A lot has changed since the first 300 film came out.

Directed by Zack Snyder, with its highly stylised cinematography and uber gory violence, it came onto our screens with the testosterone pumped up to 11. So ridiculous, it was actually quite enjoyable to watch, unique and dare I say it, arguably original if a little flawed.

Now routinely mocked in awful spoof films and imitated in late night TV shows, the shock and awe of sword, sandals, blood and boobs is now somewhat subdued and that is the first problem with the follow up to 300.

As a result, the initial impressions of 300: Rise of an Empire are that this is a made for TV production. Save for the presence of Eva Green, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is Spartacus Blood and Sand.

Commercial director Noam Munro takes over the directing duties from Zack Snyder and his work here is very sympathetic to the template established in the original.

However, where the film is lacking slightly is with it’s leading character.

While Sullivan Stapleton puts in a worthy performance as Themistokles, when compared to King Leonidas the character just pales in comparison. Being a more level-headed individual, the random yelling, the suicidal bravado and behaviour which generally means kicking Persians down a well is perfectly acceptable, is sorely missed.

Fortunately, Green steps in here and chews up the scenery in a delightfully deluded performance as Artemisia. The beautiful but deadly commander of Persian fleet, Green has the perfect balance of beauty and coolness that makes the sociopathic character of Artemisia the highlight of the film.

300: Rise of an Empire also succeeds in further developing the universe, with events taking place before, during and after the battle in the original film, we get more of an idea of the scope of things – the political proceedings in Athens, some much needed backstory of the King Xerxes and the chance to get acquainted with the new characters.

The film also features a few familiar faces from the previous film with Lena Headey, David Wenham and Andrew Tiernon reprising their roles.

The action is swift, gritty and stylised, with blood and guts in equal abundance as the slow motion set pieces. The fact that most of it is set at sea also sets the film apart visually from it’s predecessor.

With boats clashing, the arrows piercing and various limbs getting lobbed off and flying around (in 3d I should add), it’s nice to see an action film that isn’t too afraid to hide the details through shaky handheld camera work and chase a 12A certificate.

Much like it’s predecessor, visually it stays true to its comic book roots and the film retains a certain style that acknowledges the absurd and pulp nature of it all.

While I enjoyed 300: Rise of an Empire, I felt the film was lacking a little something in places and it wasn’t until the proceedings took us to Sparta that I realised the little something was the Spartans. The film does well to explore the rest of Greece but until the action finally kicks in, it appears that the rest of Greece is a bit boring. It felt a bit like the Star Wars prequels, where you realise that the Jedi are in actual fact not all that interesting.

Sullivan Stapleton does well in an underwritten role, but whether the film will elevate him in the same way 300 did for Gerard Butler, remains to be seen.

Ultimately though, this is Green’s film as her steely performance lingers in mind long after the credits start rolling.

With it’s uneven script and an ending that feels a little too abrupt, 300: Rise of the Empire is a bit of a mixed bag. There is plenty to enjoy and plenty to lament, but ultimately this is one for the fans.

Verdict: [rating=3]

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.