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Directed by Zack Snyder
Studio: Warner Bros.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 116 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital 5.1 English,
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: July 31, 2007
Review Date: August 10, 2007
Review by Matt Hough - Charlotte, NC
Film - 4/5
The annuls of history are riddled by heroic last stands (the Charge
of the Light Brigade, the Little Big Horn, the Alamo), and the
ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which three hundred Spartan
soldiers made a courageous stand against an invading army of 250,000
Persians ranks as one of historys most legendary encounters.
Like the other previously mentioned routs, the movies have often
depicted the events of these legendary encounters, and the Battle of
Thermopylae is no different having previously shown up on-screen in
the cheesy, forgettable 1962 film The 300 Spartans. Zack Snyders
film 300 rights that wrong by presenting an astounding
visual account of the war in all its glory, majesty, and power.
The films screenplay by director Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad,
and Michael B. Gordon was based on the graphic novel by Frank
Miller, the same Frank Miller responsible for the offbeat and
thoroughly entertaining neo-noir Sin City (and co-director of its
film incarnation). Millers graphic take on this famous three
day standoff in 480 B.C. has been captured by director Snyder and
his crew with astonishing fidelity to the look and tone of the
original artwork and dialogue. Id venture to say that 300
is quite possibly the greatest achievement yet in combining live
action with computer backgrounds on the screen. Once one buys into
the look, sound, and spirit of this world, it is quite easy to get
lost in it so hypnotic is the spell that is cast by the stylized
visuals and by a pitch perfect cast.
Gerard Butler stars as Spartan king Leonidas, the very embodiment of
the no-nonsense Spartan warrior with a herculean physique, a lions
heart, and a fearless, cocksure demeanor. This is not a man to be
tested or challenged for the words surrender and defeat
are not in his vocabulary, and the model he sets for his men seems
to have carried over to every last one of his soldiers. His queen is
Gorgo played by Lena Headey. Another model of Spartan strength and
possessing a fierce will, she is more than a match for her husband
and one of the real joys of this production (though she stays in
Sparta with their son when her husband goes off to battle, she has
her own hands full dealing with an insidious politician played by
Dominic West, another great asset to the movie). Leonidas
Persian enemy, the man-god Xerxes, is effectively played as a
menacing effete by Rodrigo Santoro.
The choreographed majesty of the battle scenes is particularly
impressive in the early-going as the crafty Greeks position
themselves in a narrow pass and manage to ward off advance after
advance with their own seemingly invincible strategies. Though not a
particular fan of war films (with the occasional exception), I was
dazzled by the effectiveness of the Greeks moves and
countermoves, frustrating the Persians who had hoped that their
victory would be assured by their sheer numbers and the advance word
on their bottomless bag of tricks, all of which the Greeks find
ready solutions for much to the dismay of the Persians.
If the film has weaknesses, theyre mainly due to some less
than convincing CGI creatures and the close-to-unending battle
footage. As things become desperate and the combat turns from team
playing to individual combat, the hackings and slashings begin to
become just a bit tiresome and repetitive. Beautifully rendered they
are from beginning to end (and the CGI backdrops throughout the
entire film are breathtaking to watch), but the final squirmishes
which show individual audience favorites going to their inevitable
deaths might have come just a bit sooner.
Video Quality - 5/5
The Panavision 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully rendered on this
Blu-ray disc in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. To capture the look of
the original graphic novel, there is grain, contrast has been
heightened, and blacks occasionally go so deep as to be crushed. But
those arent defects or problems: that was the original
intended look of the film, and the Blu-ray disc presents the exact
experience I had at the theater while now sitting in my own home. In
its own way, this is a reference quality high definition disc, but
only if you know what the look of the film was intended to be from
the outset. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
Audio Quality - 5/5
The Blu-ray disc offers three English soundtracks. I selected the
PCM 5.1 track which is reference quality by any standard. The sound
is bold, brassy, and yet startlingly distinct with almost constant
use of all available channels with both music and sound effects and
tremendously powerful LFE. Its a completely immersive
experience and one of the great soundtracks currently available on
Special Features - 5/5
The Blu-ray comes with plentiful extras and only a few of them not
worth a look and a listen.
