The women shine in sea of half-naked men

Action fantasy/103 minutes/In cinemas now

Rating: 4/5


Narrated by Spartan queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), this follow-up to 300 tells of the naval Battle of Artemisium that takes place concurrently with the Battle of Thermopylae portrayed in 300.

Goaded by villainous commander Artemisia (Eva Green), King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro) wages war on Greece after Athenian general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) killed his father.

Told from both Greek and Persian perspectives, the film fills in the motivations and back story of Xerxes, and also depicts what happened after the events in predecessor 300.

The widely anticipated 300: Rise Of An Empire takes the battle to the high seas this time.

Directed by Noam Murro, and produced and co-written by Zack Snyder, it depicts another Greek-Persian battle that took place around the same time as the battle depicted in its predecessor, but from a different perspective.

The "sidequel" to Snyder's 2006 period epic 300, based on Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's 1998 comic book series, stars Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro.

The usual suspects of films this genre remain - larger-than-life characters, epic battle scenes, lots of blood and gore, as well as buff bodies. And an intense sex scene on a battleship.

One of the wow factors for this flick is undoubtedly Green, 33.

The former Bond girl plays the vicious and vengeful Artemisia, who commands the Persian army in a naval assault against the Greeks.

She is captivating and convincing as a brutal commander, and was dressed to kill - literally, with one costume bearing spikes on its back.

It is refreshing to see women wielding swords, fighting in a sea of half-naked male soldiers, instead of being damsels in distress.

Another woman-warrior is Headey, 40, who reprises her role as Spartan queen Gorgo, wife of King Leonidas, portrayed by Gerard Butler in the first film.

The actress, best known for playing Cersei on popular television series Game Of Thrones, serves as the film's narrator and has significantly less screen time compared to Green, but, nonetheless, cuts a powerful figure when she does appear.

Compared to the mesmerising leading ladies, the men are lacklustre.

Stapleton's character, Themistocles of Athens, who leads the military defending Greece, is less appealing than the ferocious, heroic King Leonidas.

Stapleton, 36, is not bad at all, but he has big sandals to fill, and, sadly for him, the charismatic Butler is sorely missed.

Santoro, 38, reprises the role of King Xerxes, the maniacal tyrant who waged war on Greece. He is hardly memorable though, clearly outshone by anti-heroine Green.

Characters aside, I was kept on the edge of my seat as battle after battle unfolded in this fast-paced, adrenalin-packed film.

Unfortunately, 300: Rise Of An Empire does not surpass the grandeur of 300 - though it comes very close, especially with Green holding the fort.

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