The heroic tale of 300 has been moved to an epic scale. The camply intimidating Xerxes will be reappearing in a more dominant role, whilst the hero mantle is passed on to Eva Green in the form of Gorgo, queen of Sparta. The sword-laden story focuses on the second Persian invasion of Greece, pitting Xerxes’ massive army against an alliance of Greek city states and involving several hefty sea battles. The airbrushed eight packs and hand-to-hand slashing have been replaced with clattering armour and galleons rolling around on stormy green screen tides. We can expect the same graphic novel look that defined the first film, only this time on a much more ambitious level and potentially a far higher budget, which ought to keep fans of show-off action very happy indeed.
Having said all that, don’t think that the story itself won’t be interesting. Whilst Eva Green is taking over from suspiciously Scottish emperor Leonidas and his majestic pointed beard, this isn’t about the emergence of an ass-kicking queen. Rather, most of the characterisation will be levied on Xerxes himself, chronicling his rise to the position of God king of the Persian empire and explaining how he can afford quite so many gold chains. Portraying him seems to be the most fun part of the filmmaking process, with the graphic novel aesthetic allowing his flamboyant and excessive scenes of wealth and power to continue – we appear to see him rising out of a foundry of gold and standing atop a towering pedestal above his armies, striking a pose and bellowing the word war with gusto, drawing far more attention in the process than any of Green’s inevitable inspiring monologues. This is a backstory that viewers are going to want to see, more so than those of the new gritty Disney villains. The conquering and the plundering are all well and good – hence the legions and the jewellery – but why is he nine feet tall? Is he meant to look like the stretchy guy from Street Fighter? Perhaps most importantly, is he going to win? Whose empire is doing the rising here?
Perhaps this film is selling itself short by only wafting its predictable action scenes around, or perhaps it simply knows which audience to appeal to. Nonetheless, whilst still a pretty silly film, it’s not going to be quite as silly as it looks. Run along.