One film about the scantily-clad ancient Greek army just wasn’t enough. Seven years after 300 pranced onto the big screen, comes a sequel with just as much gore, just as much gusto, and even more six packs.
Running parallel to the original movie, 300: Rise of an Empire tells the story of Themistocles (Stapleton) an Athenian idealist defending freedom, despite the fact that Athens had the highest slave population in all of ancient Greece and wasn’t actually a very free place at all. The Persian God-King Xerxes, who appears to have been intercepting Cash My Gold, is hell-bent on world domination, and the only way Themistocles can stop him is by uniting all the states of Greece. But Queen Gorgo (Headey) insists that Sparta’s contribution of 300 men in speedos was enough, and Themistocles’ “why can’t we be friends?” approach isn’t cutting the mustard. While this thrilling political wrangling is going on, there’s also a bit of naval warfare.
300: Rise of an Empire has all the stylish violence of the first movie – and then some. The red capes are switched for blue, the jockstraps with skirts, but it’s hard to tell when everything feels like it’s been shot through a moody Instagram filter. About an hour of the running time is taken up with slow-motion shots, and blood spurts out from every orifice, to the extent that 3D viewers will spend most of their time dodging it. The green screen is king, and no-one seems to mind that they seem to have wandered into Mordor, or that the moon is enormous.
Although our new hero is pretty bland compared to the shouty charisma of Gerard Butler, the most fun character to watch is Artemisia (Green), the commander of the Persian fleet and overall femme fatale in charge. Everyone’s scared of her, even though she looks like Avril Lavigne and tramps around like a moody teenager searching for somewhere to put in her straighteners. We get a bit of backstory on Xerxes and how he got his codpiece of godly power, but he’s not really in the picture, probably because he’s too tall to fit in the frame.
Yes, 300: Rise of an Empire isn’t as good as the original, but ‘the battle of the manboobs: mark two’ does have its virtues. With a sea of perfectly waxed blokes fighting on CGI waves higher than the Gherkin, it’s a bloody, silly mess you can’t help but enjoy. At some points you just have to laugh, although that’s mainly to keep from weeping. If you liked 300 then you really have to see it; if you didn’t, you can probably go without. But come on, we all need a guilty pleasure sometimes.