Empire fights back
Loosely based on the writings of Herodotus and a Frank Miller comic strip, Zach Snyder's 2007 movie 300 scored an unlikely hit with its charnel house recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae.
Slick and bloody and grimly cartoonish, the film achieved a distinctive if not especially attractive aesthetic by using super-imposition chroma key effects. Seven long years later, this sequel expands its focus to present a wider view of the Greco-Persian wars.
While Leonidas is off at Thermopylae heroically leading his 300 Spartans to certain, glorious death, the Athenian warrior and politician Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) has realised that the only chance of withstanding the Persian invasion is by persuading the various Greek city states to unite.
Meanwhile the demented god-king Xerxes has dispatched a huge fleet with the intention of crushing Greece and its nascent democracy forever. Commanding the Persian fleet is a disillusioned Greek fury called Artemisia (Eva Green), and she and Themistocles will come face to face at the bloody Battle of Artemisium.
So much for the history, but like its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire devotes most of its energy to protracted, gory battles.
Warriors leap gazelle-like through the air and artfully gut each other with swords and scimitars, their blood and innards sailing in slow-motion towards the constantly moving camera.
Though well done in their way, these fight scenes quickly become repetitive, and 300: Rise of an Empire might have got bogged down hopelessly were it not for the fact that Artemisium was a sea battle.
Some of the seabound sequences are fantastic to look at, and add visual lustre to an otherwise fairly humdrum action film.
As does Eva Green, resplendent and Boudicca-like in suspiciously haute-couture-ish battle costumes: her wild-eyed and oversexed Artemisia is the closest thing this film has to an actual character, and offers light relief from the grim parade of pumped-up, grunting Greeks.
300: Rise of an Empire
(16, general release, 102 minutes)
Director: Noam Murro
Stars: Eva Green, Sullivan Stapleton, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro.
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