300: Rise of an Empire _ Sullivan Stapleton

Another bunch of impossibly buff Greek warriors fend off the invading Persian hordes in this sequel of sorts to Zack Snyder’s epic 2006 adaptation of Frank Miller’s cult comic book 300.

Snyder’s given up the directing reins to Noam Murro this time, but 300: Rise of an Empire still boasts the earlier film’s blend of ridiculously pumped-up live-action and eye-popping virtual backgrounds.

Yet second time around the formula lacks the wow factor. Perhaps it’s because Murro lacks Snyder’s extravagant visual panache. Perhaps it’s because Gerard Butler isn’t around to provide his beefy roar. Or perhaps it’s simply diminishing returns in the effectiveness of slow-mo carnage and in-your-face blood spatter.

300: Rise of an Empire _ Eva Green as Artemisia

Still, credit where it’s due. The film isn’t simply a dim copy of the original. The action has moved from the land, where Butler’s Spartan king Leonidas and his 300 men took on the entire Persian army at the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae, to the sea, where Sullivan Stapleton’s Athenian general Themistocles seeks to hold off the mighty Persian fleet.

And it’s on board the Persian flagship that Rise of an Empire comes into its own thanks to Eva Green. Playing the Persian navy’s Greek-born, kinkily leather-clad commander Artemisia, she brings a deliciously sly camp knowingness and sublime smoky-eyed sensuality to the role that saves this absurdly overladen vessel from sinking.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 102 mins. Director Noam Murro.