First Look at <i>300: Rise of an Empire</i>

After years of not really knowing what the 300 sequel was going to be about, we now have not only some solid details, courtesy of director Noam Murro, but also the first look at Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles.

USA Today scored the 300: Rise of an Empire exclusive, and also helped to nail down some some information about the plot, which has been hard to come by.

The film was known as 300: The Battle of Artemisia for a while, and was originally thought to be based on Frank Miller's upcoming Dark Horse miniseries Xerxes (itself a follow-up to his 1998 comic 300). Now we know that the film, which was written by 300 director Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, takes place around the same time as the original, and sees Themistokles and his common-man soldiers facing off on the water against the Persian forces.

Murro said the film looks similar to the original, but it has "a whole different choreography of fighting and war," thanks to the naval setting.

Eva Green plays Artemesia, the leader of the Persian navy and second-in-command to Rodrigo Santoro, who reprises his role as Xerxes. "She does most of Xerxes' dirty work in this film," Stapleton said. "She's seeking revenge, and she does it well. She's a force to be reckoned with."

Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, the director has a very different hero this time around, compared to Gerard Butler's King Leonidas. "Themistokles is battle-scarred and a warrior, but at the same time he's a politician," Murro said. "He's not the king. He has to rule in a democracy. It's a different complexity of character."

The director also pointed out how different these soldiers are. "These people don't want to fight, they even say that they are not Spartans," Murro said. "They are common people who have to do this to not be in under the rule of a dictator. This is not a duplicate movie or a cookie-cutter. It's a very different story to tell in keeping with the original flavor of 300."

300: Rise of an Empire which also stars Joel Edgerton, Jamie Blackley and Jack O’Connell, premieres Aug. 2.

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