on 25 July 2014
300 [2006 / 2012] [Premium Collection SteelBook] [Blu-ray + UV Copy] Prepare For Glory!
Adapted from the book by Frank Miller, this is a modern retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, when the 100,000 strong invading Persian Army of King Xerxes was held back in a narrow mountain pass by 300 Spartans. King Leonidas [Gerard Butler] is given four days by Persia's King Xerxes [Rodrigo Santoro] to lay down his arms and surrender. Rejecting the proposal, the battle ensues, and the Spartans are only defeated by the treachery of a local shepherd Ephialtes [Andrew Tiernan], who shows the Persians a secret route, enabling them to outflank their opponents.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, Giovani Cimmino, Stephen McHattie, Greg Kramer, Alex Ivanovici, Kelly Craig, Eli Snyder, Tyler Neitzel, Tim Connolly, Marie-Julie Rivest, Sebastian St. Germain, Peter Mensah, Arthur Holden, Michael Sinelnikoff, John Dunn-Hill, Dennis St John, Dylan Smith, Maurizio Terrazzano, Robert Paradis, Kwasi Songui, Frédéric Smith, Darren Shahlavi (uncredited) Marc Trottier (uncredited) and Duy Vo Van (uncredited)
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Bernie Goldmann, Gianni Nunnari, Jeffrey Silver and Mark Canton
Screenplay: Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon and Zack Snyder
Composer: Tyler Bates
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English: 5.1 LPCM, English: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, German: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian: 5.1 Dolby Digital and French: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 118 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Adapting novels for the big screen has always been an imprecise art. Due to inherent differences between the two mediums, inevitably major chunks of the source material get left out, to varying results. Perhaps that's why Hollywood has seen so much success with its adaptations of graphic novels in recent years.
With their thin text, and their bold, image-driven narrative style, even the most niche graphic novels are arguably more camera-ready than your typical best-seller. And with recent advances in CGI, there's no limit to how fantastic the images in these novels may be in fact, if box office receipts are any indication, the more outrageous the imagery, the better.
For these reasons alone, in retrospect, it really should not have surprised me that '300' turned into the sleeper blockbuster of 2007. The original graphic novel, sprung from the mind of Frank Miller 'Sin City' and 'The Dark Knight,' and is like 'Gladiator' on steroids and seemingly tailor-made to get blown up to mega-screen proportions. Enter director Zack Snyder 'Dawn of the Dead,' who’s decision to marry live-action with an intensely graphic visual style was the ideal interpretation of Frank Miller's sensibility. Using every trick of the modern cinema trade to not only bring Frank Miller's comic book panels to life, but to elevate them even further to the level of pop culture myth.
The characters were only thinly sketched-out in the graphic novel, and they're only slightly more embellished in Zack Snyder's vision. King Leonidas [Gerard Butler] is the ostensible hero, has dreamed his entire life of defeating the Persians. He gets his chance after a group of arrogant messengers from the Persian army arrive in Sparta, offering its people the choice between surrender and death. Leonidas has the messengers slaughtered, and decides to amass his 300 strong army at Thermopylae pass, that has a narrow corridor between the steep cliffs of the Aegean Sea. The plan is to limit the Persians' access, thereby making their massive numbers meaningless. As they come through the pass, Leonidas and his army will clobber them, one by one.
And so the stage is set for '300's almost non-stop second act cavalcade of phantasmagorical violence, bone-crushing gore and CGI wizardry. Miller turned his Persian warriors into a bizarre, surreal stew of iconic archetypes from deformed warriors to bizarre African animals, raging wizards to the elite guard of the Immortals, complete with scary death masks right out of a 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' film. Zack Snyder both plays up the fantastical while also stripping the imagery down to its bare essentials. It's all heaving bare flesh, strategically-placed costume details, and bold, digitally drawn-in backgrounds.
Upon its cinema release, reviewers levelled a number of criticisms at '300': some said that it was gratuitously violent; others felt that its characters were paper thin to the point of abstraction; and still others felt that it was either the most homoerotic mainstream film ever made or the most misogynist. But while each of these concerns is certainly valid, ultimately they all get crushed under the sheer thrill of Zack Snyder and Frank Miller's bombast spectacle.
'300' is visually dazzling and at 118 minutes you feel you have been part of the awesome battle. Simply put it, I feel Zack Snyder did a brilliant job and should be totally proud of his work. But of course there is a minority out there that say ‘300’ call it sadistic, with extreme portrayals of death in many forms. But at its heart, it's a story of people. People coming together to fight a common enemy, people with a purpose. It's not about a presumptuous king sending his armies to fight faceless men who hide in caves. This is a story about people who, when annihilation is brought to their doorstep, did the brave thing, against all odds, and won a greater victory than any single military mission could ever have brought them. By fighting for their lands and their brethren, they found glory.
