'300: Rise of an Empire': What the Critics Are Saying

9:46 AM PST 03/07/2014 by Kyle Jaeger

From graphic novel to epic saga, the series unveils its latest chapter in a sequel released this Friday.

Less a sequel than a companion film, director Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire hits theaters Friday, featuring Eva Green in a starring role. Sullivan Stapleton stars alongside Rodrigo Santoro and Lena Headey in their reprised roles.

The epic drama, based on a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, follows the bellicose campaigns between the Persian Army of commander Xerxes (Santoro) and fleets of world-weary Athenians, set within the context of ancient Greek nautical warfare.

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Read what the critics are saying about 300: Rise of an Empire:

The Hollywood Reporter’s chief film critic Todd McCarthy notes that “this follow-up slavishly adheres to the graphic comics-meet-video games look of the original,” distinguished by increasingly visceral scenes and Green’s “most vicious, and certainly sexiest, naval commander” character. Otherwise, “more is less and a little late in this long-aborning sequel to the 2007 bloodbath that was stylistically extreme and just different enough from anything else in its field to become an international action sensation.”

In a review that will appear in newspapers nationwide, The Associated Press' Jake Coyle writes that it's difficult to take anything seriously. "Manly honor is fetishized to a comical degree. Blood spills like soup," Coyle observes, later noting: "Did everyone forget their shirts? Is this a workout video? Or is this just the most absurdly ridiculous thing ever?"

Meanwhile, Richard Roeper, columnist at The Chicago Sun-Times, sees the film in a more positive (three and a half star) light. "Best of all, the actors and the filmmakers seem to know we’re supposed to be having fun with all this. For the characters, the stakes couldn’t be higher. For the audience, this is just hard-R popcorn fare."

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike LaSalle called the 300 sequel “nothing but a disappointment.” LaSalle argues that Murro, “overcompensates for his inexperience” in action films, adding that Rise “becomes a succession of battle scenes, filmed in tight medium shots, so that all you see is commotion.” The critic concedes, however, that “Green is fun to watch – she always is – but there’s a point at which the caricatures becomes the career, and that point is drawing closer.”

New York Daily NewsJoe Neumaier gave Rise only one of five stars, emphasizing the draining effect of narrative lull and Butler’s absence. “In the annals of crazy-bad movie sequels, there’s a special place for those whose stories take place concurrent with those in the original, better movies,” Neumaier writes. “You know, the stories that weren’t important enough to tell the first time out.” Unapologetic in his critique, he concludes that the film’s “only saving grace is Green, the reigning witch-queen of cinema.”

Overseas, U.K.'s Telegraph critic Robbie Collin described the sequel as “more enjoyable than the sensationally witless original.” Collin gave Rise three out of five stars, lauding its “signature visual flourish,” and, of course, Green who is responsible with giving Rise its “human touch” and “goosing the sequel into life.”

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