fans at least, and its cheerful embrace of a hard-R rating indicates that they don’t want to pussy foot around in hopes of scoring the junior high crowd.
We’ll all get a chance to see the first thirteen minutes again, along with the rest of Rise of an Empire when it opens on March 7.