Blu-ray Video Quality – '300' comes to Blu-ray via Warner Home Video in an awesome 1080p encoded image in the film's original 2.40:1 projected aspect ratio, and if nothing else, this is a very accurate reproduction of the theatrical experience of '300.' As director Zack Snyder makes abundantly clear in the included supplements, he intended to jack up the film's contrast and burn down the blacks to better approximate the look of the graphic novel. As such, this high-definition presentation of '300' is predictably flat, with most detail drained from the shadows and highlights lost in a blaze of hot whites. Even exaggerated textures, such as extreme close-ups of flesh, rocky surfaces, etc., look soft and indistinct. Colours are intentionally muted, with an almost sepia-toned hue that turns flesh tones into copper and eliminates much of the colour spectrum except for deeper blues and browns. Adding to the film's 2D feel is the fact that the majority of the backgrounds are animated, with the live action shot in front of a blue screen. Finally, a computer-generated "film grain" has been added to the mix, which gives the image a final coating of jumpiness, with obvious noise in every shot. Yet, despite all this intentional degradation, there is also an undeniable beauty to the rough grandeur of '300's visuals. Sort of like a PIXAR animation on steroids, and the crushed look Zack Snyder intended gives many of the shots great power because they are so simple and exactly like comic book panels come to life. The obvious computer-generated landscapes his digital artists have created also give it that dazzling, pixilated eye-candy look of the coolest videogames. All things considered, I found watching '300' a totally thrilling experience and also an enjoyed a good-looking, awe-inspiring high-definition image. But as a representation of the film's style, there's no debating that this Blu-ray edition of '300' delivers, so much so that even for high-definition purist like myself, and it's impossible to ignore the film's intentionally degraded visual design and so just sit back enjoy the ride of your life.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Like the image experience, again I have absolutely no reservations about stating that the audio on this disc '300' is a real high-resolution scorcher. This is the kind of film that has such a barn-storming sound design that any caveats I might have are all washed away by the sheer bombastic thrill of it all. Warner Home Video has supplied both next-generation editions with matching 5.1 Dolby TrueHD surround tracks, but this Blu-ray is also graced with an additional 5.1 PCM Surround sound option. Right up-front, the PCM sounded a bit louder, but after some level matching, a direct A and B comparison of several scenes revealed only slight differences. Although I'm sure this disc will stir up the whole 5.1 Dolby TrueHD vs PCM debate, either way it is entirely your choice, because the action scenes in '300' delivers the kind of demo-worthy audio that should be pure nirvana for any home theatre enthusiast. Dynamics are incredibly aggressive, with heart-stopping low bass that gave my subwoofer as good a workout as any next-gen disc I've ever heard. Since the majority of '300's soundtrack was created entirely in the studio, the cleanliness and clarity of the entire frequency range is startlingly lifelike and real. The "wall of sound" effect is in full force, with discrete effects in the rears wonderfully immersive and sustained. Imaging between channels is seamless, so crank up the volume and you'll be treated to the kind of rare, in-your-face 360-degree home theatre sound field that's second only to what you'll find in the actual cinema. Dialogue is also perfectly balanced again, no surprise given that almost the entire movie was looped. But sonically speaking, a film like '300' isn't about people talking to each other, it's about aural spectacle, and when those swords start clashing, and this one knocks it totally out of the park.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director Zack Snyder, Cinematographer Larry Fong, and Writer Kurt Johnstad: Snyder, Fong, and Kurt Johnstad team up for this commentary. Considering how high octane the picture is, the commentary is very sedate by comparison. Most of the discussion revolves around the technical aspects of the production.
Special Feature: The 300: Fact or Fiction? [25:00] This intriguing feature has many of the film's participants, including Frank Miller, along with several Greek historians, discussing how accurate the film is (or isn't) to the actual events. There's some excellent footage here, both of the participants and actual Greek artefacts. Although this seems clearly shot before the film hit the cinemas (when it came under fire for its "historical accuracy"), Snyder makes a strong case for artistic license and what he chose to leave out (or embellish/fabricate) and why. As a nice addendum, there's also "Who Were the Spartans" [6:00], which features all of the main actors (including Gerald Butler) discussing their historical counterpart, and how he/she re-interpreted them to fit Frank Miller and Snyder's vision.
Special Feature: Who Were the Spartans: The Warriors of 300 [6:00] A short documentary which has the actors discussing the historical figures they are portraying on screen. They tell us the customs and ways of life of the Spartans and how the actors and filmmakers built up their characters.
Special Feature: Preparing For Battle: The Original Test Footage [6:00] See how Frank Miller’s images were used in a Fight scene test and at the same time we get to see some of the demo footage Zack Snyder shot in order to help the Warner Bros. executives understand and finance his vision for ‘300.’ "Preparing for Battle" documents the huge hoops he jumped through, even going so far as to create a "mini-film" comprised of rough animation, digital imagery and narration from actor Scott Glenn. Needless to say, it worked.
