It's never a good sign when you find yourself missing Gerard Butler.
Butler, barring a good showing in Coriolanus, has been peddling the same Liam-Neeson-after-a-lobotomy schtick for years now, in a succession of unremittingly lousy films.
But Butler did have exactly the right mix of brawn and bellicosity to make an hysterical load of old wallop like 300 work just fine, and this frankly unexpected sequel needs him sorely.
Actually, sequel isn't the right word.
It turns out that while the battle of Thermopylae was raging, there was a separate campaign playing out at sea.
Without a shirt between them, but fetchingly kitted out in their matching leather battle-panties, the Greek navy must pit their flotilla against the fearsome Persian warships.
This is the scrap that forms the backbone of 300: Rise of an Empire.
300 director Zack Snyder has handed over the reins to Israeli commercials whiz-kid Noam Murro, but has clearly written in Murro's contract 'Just do what I did'.
Despite seven years having passed, and the original having been mercilessly ripped-off and parodied, Murro must rely on the same bag of visual gimmickry.
The fast-slow-fast ramping is tiresome now, and the comic-book colour grade is old hat.
Add to that the needlessly talky and convoluted script, and the unavoidable absence of Butler, and you might think that this film would be a huge let-down, eh? And you would be wrong.
300: Rise of an Empire has got one truly excellent thing going for it, and that thing is the work of Eva Green.
Green, playing the warrioress Artemisia, grabs this film by its severed head, gives it a snog, and simply marches away with it.
Not since Angelina Jolie was channeling the entire cast of The Rocky Horror Show as Alexander the Great's mum have you seen one woman go so deliriously bat-dung mad in a faux historical epic.
Green spits, snarls, slices, dices, and shags her way through this film. She holds it together, and then she burns it to the waterline.
300: Rise of an Empire isn't a good film by any stretch, but - like its predecessor - it has moments in which it achieves a cock-eyed likeability.
- The Dominion Post