When 300 surprised the box office with its ground-breaking style back in 2007 it was a cinematic triumph whether you particularly enjoyed it or not.
Now seven years on the techniques – that seamlessly blended live-action with Frank Miller-inspired slow-mo graphics – doesn’t seem quite so fresh, despite a remaining fanbase that clamoured for some sort of sequel.
And they have it with Strike Back actor Sullivan Stapleton filling the void left by Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas and his valiant – but ultimately massacred – band of 300 soldiers.
Unfortunately the gore-filled original was a far more satisfying entry than this linear and poorly scripted sequel that is simply by-the-numbers fare.
This still has the gore – and plenty of it – but the heart and passion that made the first film so remarkable is sorely lacking here, particularly with the loss of director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel), who is only in a production capacity.
That’s despite a very decent villainous effort from Casino Royale actress Eva Green, a noteworthy extension of 300-lore, and a generally satisfying ending that sets it up nicely for the inevitable third instalment.
Based on Miller’s graphic novel Xerzes, it sees the said mortal-turned-god (Rodrigo Santoro) – along with his viciously vengeful commander Artemisia (Green) – and his invading Persian army finally attempt to conquer Greece.
But not if Greek general Themistokles (Stapleton) has anything to say about it, as his heavily outnumbered army (sound familiar?) of farmers and tradesmen use every trick in the book to battle the advancing Persians across the Aegean Sea.
He also tries to enlist the help of Queen Gorgo and her Spartans, who are still awaiting the outcome of Leonidas’ brave battle from the original (which runs concurrently alongside this story) – leaving the main meat to Themistokles vs Artemisia.
Sadly though – even with a bizarre sex scene thrown in (?!) – this is fairly linear stuff with just boat battle, followed by slightly different boat battle, that at least hints at a possibly impressive final chapter.
Stapleton doesn’t have anywhere near the same screen presence of Gerard Butler, and dialogue and speeches are terribly clichéd – but it just about does enough to earn a watch if you enjoyed the first film.
Bar that though, the only reasons to see this sword-and-sandals opera would be simply down to the extension of the mythology – and Green’s movie-stealing performance.
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Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Andrew Tiernan
Running Time: 1hr 40mins
Director: Noam Murro [youtube id=”2zqy21Z29ps” width=”600″ height=”350″]