300: Rise of an Empire (15/R, 102 mins)
Director: Noam Murro
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
The reams of backstory and exposition that make up much of this somewhat uncalled-for action sequel fill us in on how Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) made an enemy of Xerxes, who became the god-king that Gerard Butler and his Spartans fought in the original 300 seven years ago. None of this is particularly relevant to what’s being told here, a battle being waged by Xerxes’ second-in-command, Artemisia (Eva Green), and her massed Persian forces, with Themistocles wanting Sparta to join the fight. What follows is essentially the same sea battle played out over and over, doused in torrents of computer generated blood that passed muster back when this sort of thing was a novelty, but which is now just kinda boring. Grand-scale carnage and destruction it may be, but there’s very little to engage with thanks to woeful dialogue and scarcely more believable performances. A couple of stunning shots offer little respite, and it’s rather cheapened by the fact it’s all taking place at more or less the same time as the events of 300, meaning we’re watching this third division stuff while the Champions League is on. It seemed these words would never be written, but Gerard Butler is badly missed.