300: Rise of An Empire slashed its way to the top U.S. box office position this weekend bumping off last week’s winner Non-Stop with Liam Neeson. The movie is projected to earn $42-$45 million at the box office after netting $17.7 million at the box office on Friday.
Another high profile opening was Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which was expected to end the weekend with $31 million. Last week’s box office champ Non-Stop with Liam Neeson fell to third place.
While impressive, 300: Rise of an Empire did not do as well as the original in the series when it opened. 300 earned $28.1 million on its first day of release in 2006 and netted some $71 million on its first weekend. That movie went on to earn $210 million in the United States and $456 million worldwide.
Reviews were somewhat mixed for 300: Rise of an Empire. Entertainment Weekly said it upped the “wow” factor. The Los Angeles Times said it looks great but is a little weak in plot. With high profile action films, however, reviews have little impact at the box office. Fans of the original are flocking to the new installment.
Based on a graphic novel, 300: Rise of an Empire kept the same look and aesthetic as the original film 300. The movie has a semi-animated appearance with lots of slow motion, choreographed battle scenes. There are lots of operatic combat scenes amped by stunning visual effects, made more impressive with 3D and Imax.
Rather than a sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire is more of a companion film highlighting true historical events.
The original 300 starred Gerard Butler as King Leonidas of Sparta, Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo, and Rodrigo Santo as Xerxes. It centered on the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC when a group of Greek city-states united to fight an enormous invading force of Persians at the mountain pass of Thermopylae. A small force of Spartan warriors held off a Persian army of 100,000 for several days before they were overcome.
300: Rise of an Empire targets what was happening in Athens and other parts of Greece while King Leonidas of Sparta was battling Xerxes and his Persian army at Thermopylae. It spotlights the Greek general Themistocles who leads the fight against invading Persians in other sections of Greece. His nemesis is the vengeful commander of the Persian navy, Artemesia. Their encounters take place on the sea with huge naval battles as the Greeks eventually became victorious.
The movie stars Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, Eva Green as Artemesia, Lena Headley as Queen Gorgo and Rodrigo Santo as Xerxes. The movie was directed by Norm Murro. Headley and Santo reprise their roles from the original. Zack Snyder, who directed the original, co-wrote the screenplay for the newer film.
For history buffs, Themistocles was both a Greek politician and general. His claim to fame was that he urged Athens to have a strong navy and persuaded his fellow citizens to build a war fleet of 200 ships. It was those ships which proved crucial in Greece’s battles with Xerxes of Persia. Themistocles led the Greek navy at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis with the Greek victory in the Straits of Salamis a major turning point in the struggle with Persia. A year later the Greeks defeated the Persians at the decisive battle at Plataea, which effectively ended the Persian invasion of Greece.
Just as Greece was victorious then, Greece proves triumphant now at the box office as 300: Rise of an Empire spears its way to the top.
By Jim McCullaugh