Casting Out Satan With Satan: A Review of 300: Rise of an Empire | Christopher S. Morrissey | CWR
This cinematic myth sacrifices history in order to seek one overriding purpose: maximum pleasure for a crowd seeking bloody satisfaction
The anti-war song “War Pigs” by the heavy metal band Black Sabbath plays over the closing credits to 300: Rise of an Empire. It is also featured in a trailer for the movie.
It is odd to hear this song’s denunciation of the demonic evils of war paired together with the film’s nauseating spectacle of cruel violence, which even includes graphic sexual violence. But the song’s prominent placement reveals a strange form of magical thinking. Apparently audiences want both to take pleasure in the most perverse displays of torture and murder, and yet at the same time to adopt a pose of moral superiority towards it all, as if their delight in the spectacle is not a real delight.
On its opening weekend, the movie earned an estimated 45 million dollars on 3,470 screens in the United States and Canada. Overseas, it earned an additional 87 million dollars in diverse locales: Russia ($9.2 million), France ($7.2 million), Korea ($6.5 million), Brazil ($5.8 million), Mexico ($5.5 million), and India ($3 million).
Even if the film’s opening numbers seem to predict that it will fail to match the box office success of 300, its predecessor from 2007 which earned over $456 million in 18 weeks, nonetheless the new film’s ambitions as a successor are even greater.
The violence is even more explicit this time around. And the outsized story acts both as a prequel (it begins with the battle of Marathon), a companion piece (it depicts the sea battle of Artemisium which happened at the same time as the land battle of Thermopylae depicted in 300), and also a sequel (it concludes with the battle of Salamis, in which the Greeks defeated the invading Persians).
But if its audience is interested in a 5th-century B.C. history lesson, they are coming to the wrong movie.