What can be said about 300 that hasn’t already? The film opened to largely positive reviews, all praising it with exclamations that the film was a visual delight and that it was groundbreaking as the first The Matrix. Of course I just pulled this from a single quote from the back of the DVD cover, but it follows the general consensus about what those who saw the film thought of it. On top of the positive reviews, the film moved on to gross seven times its original budget and that’s before the DVD sales are even taken into account.
300 is based off of the graphic novel by Frank Miller of the same name. The film follows King Leonidas and the 300 Spartan warriors who fought to the death against Xerxes and his Persian army. The film doesn’t hesitate to break from the action to show the camaraderie and brotherhood that exists between the Spartan warriors and the film also frequently falls back to the city of Sparta where Queen Gorgo attempts to convince the council to send more Spartan’s to Hell’s Gates to reinforce the army of 300 there currently.
After the success of Sin City it’s no wonder that more of Miller’s library is being adapted into films and 300, helmed by Dawn of the Dead director Zack Snyder. In the film, Snyder translates Miller’s comic book to film and brings the panels to life and quite a few times during the film you can tell where exact panels were used on-screen, often in the zoom out and in action that occurred during the battles. The film is a remarkable feat, both visually and in storytelling; the battles remain engrossing and is a real treat for the eyes. Having seen the film originally in a digital theater, the lower resolution of the DVD loses some of the luster and awe you felt when watching the film in theaters, but the battles are no less spectacular.
Despite how grand some of the dialogue can sound at times (“Then we will fight in the shade” line comes to mind), it’s key to realize that that may have very well been how the Spartans talked. As you’ll find out during the special features on the two-disc edition of 300, the film was largely historically accurate when it came to the ways of the Spartans and how their dialogue would have flowed. While the rock soundtrack may lend you to believe that the film is a more futuristic take on ancient Greece (a phrase that’s kind of confusing, but one I wouldn’t hesitate to apply to this film), you’ll be surprised by how much is based on actual history.
With the film shot entirely on blue screen, it’s easy to see how some may have been turned away by how the filmed looked in the trailers. To me, however, it’s just another way of telling a story and making it look as close to the original subject matter as one could without completely turning it into an animated feature. It’s a remarkable the amounts of work and detail that went into making the film and while it’s bizarre to watch the special features on the disc and see the large sets with some rocks and blue everywhere else, you have to commend the actors for being able to work in such an environment. True, the onset of CGI makes this type of work more common, but with most of these actors never having worked in a film of this size before, it’s easy to see how they could get lost in such a way of performing.
One aspect of the film I enjoyed more upon the second viewing was the plight of Queen Gorgo. The film could have easily left the city of Sparta out of the movie and focused solely on the battles, as that’s what you really paid to see, but Snyder didn’t balk at the thought of following up with what was going back on in Sparta. Gorgo’s part wasn’t nearly as large in the original 300 graphic novel and the expansion on her character her shows just how powerful and respected the women of Sparta were.
In the end, between the Frank Miller-esque blood splatters that fly around during the battles and the zooming in, out and slow-motion that goes in the film, the film is very much a comic book adaptation rather than a historical piece. Fueled by an amount of testosterone that could only come from 300 men playing leather loin cloth wearing warriors, 300 is a visual delight that has an enormous amount of replay value. Highly Recommended.
Just in time for the holiday season, Warner Home Video has unleashed an all-new three-disc edition of 300 on DVD under a Limited Collector’s Edition banner. The set itself is contained inside a very attractive cardboard box with embossed and foil reflective coating, featuring King Leonidas as the lone Spartan on the cover. On the reverse of the package (underneath the removable paper wrap, held on by the always awesome “snot” glue) is a shot of the Spartans shoving soldiers off of a cliff. Inside the set is the book, featuring images from the film as well as comparisons to the comic book, some pre-production sketches, and quotes from the film. Inside this book are the three discs, two on the front flap and the new third disc on the rear flap. There’s also a big sticker with the films credits slappe don the back of the book as well as the box packaging. I’m guessing the change is the Tyler Bates composer notation (“Derived in Part from Preexisting Compositions Not Authored by Tyler Bates”, which isn’t on my two-disc edition).
