H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

300 [Blu-ray]

 

(Zack Snyder, 2006)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Warner

Video: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:56:32.568

Disc Size: 36,654,508,331 bytes

Feature Size: 25,191,180,480 bytes

Video Bitrate: 16.80 Mbps

Chapters: 30

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 21st, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1736 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1736 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Plus Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Plus Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Plus Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Plus Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, English (SDH), French, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

Commentaries:
• Bluescreen Picture-in-Picture Version — Join Director Zack Snyder on a personal and fascinating commentary as he compares the Bluescreen composite to the feature.
• Audio Commentary by Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and Director of Photography Larry Fong.
• The Complete 300: Comprehensive Immersion – picture-in-picture via option for 3 perspectives to view while watching the film:
• Creating a Legend: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Interpret a Classic Tale - Holding true to Frank Miller’s love of history and the importance of bringing a pure adaptation to screen in this tale-based account.
• Bringing the Legend to Life: Building a World From a Comic - Blending the most talented and creative minds together to bring Frank Miller’s art to life in cinematic form.
• The History Behind the Myth: The Real Story of The Hot Gates - A rich and historical perspective on the Spartans and this legendary landmark.
Behind the Story:
• The 300 — Fact or Fiction?: (24:12 in HD!) — Miller and historians discuss fact/fiction
• We Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300 (6:00 in HD) — The customs and ways of life of the Spartan used by the actors and filmmakers to build their characters.
• Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage (6:10 in HD!)- See how Frank Miller’s images were used in an video montage that evolved into the fight scene test and ultimately convinced the studio to make the movie.
• Frank Miller Tapes - We'll show how the outspoken Miller continued to push his limits to realize his epic graphic novel, 300, in the world of theatrical film.
• Making of 300 (5:40 in SD) — A look at how the movie was made.
• Making 300 in Images (3:00 SD) — Rapid fire stills from the first day of production to the last.
Webisodes:
• Production Design
• Wardrobe
• Stunt Work
• Lena Headey
• Adapting the Graphic Novel
• Gerard Butler
• Rodrigo Santoro
• Training the Actors
• Culture of the Sparta City-State
• A Glimpse from the Set: Making 300 the Movie
• Scene Studies from 300
• Fantastic Characters of 300
• Three Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Zack Snyder (5:31 in HD!)
• BD-Live
• Second disc in paper sleeve; digital copy

40-Page collectible book packaging includes a comprehensive walk-through of the new cutting-edge Blu-ray features, behind the scenes and production photos AND never-before-seen sketches from creator Frank Miller

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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.   - Leonard Norwitz

 

 

The Film:

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.

Excerpt from Leonard Norwitz review at DVDBeaver located HERE

 

 


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

Warner's first rendition of 300 on Blu-ray (covered HERE by Leonard Norwitz) received some criticism as it didn't stand-up in comparison to their own HD-DVD version. While I don't own that first edition on Blu-ray to compare - I suspect this is the same VC-1 transfer with the feature taking up 25 Gig and a modest video bitrate of 16.80 Mbps. The 'Complete Experience' moniker comes into play is the stacking of the extra features and supplements absent from the first kick-at-the-can. The image quality looks quite stunning. It offers such an intriguing balance between comic book fantastics and stylistic intent with saturations and heavy grain that the visuals are engrossing and compelling. This is actually worth watching the first time without following the story. Contrast and light play against each other defining a fine line producing a look that's delicate yet also gritty. This Blu-ray has a typically Miller-esque unique aura that overtakes the rest of the presentation. Despite the meager-ish technicals - this is one appealing looking Blu-ray that I'll undoubtedly be using to demo the format to friends.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Like the video - while the technical aspects seem at the lower end - the transfer still strongly produces. We have a lossless TrueHD 5.1 track at 1736 kbps that is well separated giving abundant buoyancy throughout the film. Effect noises are used with a heavy hand and the audio expression of the film works for the more subtle higher end as well as resounding bass. Battle sequences have a bone-crunching crispness that send chills to your spine. And as Leonard says 'The colorful score by Tyler Bates is evocative, moody and gnarly by turns and is worked into the sound mix in proper proportions.' There are optional subtitles and being Warner this is expectantly region FREE as verified by my Momitsu.

 

 

 

Extras :

Supplements are somewhat exhausting. Described in advertising by Warner as: "THE COMPLETE 300: A COMPREHENSIVE IMMERSION - This NEW interactive picture-in-picture experience provides 3 unique perspectives to explore while you watch the film: * CREATING A LEGEND: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Interpret a Classic Tale - Holding true to Frank Miller’s love of history and the importance of bringing a pure adaptation to screen in this tale-based account. * BRINGING THE LEGEND TO LIFE: Building a World From a Comic - Blending the most talented and creative minds together to bring Frank Miller’s art to life in cinematic form. * THE HISTORY BEHIND THE MYTH: The Real Story of The Hot Gates - A rich and historical perspective on the Spartans and this legendary landmark. PLUS A SPECIAL FEATURES ARMY: * WARNER BROS. BD-LIVE - Media Center; Live Community Screening; My WB Commentary. * Bluescreen Picture-In-Picture - Join Director Zack Snyder on a personal and fascinating commentary as he compares the Bluescreen composite to the feature. * Audio Commentary by Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and Director of Photography Larry Fong. * The 300- Fact or Fiction? - Historians, authors and filmmakers reveal how much of the movie is based on fact. (RT: 24:12) {HD} * Who Were The Spartans: The Warriors of 300 - The customs and ways of life of the Spartan used by the actors and filmmakers to build their characters. (RT: 6:00) {HD} * Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage - See how Frank Miller’s images were used in an video montage that evolved into the fight scene test and ultimately convinced the studio to make the movie. (RT: 6:10) {HD} * Frank Miller Tapes - We'll show how the outspoken Miller continued to push his limits to realize his epic graphic novel, 300, in the world of theatrical film. (RT: 13:00) {HD} * Making of 300 - A look at how the movie was made. (RT: 5:40) * Making 300 in Images - Rapid fire stills from the first day of production to the last. (RT 3:00) * Webisodes - Behind the scenes peeks on the set of 300. (RT: 20:00) - Production Design; Wardrobe; Stunt Work; Lena Headey; Adapting The Graphic Novel; Gerard Butler; Rodrigo Santoro; Training The Actors; Culture of The Sparta City/State; A Glimpse from the Set - Making 300 the Movie; Scene Studies from 300; Fantastic Characters of 300. * Additional Footage - Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Zack Snyder (RT: 5:31) {HD} 40-Page collectible book packaging includes a comprehensive walk-through of the new cutting-edge Blu-ray features, behind the scenes and production photos AND never-before-seen sketches from creator Frank Miller.'.

 

The commentaries are quite good and relaxed and less dry than one might expect with the participants not taking things too seriously and the picture-in-picture goodies give a solid footing to the production. There are enough bells and whistles above to keep the most hardcore fan appreciative and busy for days on end.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Wow - this is certainly an intense and visually arresting experience. Despite some friends uproar regarding historical inaccuracies full marks must certainly be given to the non-traditional method of storytelling - especially on the visual front. If you are keen to watch something of this grandiose nature that purports and delivers this Blu-ray is one heck of a night in the home theater - and we surely recommend! 

Gary Tooze

July 18th, 2009

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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