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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

300: Rise of an Empire

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Jack O'Connell and Sullivan Stapleton star in a scene from the movie "300 Rise of an Empire."
Blood and guts sloshing across the big screen in slow motion 3-D must be someone's idea of a cinematic treat; otherwise, we'd have been spared "300: Rise of an Empire" (Warner Bros).

The film, both a prequel and a sequel to 2007's "300," serves up a second helping of the choreographed violence and warrior beefcake that characterized its predecessor, with ancient Greeks and Persians once again battling for supremacy of the Aegean peninsula.

Zack Snyder, who directed the original, returns as producer and co-writer of the new screenplay, based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. Noam Murro ("Smart People") follows the same directing playbook as Snyder, short on dialogue but long on relentless and increasingly repellent action.

Don't even try to keep a count of the stabbings, beheadings, maimings and immolations on display. All are intended to demonstrate the triumph of good over evil, and reinforce such militaristic platitudes as, "There is no nobler cause than to fight beside the man who would lay down his life to save you."

When we last left Sparta, that city-state's valiant army, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), had fallen at the hands of the god-king Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) wicked Persians.

Now we learn the backstory of Xerxes and his turn to the dark side. Devastated by the murder of his father, King Darius (Igal Naor), by Athenian admiral Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), Xerxes is consumed by grief.

Enter Artemisia (Eva Green), sexy vixen with another tongue-twisting name. A Greek-turned-loyal-Persian, she commands Xerxes' navy.

She's also handy with the dark arts. Before you can say "Opa!" Xerxes emerges from Artemisia's magical bath as an invincible 10-foot-tall warrior with a penchant for gold and piercings.

The massacre of the 300 Spartans complete, Artemisia and her minions plan an invasion of Greece, this time by sea. Artemisia and her ships set sail for Athens, where they will engage Themistokles and his boats and avenge the death of Darius.

Hopelessly outnumbered, Themistokles tries to rally rival Greek states into presenting a united front against the foreign invader. Athens could really use the Spartan fleet, but Leonidas' grieving widow, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), has second thoughts.

The stage is set for a rousing showdown with freedom and democracy on the line. Themistokles proclaims to Artemisia, "We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees."

If all this sounds confusing and rather silly, it is, even if there is a bit of real history involved. Suffice it to say that tasteless carnage is the name of the game, with innumerable gross-out moments.

Just when you think you've seen it all, Artemisia decapitates a spy, picks up his severed head, and plants a wet kiss on his dead lips.

The film contains relentless gory and sometimes gruesome fighting, a graphic nonmarital sex scene, upper female and rear nudity, skimpy costumes and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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