300: Rise of an Empire — Christian Movie Review!
The long awaited sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, portrays events that occur before, during, and after the battle depicted in the first film 300. I suppose you could say it’s both a prequel and a sequel (a presequel?). The most prevalent storyline, however, follows the Greek warrior Themistokles as he leads his armies against the invading Persian forces led by half-man, half-god Xerxes and the fearsome Artemisia, the psychotic, bloodthirsty female commander of the Persian navy.
The film is full of content that will not edify your mind and spirit in any way — assuming that is something you are concerned about when you go to the movies. Some of it is rather extreme, over-the-top, and disturbing in a “you can’t unsee that” kind of way. Here is a comprehensive list of what this film contains.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content: One scene depicts violent rape on a battlefield — nudity is seen here. The rape is happening to the family of a little girl, and she’s standing there screaming in tears. There is one violent, graphic sex scene that has nudity (from the waist-up). It’s been getting a fair amount of press because of its shock-factor of violence (though not violence in the sense of a rape). The scene takes place between the two archenemies of the film — Artemisia and Themistokles, who are physically attracted to each other, yet hate each other because, well, they’re sworn enemies trying to kill each other. In general, the female character Artemisia is completely bonkers. She is like the Biblical Jezebel on steroids with a little dose of completely-psychotic-on-every-
Violence/Gore: Lots of graphic, bloody violence that is stylized with the trademark 300 cinematography. We see in graphic detail soldiers beheaded, blood spurting from arteries, and just about every other death that is possible using ancient military weapons. There is plenty of drowning as well because the primary battle is naval. Audiences should bring a rain parka with them because of all the blood shed. It’s clearly CGI blood because they show close-ups of the fountains of blood, and they make the blood behave in very specific ways to create complicated slow-motion shots. It’s not a coincidence that the movie poster shows a blood red ocean wave about to crash down. They weren’t kidding.
Language: All obscenities, including f-words come in abundance in this film.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: A character takes some kind of drug — though it is not shown, just explained by the narrator — that makes him experience something akin to a pagan vision quest. It’s very dark and creepy.
Frightening/Intense Content: Eva Green, the actress who plays Artemisia, is scary enough to frighten even the Greek gods themselves (if they were real). The vision quest above is frightening because the man goes into cave where we are told he communed with the darkest of spirits and emptied himself so that they (the demons) could fill him and make him a god. The movie does not portray this as a good thing, however, because this is one of the primary villains that does this. But really the whole film is full of horrific images and graphically violent and disturbing shots, as if taken out of a nightmare — from extreme violence to graphic views of dead bodies in decay. And wow, they really make the Persians out to be demon-possessed psychos who have no ounce of humanity in them at all. So whenever there are Persians in a scene, bad stuff is going to happen — especially if Artemisia is lurking around. The moments of psychological refreshment come when we see the Greeks away from battle sharing noble thoughts and inspiring one another with selfless, heroic speeches before the next fight. It’s a return to sanity, and you’re thankful to be back among civilized humans again.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Setting aside the parental guidance issues for a moment, I will confess that the film’s plot and tension management quickly draws the audience in and keeps you compelled and on the edge of your seat through most of the movie. As far as the character depth and dialogue, it doesn’t do anything that award-winning films like Gladiator, Braveheart, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King didn’t do better — with the exception of some of the poetic narration and Eva Green’s mind-blowing performance that both scared the living daylights out of you and kept you riveted with the plot, wondering how on earth the Greeks could ever defeat someone like her.
If you read the press and the critics, there has been a great deal of buzz about Eva Green’s performance as Artimisia. She essentially stole the show. Yes, there are some seriously dark and twisted elements that her character brings to this movie, but in terms of acting skill, she is certainly impressive. As Simon Reynolds of Digital Spy wrote: “[Eva Green] chews the scenery so emphatically that there’d be teeth marks on the sets if they weren’t all digital.” Another reviewer described her as “a firestorm in a movie that simply doesn’t deserve her.” Some critics were hard on Sullivan Stapleton, the male lead who gave all the inspiring speeches to the Greeks, but he was likeable and had a blue-collar straight-forwardness that really did inspire and come across as genuine. He was a man of uncomplicated virtue and bravery with a brilliance for military tactics, and this came across well.
The film’s other unique quality, besides Green’s attention-grabbing performance, is the huge naval battle. I personally am a sucker for any kind of story that takes place on the open sea. I was first in line for Master and Commander and all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, simply because I love films that depict naval battles. 300: Rise of an Empire offers astonishing special effects and jaw-dropping CGI sequences and settings on the open sea — especially if you watch it in 3-D.
It is extremely bloody and spiritually dark, however. They depicted ancient Persia as a nation of psychotic occultists who behaved like deranged demonically influenced villains.
The Greeks provided an inspiring portrait of selflessness in wartime situations. And, in my opinion, it came across much more sincerely than I had expected. The Greeks, with their earnestness and selfless attitudes towards one another, won me over. It was a welcome contrast to the nauseating wickedness and darkness of the villains. The leader of the Greeks actually used the word “selfless” in one of his speeches. These warriors had a dedicated, unswerving commitment to defending their country, their family, and their fellow soldiers with their lives. As odd as it sounds, the Greeks in this movie reminded me of our American soldiers. I’ve met enough of our soldiers, whether older vets or young soldiers who recently went to the Middle East, to know that there are (and have been) some exceptionally brave and selfless men and women serving (and who have served) in the United States military. The Greeks in this movie had some classic American values in their attitudes. It’s not too ridiculous to consider because our American democracy was largely based on a re-discovery of classic Greek thought about democracy that occurred in George Washington’s generation. Ancient Greece and America are joined at the hip.
Despite some of the things mentioned in the “Redemptive Value” section, this is not a movie that will edify your mind and spirit — to say the least. It soaks the audience in blood, gore, and dark, disturbing sexual images; and it has some creepy scenes involving the occult and demonic possession — though the Persians in the movie call it “becoming a god.” I would not recommend this movie. It will stain your mind’s eye with nightmarish, evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil images that will do nothing to build up the spirit.
For fans of ancient war movies who don’t really care what fills their minds when they go to the movies, 300: Rise of an Empire will provide enough entertainment to satisfy them. Some of the press are saying that this movie will mostly appeal to “meat heads” — which is their stereotypical idea of a guy who lift weights twice a day and has enough testosterone to fuel a raging bull. Well, duh. It’s an epic war movie; of course it will appeal to the masculine. That doesn’t mean that everyone who likes this movie is a “meat head.” But, frankly, even that ripped uber-masculine guy will probably wake up in the middle of the night, terrified, in a cold sweat, rocking back and forth in a whimpering fetal position, because he’s having nightmares of Eva Green cutting him to pieces with a sword.
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