300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE “Hey. We’re looking for the Magic Mike 2 auditions?”

LET'S DISPENSE with the pretense straight away: I've got only 300 words to spend on 300: Rise of an Empire, and as we can surely agree, the film is an impenetrable fortress of garbage that would render a nuanced critique futile, so I'm not going to bother. The truth is, 300: Rise of an Empire is not so much a movie as a two-hour trigger warning: a meticulous orgy of three-dimensional, dispassionate digital gore; a thinly veiled neo-fascist agenda; and a particularly weird and gratuitous hate-fucking sequence soundtracked by a thunderous orchestra of concert bass drums. Basically, there's just way too much going on in 3002 to waste any time fucking around with subjective valuation.

With a sequence of events strangely encircling those of the first 300, Rise of an Empire courageously commits itself to the Speed principle of sequel-making: (1) Replace your leading man (Gerard Butler, seen here only in muted footage, presumably left over from the previous film), and (2) throw the whole thing onto a boat. Otherwise it's more or less the same deal as its obscenely successful predecessor: casting still favors abs over acting ability, it's still a homoerotic nightmare of blood and glory, and it's still pretty racist (maybe slightly less racist?). Also, I have the sinking suspicion that the movie might actually be about 45 minutes long were you to run all of the excessive slow-mo in real time.

The thing is, though? When a stone-chiseled warrioress frenches the decapitated head of her freshly sword-slain enemy IN THE FIRST ACT, how can any of this possibly matter? This isn't even a movie. It's a feature-length 3D parlor trick—each sequence ruled by physics-defying carnage, perspective-forcing digital dust particles, and a ballet of overzealous lens flare to really drive home that "500 years Before Christ" period piece look. Again, none of this matters. Nothing matters.