It was ancient Chinese general and military strategist, Sun Tzu, who believed back in 500 B.C. that; “All warfare is based on deception.” It’s this philosophy and other timeless gems found in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” that have made his battlefield tactics and techniques marveled by military planners and tacticians ever since. In “300: Rise of an Empire”, the true Battle of Artemisium takes place on the sea in 480 B.C., pitting the invading Persian navy led by Artemisia (played masterfully by Eva Green) against the overmatched, smaller Greek forces led by General Themistocles.
The movie navigates viewers through a series of brilliant chess moves by strategic thinker Themistocles that allows his minuscule navy to level the battlefield, increase their odds of success and take the fight to Persians. With the proper preparation and planning, those dire odds faced by Themistocles and his Greek city-states were overcome using a core Sun Tzu belief: “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”.
“300: Rise of an Empire” provides all the blood, guts and fly swatting sword action as it’s earlier offspring -the 2006 “300” movie starring Gerard Butler. Historically, this latest battle at sea runs simultaneously to the Butler’s last stand as King Leonidas of Sparta in the ‘300’ film. Relative newcomer to the big-screen, Sullivan Stapleton, adequately portrays Themistocles despite a limited script to work with and shallow character development. However, it’s former Bond girl Green (“Casino Royale”) who really shines through her thick, black eye mascara to lead this film and her naval forces. Green’s villainess is quick with the blade and even quicker with her alluring seduction of rival Themistocles. Green’s stellar performance as Artemisia dulled the film’s entire remaining cast, including HBO’s “Game of Thrones” meanie Lena Headey, who is back as Spartan Queen Gorgo.
This film is a chess game on strategy and tactical moves on the high seas. It’s not about how many pawns, knights or even the bishops one side has over the other. No, those are mere numbers and battle is never just about the numbers. Warfare always comes down to the employment of strategy and tactics. A part of that, as Sun Tzu has taught us, includes equipment, training, terrain...and deception. “300: Rise of an Empire” is about which side adjusts better to the circumstances presented on the battlefield. Stapleton’s General Themistocles deftly handles Artemisia’s naval opposition forces. However, Themistocles had significantly more trouble fending off Eva Green’s navel advances--and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” never mentions that.
(Editor’s Note: Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and a freelance writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)