ITV1: Saturday 13 June, 10.30pm
Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, leading 300 Spartan warriors against the invading Persian army at the heroic battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Butler’s only regret is that he has so few to sacrifice. Gee, these guys are hard. And buffed up like a wrestlers’ convention. As the Persian dead pile up, Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes (who fancies himself a god) sends in his personal bodyguard troop – the Immortals dress like ninja in creepy tin masks, their teeth filed to fangs. With none of the grandeur of Gladiator or Troy, nor any of the splendour of Hero or House of Flying Daggers, 300 is dark and glowering, ripped, it seems, straight from a comic book. (It’s based on a graphic novel by Sin City’s Frank Miller.) Like some infernally damned version of Conan the Barbarian, everything is black and brown, except for livid splashes of blood. It looks real, in a sepia-tinted, Final Fantasy kind of way, though much less real, oddly enough, than the motion-capture animation of Beowulf. Ultimately, it’s so relentlessly brutal and so overwhelmingly inelegant, it makes you nostalgic for the old Richard Egan picture The 300 Spartans. Which was at least shot in sunshine, not some virtual studio. The outcome of both pictures still rankles with the Iranians, apparently, because they lodged an official complaint with the UN. Kind of funny that they’d take issue with historical accuracy in a Hollywood fiction, since in the real world Iran still officially denies the Holocaust. In the unseen-in-Iran sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire (Sky Movies Action/Adventure, Thursday, 3pm and 11.15pm), Sullivan Stapleton is the Marathon man standing up to the Persian invaders – their navy led, somewhat improbably, by Eva Green in a scary selection of ornate breastplates. Even the water is digital in this gory ‘Greekquel’.