Casting Out Satan With Satan: A Review of ‘300: Rise of an Empire’

Casting Out Satan With Satan: A Review of '300: Rise of an Empire'from 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... Rise of an Empire tells a tale so purely mythical that in essence it bears no relation to the genre of historical drama. Instead, its cinematic myth sacrifices history in order to seek one overriding purpose: maximum pleasure for a crowd seeking bloody satisfaction. Its practice is similar to other movie narratives of today, which enact violent sacrifice of heroes and villains alike, making all the characters into “war pigs.” On the one hand, the success of this type of movie, whether in our own public theaters or elsewhere around the globe, points to a disturbing reversion. It is reversion to a crowd-driven indulgence of the appetite for violence widely common in pagan antiquity.