“300: Rise of an Empire” hits theaters on Friday, and critics are mixed on whether its bloody gore is a bore or leaves them wanting more.
But they seem to agree on one thing: Eva Green.
The actress stars as Persian navy commander Artemisia, who has a taste for Greek blood as a result of a rough childhood during which she was enslaved by Spartans, who killed her family.
“‘Rise of an Empire’ is all Eva Green’s show, and she clearly relishes the opportunity to not only match but exceed her male counterparts’ supposedly indefatigable toughness,” TheWrap‘s Todd Gilchrist wrote in his review. “Though Green sees more action in this film than Headey’s Queen Gorgo did in ‘300,’ the earlier heroine offered a promising template for female leadership, commanding respect while always remembering her place in this man’s world. But Green demolishes the era’s gender dynamics with a performance that plays like an act of revenge upon all of the b.s. love-interest roles she’s ever been offered.”
With 121 reviews tallied on Rotten Tomatoes, Green’s performance seems to be the only thing making director Noam Murro‘s sequel to Zack Snyder‘s 2006 action film somewhat fresh — although it’s 42 percent “rotten,” at the moment.
For Village Voice critic Stephanie Zacharek, it’s Green who saves the film from being a mere replica of its predecessor, since a ripped Greek hero once again rallies troops to battle invading forces sent by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).
“Though it isn’t exactly a sequel, ‘Rise of an Empire’ might have been essentially more of the same, but for one distinction that makes it 300 times better than its predecessor: Mere mortals of Athens, Sparta, and every city from Mumbai to Minneapolis, behold the magnificent Eva Green, and tremble,” Zacharek wrote. “Her over-the-topness — and, in one scene, her resplendent toplessness — really gets ‘Rise of an Empire’ cooking.”
Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty gave the Warner Bros.’ R-rated release a B grade. He credits Green for goosing “the repetitive carnage into something deliciously sinister,” and applauds Murro for topping the impressive visual style Snyder brought to the screen nearly a decade ago.
“Director Noam Murro uses 3-D to up the wow factor even further,” Nashawaty wrote. “There’s so much crimson gore flying off the screen you feel as if you should be wearing a tarp like the folks in the front row of a Gallagher show.”
Arizona Republic critic Bill Goodykoontz also thinks Green is “the best thing about the movie, by far,” but one strong character is not enough to save the big picture from sinking like Greek ships in a far-too-bloody sea.
“Hilariously over-the-top when it comes to gruesome, 3-D violence and woefully underserved when it comes to story, ‘300: Rise of an Empire,’ is pretty much what the original ‘300’ was: a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the juiced-up bodybuilding crowd,” Goodykoontz wrote. “Fans of gratuitous, slow-motion disembowelings will also find much to enjoy. The blood looks like it’s sloshing onto the camera! Everyone else, however, will go away grossed out or disappointed, probably both.”
Associated Press critic Jake Coyle had similar thoughts.
“This may be war by sea, but the ingredients of ‘300’ are largely unaltered. An outnumbered band of Greeks staves off a tyrannical Persian army below roiling skies of red and gray. Manly honor is fetishized to a comical degree. Blood spills like soup,” Coyle wrote. “These two films, very much intertwined, provoke a number of questions: Did everyone forget their shirts? Is this a workout video? Or is this just the most absurdly ridiculous thing ever?”