Well, you do have to give the makers of 300: Rise of an Empire credit for one thing: At least they were “creative” enough to give it that title instead of the more instantly recognizable but nonsensical 301 or the perhaps-more-honest 300 Goes to Sea.

However, that’s about as far as the creativity goes with this bloody but pulseless and heartless sequel to the 2006 hit – an action-fantasy that’s far more fun to parody and poke fun at than it is to go back and watch. This time the filmmakers are rehashing the same themes (honor, loyalty, steadfastness) in a far less-successful manner.

They’ve also gone to ridiculous lengths to duplicate the style of the first movie – which, itself, was an attempt to convert the undeservingly popular Frank Miller graphic novel into a more “photorealistic” manner. (Robert Rodriguez, though, already did that in his adaptation of Miller’s Sin City, a far-better 2005 movie that’s also getting a sequel years later.)

And say what you will about Scotsman Gerard Butler, the dubiously “talented” (yet fabulously abdominaled) actor who led the original film’s heroic forces, seen briefly in this film’s flashback sequences. His heroic Leonidas and practically all of the more-interesting characters were killed off in the first film, which leaves us with their blander counterparts.

That includes Sullivan Stapleton, who stars as Themistocles, the admiral of Grecian city-state Athens’ fleet. Fellow city-state Sparta had most of its army wiped out trying to repel the invasion by the Persian army, led by giant-sized tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), in the first movie. However, would-be god Xerxes is continuing his efforts to conquer the Greek city-states, and Athens is next on his list of to-conquers. The best way to accomplish that is by using the Persian navy, led by the equally fanatical  Artemisia (Eva Green).

It appears Themistocles and his fleet are the last line of defense against the Persian invaders, though some help from the other city-states certainly couldn’t hurt their already dwindling chances. That’s where widowed Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, returning from 300) may be the only person who can convince the rest of Greece to put aside their differences and muster an actual defense.

While the first 300 was made by Man of Steel’s Zack Snyder, Rise of an Empire comes from Israeli filmmaker Noam Murro, whose enjoyable, low-key 2008 debut, Smart People, was about as different from this movie as you can get.

And again, he’s gone overboard in his attempts to duplicate not only the look and feel of the source material, but also Snyder’s customary slow-down-then-speed-up action shots. This just feels like passionless mimicry, lacking in any real creativity (there’s that word again) and originality. While fans of the original might get a few thrillers out of the water-logged bloodshed, it’s strictly been-there, done-that for the rest of us.

Not that the script (co-penned by Snyder, who also produced) is anything to write home about. After all, it features such laughably earnest lines as “Steel and flesh. Life and death. War.” (from Green’s Artemisia) and “It begins as a whisper, a promise. The lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom, a wind of justice, a wind of vengeance.”

Even Headey, who’s gone on to better work in HBO’s Games of Thrones, appears on the verge of giggles (she’s responsible for delivering that latter speech), while Aussie actor Stapleton (Animal Kingdom, Gangster Squad) fails to generate the commanding presence that his role requires.

In fact, the one real asset the film has – aside from more muscled abs — is Green, who, after her experiences in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, appears to have thrown any and all sense of self-restraint out the window. As Artemisia, she chews scenery with such gusto you practically expect her to gain weight visibly or start choking on her lines.

Jeff Michael Vice can also be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), and can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff).