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.
Despite just releasing a deluxe three-disc DVD collection back in November of last year, Warner Home Video never seems content to leave their cash cow films alone and as such we’re treated to yet another 300 release. Don’t scoff too much however, as we knew this edition was coming for awhile and to be fair this is only the second Blu-ray release of the film. Timed to release alongside Snyder’s other big comic book epic, Watchmen, 300 – The Complete Experience packs on another couple hours of bonus features onto the already lengthy extras that the film boasted from its original two-disc release.
The packaging itself is the digi-book style that Warner has become so infatuated with. It’s released some of its biggest films this way and 300 continues the tradition with a foil reflective and embossed front cover of King Leonidas on the front. Inside is a description of each of the three “new ways” to watch the film with this release, as well as descriptions of some of the cast and crew of the film. The disc itself sits in a single clear tray set against a background of skulls. “Snot glued” to the back of the set is a cardboard sleeve housing the digital copy disc for the release and the paper backing that details the disc content and tech specs. Included inside as well are the usual firmware and BD-Live notices, as well as Warner Rewards and Digital Copy codes and an advertisement for the upcoming Lord of the Rings Blu-ray release in November.
Video for this release carries the same VC-1 encoded transfer that the original Blu-ray had…from what I can tell, at least. It’s been awhile since I’ve drooled over the visuals for the film in high-definition, but nothing looks new or clearer compared to last time—it’s still crisp, with deep reds and copious amounts of grain that help make the look of the film. Audio is again the same with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track taking priority over the included DD5.1 track, although we lose the PCM 5.1 track that was on the original Blu-ray; a shame as that was considered superior over the TrueHD mix…but not by much, so it’s no real big loss. Kind of disappointed they didn’t just make a DTS-HD Master Audio track, but regardless the TrueHD does its job well with plenty of surround work and booming bass.
The first special feature on the set is the commentary by Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and cinematographer Larry Fong. 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).
Moving on 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 were 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 with “Frank Miller Tapes,” 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.
Also included is a “Who were the Spartans?” featurette, as well as bluescreen Picture-in-Picture footage from the original Blu-ray release. The extra from the third disc included in the aforementioned November release isn’t included, although if I recall right the extra consisted mainly of bluescreen footage, which is what the picture-in-picture bit is made up mostly of, so I don’t think we really “lost” anything.”
New to this release are the three ways to view the film. “Creating a Legend” delves into how Miller created the comic to begin with and how Snyder got involved, while “Bringing the Legend to Life” focuses on the production of the film. Everything from green screen to getting the actors in shape is covered here. The third path, “The History Behind the Myth,” focuses on the historical elements of the film. There is some overlap between these three “paths” and the extras that have already been available, but it’s certainly an interesting way to watch the film regardless. It’s not quite as immersive as Watchmen’s “Total Movie Mode” but it’s still quite an entertaining look at the film regardless.
If you already own the Blu-ray release (or one of the DVD releases) obviously double dipping is going to be a difficult choice. The extras are relatively the same and you aren’t gaining a whole lot of new content with the new modes (although the packaging does tout an extra two hours—which I don’t really doubt, but it also requires watching the film three times to really see all of it). It’s still a very nice package overall, however, especially as the look of the book-like packaging in of itself is a handsome sight. The all-white packaging is a stark contrast to the bloody and dark world that 300 displays and it all just looks fantastic. If you’re looking to upgrade you really can’t go wrong with this release—it’s quite nice and will likely (I hope, anyway) be the last release we see for this film for some time.
300- The Complete Experience is now available on Blu-ray.