No, this time around you won’t see Gerard Butler’s six-pack abs (wasn’t that CGI anyway?), but this movie is a sequel to “300,” that tale of how three hundred brave Spartan warriors died defending their city-state from the Persians back in 480 BC.
Now we have “300: Rise of an Empire,” with Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton (“Animal Kingdom”) instead of Butler (spoiler alert: Butler’s character died in that first film).
Stapleton is cast as Themistocles of Athens, facing off against Xerxes I in the second Persian War. Lena Headley, Butler’s queen in the first movie, returns to help Themistocles.
And Rodrigo Santoro makes a comeback as the God-king Xerxes, again waging a bloody, head-lopping, comic-booky war against the Greeks. Eva Green is on hand as his ally, the Queen of Caria.
The first movie was based on a graphic novel titled “300” by comic book legend Frank Miller (known for his “The Dark Knight” reboot). This second one is based on Miller’s unpublished manuscript titled “Xerxes.”
Noam Murro takes over the directing chores from Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel”), who co-wrote the screenplay and produces this time around.
In this second part of the story much of the conflict takes place at sea, off the island of Euboea and in the waters just south of Athens. As a result of trickery on the part of Themistocles, the Persian navy sailed into the Straits of Salamis where the greater number of Persian ships couldn’t maneuver in the cramped waterway. The Greek fleet scored a decisive victory.
No spoiler alert is needed on that detail. Just read your history books. Or Frank Miller’s comic. “Xerxes” will be released in five parts later this year by Dark Horse Comics.