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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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