Next in this set is a little tie-size box that house the six photocards, a few inserts detailing the redemption directions for the digital copy of the film, a booklet advertising the Blu-ray format (of which there is also a trailer for on the third disc…way to make you regret buying this three-disc edition, eh?) and the “Lucite Display with Motion Film Image”, which may very well be the most disappointing hunk of plastic I’ve ever held. I’m not sure why studios have a sudden obsession with stuffing these 3D images on slipcovers and inside special editions. These kind of things were cool when I was ten. The disc art for this release is actually different from the previous two-disc edition (done to erase the disc number denotations, likely) and feature Leonidas on disc 1, a warrior on disc 2 and a young Leonidas on disc 3. Menus and disc contents remain the same, as does the video and audio quality, all of which we’ll delve into further.
Video and audio quality on this release is excellent. While there is a heavy amount of grain in the film, I noticed this in the original theatrical version and is clearly something added on purpose to give the film a more gritty feel. The excessive reds are not compressed and overall the film arrives on DVD with a suitable transfer, although I’m sure the HD-DVD and Blu Ray versions are simply spectacular to view. The audio arrives in three mixes of 5.1 (English, French and Spanish) and sound terrific. There’s proper use of the rear channels as well as a huge amount of bass to accompany the war scenes. It’s another superb mix from Warner Home Video, who exceedingly surprises me in how awesome the audio mixes are on their DVDs (Superman Returns was first to astound me and 300 continues the tradition).
The first special feature on the disc is the commentary by Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and cinematographer Larry Fong, which breaks the recent lack of commentaries on WHV’s releases (the lack of one on Batman Begins and Superman Returns still irks me). Snyder is lively on this track and it was an entertaining listen through and through (aside from some of the dead air), even though a few things were repeated from the special features (which is to be expected).
On disc two we have a healthy amount of extras, coming in at a little over an hour of new material plus the webisodes that were shown online during the film’s production. First up is a “Fact or Fiction” featurette which goes into detail about the fiction and non-fiction elements of the film. Miller is all throughout this featurette and is first to point out the elements that he embellished or made up, while historians back up the historical elements that the film got right (which is quite a lot). Obviously some things in the film are embellished (Ephialtes obviously isn’t that deformed, nor where there Rhino’s during the battle), but for the most part it’s historically accurate. Whether you wanted a history lesson while watching blood and gore, you got one anyway, which I think just adds more depth to the film.
Moving on we have a Frank Miller featurette which is a bit of a history on Miller himself, but mostly focuses on his creation of 300. Loaded with interviews from DC talent and executives, this featurette near fifteen minutes in length and features plenty of shots of the 300 film and graphic novel. This is a great special feature and while the majority of it is Miller back-patting, I’ve no doubt the man deserves it. After being turned off by the ways of Hollywood for so long, it’s great to see Miller really embracing these adaptations of his works.
After the Miller featurette we have the “Who Were the Spartans?” which covers the actor’s performances as the individual Spartans. This one is fairly short and seems to be mostly footage shot during the production of the film with a few words from the actors added later on. Short, but sweet and to the point and worth watching, as it gives us one of the few glimpses at the actors in the movie. Up next are the webisodes from online that we’re all familiar with by now. Deleted scenes are up next, although don’t get too excited about them. There are only three, they’re short, and two feature Ephialtes. The Ephialtes scenes were rightfully cut as they did nothing but drag the scenes on out and the other deleted scene shows another creature during one of the battles which was cut for time. As I said, they’re short and not much here, although Snyder does provide an introduction to all three and explains the story behind each one.
And now the bonus third disc, the whole reason for upgrading to this set. The only extra on this disc, aside from the digital copy, is “To the Hot Gates: A Legend Retold” (30:06). This extra is essentially a brief overview of the production of the film, with a ton of blue screen footage tossed in. As you can probably guess, it’s really not worth upgrading for and unless you were saddled with the single disc edition, picking this one up will seem kind of useless for a little extra content.
Having said that if you’re a huge fan of the film then this is worth picking up as you’re getting more than just a thirty minute extra. You’re getting a nice book and some nice goodies but more importantly it’s a handsomely done box set that will stand out on your shelf. Declare your love of this movie by clearing out space for this monster set that will take up the width of two DVD’s side by side, but be forewarned that rumors of a Blu-ray edition of this set may be making its way into stores sometime next year.
Overall the three-disc edition of 300 is a definite pick up if you don’t already own the film. If you do you may just want to hold off and do an “ultimate” upgrade next year when the rumored Blu-ray edition streets. For those who haven’t adopted the new format, however, or know someone who is a huge fan of the film, you can’t go wrong with this set—it’s under $40 on Amazon as of this writing and is certainly an eye catcher. Recommended.
300- Limited Collector’s Edition arrives on DVD on November 18th.