In the prequel to Spartan spectacular 300, Athenian general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) takes to the high seas to fend off a vast invading Persian fleet commanded by ruthless warrior queen Artemesia (Eva Green). His only hope is to unite the whole of Greece... but the fiercely independent Spartans, led by Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), are reluctant to join the fray. Director Noam Murro takes command of the 300 franchise from Zack Snyder for this gore-sloshed swashbuckler that boasts stunning CG carnage.
Sisters are gorily doing it for themselves in this blood-sloshing sequel with Eva Green and Lena Headey countering the homoerotic dance of death that was 2007's 300.
A decade before Gerard Butler's King "This Is Sparta" Leonidas perished in a hail of Persian arrows at the Hot Gates, the vengeful Persian Army suffers its own bloody nose at Marathon.
Greek general Themistokles (Gangster Squad's Stapleton) drives the invading hordes back into the sea...and crucially looses an arrow that lands lethally on King Darius.
It's a strike with terrible repurcussions - the death inflames vengeance in Darius's surrogate daughter, the violently orphaned Artemesia (Green), and his grief-stricken son Xerxes (Santoro), who - after wandering in the desert - re-emerges as a very angry mortal-turned-god.
Swapping 300's gorges of Thermopylae for the boiling waters of the Aegean, it's less sand'n'sandals than sea'n'sandals as Artemesia skippers a brooding fleet of warships as they bear down on the comparatively flimsy wooden triremes of the Greeks, led by Themistokles.
The action - using the super-imposition chroma key technique that proved so impressive in 300 - is pretty much up to snuff with the raging seas and clashing ships complemented by CGI gouts of blood resembling an explosion in a ketchup factory.
Green plays it straight, showing her unshakeable mettle by snogging the decapitated head of a hapless victim when she's not pumping iron with Themistokles in a bizarre knee-trembler below decks.
It's basically a series of impressively staged sea battles (the principal salty ruck is based on the real-life Battle of Artemisium) with the Greeks relying on guile rather than brawn to outwit the muscle-bound Persians.
And there's one of the best lines of the year so far when Lena Headey's Spartan Queen Gorgo taunts Themistokles with: "You've come a long way to stroke your c*ck, while you watch real men train."
Fans of the first outing will not feel they've been stabbed in the back.