The audio commentary is by director Zack Snyder, scripter Kurt
Johnstad, and director of photography Larry Fong. Its mostly
Synders show, and his enthusiasm for the project and his
knowledge of the myriad technical details in making the picture are
an interesting listen especially if one is curious about what was
real on the set and what was created in a computer. His two fellow
commentators dont add much to the track, unfortunately.
300 Spartans Fact or Fiction? is an entertaining
high definition history lesson concerning how much is actually true
and how much is Frank Miller hyperbole insofar as the story for the
film is concerned. This informative and entertaining featurette runs
about 24½ minutes.
Who Were the Spartans? is a 4½-minute high
definition quickie about the people of the city state Sparta and how
they were reflected by the actors in the film. This could certainly
have been longer and in more detail.
Preparing for Battle runs 6:43 and is a fascinating pitch
reel for Warner execs to give them the look and feel of the
projected project. I quite enjoyed seeing the tone of the film set
this early in the filmmaking process.
The Frank Miller Tapes is another excellent background
piece on the author of the original graphic novel. Tracing his
interest in art, discussing the pivotal people in his professional
life, and his interests in crime dramas, this piece runs not quite
Two featurettes not in high definition are also two of the weaker
entries in the bonus section: The Making of 300
and Making 300 in Images. The latter is a
rapid fire 4-minute collage of still images put together in dizzying
succession showing the construction and filming in total. The former
is a 6-minute piece of fluff that seems insignificant after the much
richer featurettes which have preceded it.
The disc offers twelve Webisodes (all in standard definition), brief
featurettes dealing with people involved both before and behind the
camera. Gerard Butlers segment is the most interesting of the
actors presented (watching him doing arm curls to help get into
shape is very impressive) while from the production team, I most
appreciated the segments featuring art director James Bissell and
costume designer Michael Wilkinson as they talked about the
incredible amount of detailed work needed to get the film in its
final form. The other segments involve actors Lena Headey and
Rodrigo Santoro and segments on training the actors, the stunt work
involved in the film, the adaptation of the novel to the screen, the
culture of Sparta, some scene studies, and a look at some of the
fantastic characters in the film. All of these featurettes which run
anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes in length, are worth viewing.
The bonus features conclude with four minutes of deleted footage
(three scenes) with introductory commentary by director Zack Snyder.
The scenes are certainly valuable records of what might have found
their way into the movie, but clearly none of them were absolutely
necessary for the finished film.
In Conclusion - 4.5/5 (not an average)
300 makes something monumental (and monumentally
entertaining) out of one of historys most notorious standoffs,
and the story now has a film version fitting to its importance in
the history of Greece. The Blu-ray disc is an exceptional high
definition rendering of this very entertaining and moving story.
this review here at The Home Theater Forum.
Release Date: Available now (released July 31, 2007)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Standard single-disc HD DVD case
Running Time: 1h50m
Video (Feature): 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus:
English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Video (Special Features): Partially 1080i high definition,
partially 480i or 480p standard definition
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: Feature only: English, French, Spanish
Review by Cameron Yee
"300," adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel about the
legendary Battle of Thermopylae, is soaked in melodrama - from its
dialogue, to its plot, to its visuals. But it rarely grows tiresome,
its heavy handedness avoiding outright absurdity; the film as a
whole maintaining a fine balance between style and substance.
Perhaps its because those two qualities are so perfectly paired:
High contrast images and copious slo-mo battle scenes mirror the
Spartan's black-and-white morality and veneration of the fight,
resulting in a synergized film that exhilarates when another might
merely entertain. The one element that sometimes goes too far is the
narration, which at times describes the obvious or trumpets the
Spartan code unneccesarily. Given the voice over is an integral part
of the story structure, it would seem the screenwriters painted
themselves into a corner. But overall it's a small fault in a film
that many will find a worthy addition to their movie collection.
