Pecs flex, torsos ripple and bearded men growl, but it’s a woman scorned who spills the most blood in Noam Munro’s sequel (of sorts) to the 2007 swords and sandals epic.
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Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes, 300: Rise Of An Empire unfolds before, during and after the fierce Battle of Thermopylae chronicled in the first film.
Zack Snyder, who helmed the original and has since made Watchmen and Man Of Steel, defers the director’s throne to Noam Munro. He continues the heavily stylised, slow-motion slaughter and eye-popping production design.
Once again, colours are saturated and the contrast between light and dark intensified, although jettisons of blood have lost their rich scarlet hue in the sequel, presumably to guarantee a 15 certificate given the profusion of decapitations and dismemberments.
Carnage is unrelenting, as are the legions of swaggering beefcakes with impressive sweat-glistened six-packs, who allow their perfect gym-toned bodies to be impaled and maimed as they fight for the honour of Persia and Greece.
Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) is both protagonist and narrator, succinctly summing up events at Marathon where courageous Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) fires the arrow that slays Persian King Darius (Igal Naor) in front of his son, Prince Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).
300: Rise Of An Empire intercuts footage from the first film with the breathtaking action at sea. But Stapleton fails to fill Gerard Butler’s huge sandals as Themistokles. He has neither the imposing physical presence nor the deep growl of his predecessor so when Themistokles delivers a rousing call to arms - “Let it be shown that we chose to live on our feet rather than die on our knees!” - our blood isn’t even slightly stirred.
Green is more convincing as a vengeful harpie, who gleefully cuts off the head of an underperforming subordinate then steals a final kiss before tossing the dripping noggin at the camera.
Date her at your peril.