(Zack Snyder - 2006)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Warner Home Video (USA)
Aspect ratio: 2.4:1
Feature film: 1080p / VC-1
Supplements: 1080i/480p & 480i
1 disc: BD-25 dual-layer
English PCM 5.1 Surround
English Dolby True HD
English DD 5.1 Surround
French DD 5.1 Surround
English SDH, English, French and Spanish
• Commentary by the Director
• 60 minute Documentary
• 60 minute Webisodes
• Deleted scenes
Standard Blu-ray case.
Release Date: July 31, 2007
300 ~ Comment
The important thing to keep in mind is that this movie is not based on Herodotus, but on Frank Miller graphic novel about the legendary Battle of Thermopylae between the meager, but determined forces of Sparta against overwhelming hordes of invading Persians. 300 is not a history lesson. That said, it would have been nice if the Extra Features included an authoritative discussion on the subject – perhaps we shall see it on the rumored 2 disc BD SE later this year or next.
300 is nothing if not breathtakingly gorgeous to look at, providing you don’t look too closely. It's a master class in the melding of a certain school of graphic art and cinema, as much indebted to Frank Frazetta as Frank Miller. The trailers that I saw prior to the movie's release gave the impression that it was pretty much all battles, with lots of Matrix-like slow- and stop-motion. I thought two hours of that would be slightly less painful than an IRS audit so, naturally, I submitted. I was surprised to find that a considerable part of the movie was involved with local politics. The dialogue that supported the film was - except for the all the proclamations about Freedom, which I personally found hard to swallow, given the manifest lack of it – not at all embarrassing to listen to. In short, I felt my money and time was not wasted. Re-watching the film on this Blu-ray edition, I found myself liking the movie more, once my original resistances had run their course.
The Score Card
The Movie : 7.5
It is 480 B.C. (though most people were unaware of that at the time.) The various kingdoms of Greece were being consumed by the powerful Persian king, Xerxes, and his numberless armies, composed, we are led to believe, largely of slave labor. Sparta was a unique military city-state whose citizens had democratic say in their political present and future, but who still employed many slaves for various tasks – a communist social economy of sorts. Its men were bred to be soldiers – that was their profession and their purpose in life – that, and to make little Spartans – boys, preferably. There was no informed consent. They were weeded out from birth and given the drill from then until their necessarily heroic deaths. Consequently, Spartans were not the sort of folk who would willingly submit to any form of domination – even a token submission – just to avoid a little raping, burning and pillaging. Add to this the matter of the bad luck that Xerxes was expected to invade about the time of an important festival, during which, by law, Sparta was prohibited to go to war.
As fate would have it, King Leonidas (no relation) felt he needed to send a contingent to face the enemy, even if it meant "breaking the law he swore to uphold" – a dilemma modern politicians and familial patricians face frequently. So it was his 300 against who knows how many scores of thousands. Lots. Meanwhile, there were those at home waiting, planning, hoping to take advantage of the likely outcome. Leonidas' plan was to create a topographic necessity for Xerxes' troops to funnel themselves through a narrow pass that his 300 would defend. A good strategy, providing no one betrayed the location of a secret mountain pass that would outflank them. The rest is all archetypes in motion.
Image : 8.5
300 is a self-consciously digitally enhanced film. Next to nothing was shot in natural settings. The result is, naturally, unnatural, thus confirming what we should have expected: that this is not reality, or even a cinematic substitute, but a fantasization – like Frank Miller's Sin City, only in hues of gold and blue, rather than black & white. As such, and considering how much digital grain exists, the high contrast images look sharp and appropriately, if not a little distractingly, dirty.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
NOTE: Screen captures from the Complete Experience edition review HERE
Audio & Music : 9.5
What is required is the necessary amount of crashing and gnashing and reasonably clear dialogue in between. We get that, in spades: lots of bass and spine-snapping crunch. All the noises of war are there, with mercifully few dying-groans and ahhhhs that accompany so many battle scenes from other movies. The colorful score by Tyler Bates is evocative, moody and gnarly by turns and is worked into the sound mix in proper proportions.
Empathy : 8
The digital grain seemed a trifle excessive at times: becoming aware of it took me out of the movie for a moment, now and then.
Operations : 7
It took me a while to sort out how to use the Special Features menu, and how to negotiate the getting from one to another and back to the movie – which may say as much about me as it does about the software engineer.
Extras : 6I found the six-part, hour long documentary (in HD, no less), commandeered by the film's director, Zack Snyder, much more interesting than his own running commentary. The latter devolved dryly into a scene by scene analysis of how this or that shot was set up, whereas the documentary gingerly covered various aspects of background, development, Frank Miller's contribution, a little something about the historical Sparta and how movies have treated the subject. There is also a series of twelve 5-minute long "Webisodes" (in less than wonderful SD), originally produced for the Internet, and better left watched in that format.