Video Quality: 5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1, is VC-1 encoded and free of
dust, dirt, damage and edge haloes. The highly stylized, high
contrast look of the film is perfectly rendered in high definition,
the deep swaths of black and white never getting out of control or
unstable. Of course the high contrast manipulation - called "The
Crush" by the filmmakers - precludes the usual evaluation of
shadow and highlight detail. But overall image detail is remarkable
- perhaps more than usual because of the high contrast. Flying
embers, kicked up sand and dirt, and the added-in-post grain all
have an incredible clarity. At times the extent of the image
manipulation gives the picture an artificiality resembling full CGI
productions like the upcoming "Beowulf," in particular the
first scene with Dilios (David Wenham) by the fire. But this of
course is merely an observation laced with a curiosity about where
digital manipulation will take us in the next several years. If we
continue to get eye poppingly beautiful works like "300"
let's hope we also get the same caliber of high definition
Audio Quality: 5/5
The film's Dolby Digital Plus option will certainly please
listeners, but if one has the capability the Dolby TrueHD track is
preferable for its wider soundstage and greater overall sonic depth.
The audio mix on both tracks have surround channels in an almost
constant state of activity, whether providing soundtrack support,
atmospheric sound effects or directional effects in battle scenes.
Though LFE is present and healthy, don't expect profoundly heavy
moments that rattle the foundation (think the Balrog scene in "Lord
of the Rings") - to my recollection there aren't any. And while
dialogue is generally clear and intelligible, I did at times have to
turn on the subtitles to catch certain names or to get past the
accents or emphatic deliveries.
Special Features: 5/5
Bluescreen Picture-In-Picture Version: Easily the highlight of the
special features, viewers are able to watch the feature and
unmanipulated version at the same time. With Snyder providing audio
commentary, one can see the full extent of "The Crush,"
which pieces were set and which were added in post and really how
much blue and green screen was used to make the film. Here's hoping
other HD releases will include this special feature. My only
criticism is the constant "300" bug in the top right
corner, which seems like a potential display burn-in problem for
those with CRT sets. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release.
"Vengeance and Valor" strategy game: A "Risk"
style game that continues the battle between the Greeks and
Persians. Being a horrible strategist in games as simple as
checkers, I didn't do very well, but I'd be interested to know if
the game is any good for those "Risk" aficionados.
Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release.
Pick Your Favorite Scene: Compile your favorite moments from the
movie and store them for a quick revisit and/or share them with
fellow fans via the online component. As expected inputting letters
is a bit tedious with just a remote and there doesn't seem to be a
way to record a scene as you're watching it in the standard viewing
mode, but the feature works all around and could prove popular
especially with action oriented fare. Currently exclusive to the HD
"300: Fact or Fiction" (24m34s): Snyder, Miller and
historians share some of the actual history of the battle and the
Spartan culture and society.
"Who Were the Spartans?" (4m32s): A brief look at the
Spartan warrior society and its values.
"Preparing for Battle" (6m42s): How the graphic novel came
to be adapted for film, with selections from the original animated
storyboards and film test footage used to persuade the studio to
bankroll the production.
"Frank Miller Tapes" (14m42s): Miller talks about how he
came to create "300." Friends and colleagues also chime in
on what makes Miller so great.
"Making of 300" (5m50s): Standard promotional featurette,
"Making of 300 in Images" (3m39s): Production stills set
to music and presented in rapid succession, in 4:3.
Webisodes (38m21s): Twelve featurettes covering everything from
production design to the actors' physical training, in 4:3.
Deleted Scenes (3m23s): Three scenes, introduced by Snyder. The
first two deal with Ephialtes' attempted suicide; the third is of a
giant-little-person-archer pairing that was deemed too over-the-top.
Good decisions all around.
Web Enabled Downloads: Download up to 13 ring tones and/or up to 25
wallpapers for your mobile phone. No pricing is stated, so caveat
emptor. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release.
The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5
A pulpy but exhilarating film gets first class treatment, with
excellent audio and video transfers and a great set of special
features. A recommended addition to one's HD library.
this review here at The Home Theater Forum.