Special Feature: The Frank Miller Tapes [Audio only] [15:00] We get to hear the outspoken Frank Miller telling us that he was against any filmed adaptation of his comic work. That all changed when Robert Rodriguez invited him to be a full collaborator on his adaptation of ‘Sin City.’ Now Frank Miller is much more involved with the cinematic versions of his graphic novels, and this extra details the history of ‘300’ and his involvement with it. Though Frank Miller has been known to be "touchy" when it comes to past adaptations of his work, he seems to have nothing but enthusiasm for '300' and both his original graphic novel and Zack Snyder's daring visual reinterpretation. A very nice background piece.
Special Feature: Making of ‘300’ [6:00] This Promo "Making-Of Feature" documentary, looks at how the film was made. This is pretty standard stuff.
Special Feature: Making ‘300’ in Images [4:00] You get to see rapid-fire stills from the first day of production until the last day of shooting. This is an extended commercial and appears to be culled from the same material but at least it's better focused, providing a nice opener for all of the extensive technical talk to come.
Special Feature: Webisodes [480i] [1.33:1] [1:00] This one hour's worth of material, in five minute segments, that were originally made for the ‘300’ website. They're all included here, and together make a nice overview of the production. These are the only features not in high definition. The twelve segments are: "A Glimpse from the Set," "Production Design," "Wardrobe," "Lena Headey," "Gerald Butler," "Rodrigo Santoro," "Training the Actors," "Stunt Work," "Adapting the Graphic Novel," "Culture of Sparta City/State," "Scene Studies from '300'" and "Fantastic Characters of '300.'"
Special Feature: Deleted Scenes [4:00] A short collection of scenes with Zack Snyder introducing each one. None feel particularly essential, although like everything else to do with this film, they are so cool. This is a sort of a "greatest hits" of lost moments (not all complete), little here stands out as essential, although big-time '300' junkies are sure to enjoy the excised "Persian Giant" sequence, which Snyder apparently sniped mainly because it was too over the top, as well as being narratively unnecessary. Still, it alone makes the deleted scenes worth a watch.
Finally, ‘300’ is a chest-beating tale of bravery and valour set in Ancient Greece. Zack Snyder took special care to bring Frank Miller's beloved graphic novel to the screen, and his enthusiasm for the material is infectious. The image is just as the director intended it, and the sound is totally awesome and so much that it alone makes this Blu-ray disc worth purchasing. And while this Blu-ray disc has all of the supplements from the previous inferior DVD release, most of them are in 1080p HD, they are missing several major interactive features found only on the DVD version. Still, for anyone who only wants to purchase this ‘300’ Premium Collection SteelBook Blu-ray, is I feel, the ultimate version to have in your Blu-ray Collection. On top of all that, when I saw this film at the cinema, I was bowled over by the stunning images that were projected on the screen, but now owning my own personal copy makes the wait well worth it and having this ultimate SteelBook is another fantastic bonus, as it is so beautiful and stunning and is now pride of place in my Blu-ray Collection and on top of all that all the extras is another massive bonus, that will give you may endless hours of pleasure. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
Those who`ve awarded 300 the full monty of five stars have (to my mind) drastically overrated it, while the one star nay-sayers have missed something.
Historically, this film is a joke, though if you read about the legendary battle at Thermopylae - and there are now many books on the Spartans and their famous battle with the Persians - it is surprising how many details 300 gets right; almost as many as they get wrong. The Spartans were not alone, they had slaves with them, as well as Greeks, though they did fight to the bitter end.
Xerxes is portrayed as a cross between a camp Prince, adorned with bling a-plenty, and a kind of middle-Eastern Caligula. That`s a travesty. He`s played to the hilt though by the impressive Rodrigo Santoro.
King Leonidas of Sparta is given a performance of such magnificent flamboyance by Gerard Butler that one can only stand back and be led by this pectorally perfect lion of a man. Butler obviously took the role and tore it to pieces. The occasional moments of reflection or grief are all the more credible for his otherwise crazed, patriotic bloodlust.
British actress Lena Headey is superb as Gorgo, his tough, loyal, if unfortunately named wife. Her performance is as pleasingly understated as Butler`s is brazenly overwrought. I wish we saw more of this woman in a wider variety of films. But here she shines. She`s well cast, having a timeless look about her, which so few actors have. You could place her in almost any era and she`d not look out of place (though perhaps not in a Regency drama).
Dominic West as a treacherous senator is as good as ever, and David Wenham is allowed some touching moments as one of the 300.
The CGI is/are pretty stunning, though there`s an absurd amount of slo-mo action. Even when a messenger rides off to Sparta, he and his horse move in slo-mo, for no logical reason. I want to see a horse gallop, not glide!
The battle scenes are both stirring and repetitive. When you`ve seen ten heads roll, or twenty arms torn from their sockets, you`ve seen them all. I liked the way the Spartans are shown visibly, and literally, shielded by each other, a metallic, impregnable hedgehog barrier of circular shields: an appropriate one-for-all image of these brave, if foolhardy, men.
And yet...the whole thing is so chest-beatingly unsubtle. I salute the sheer chutzpah that went into the making of such a mini-epic (it`s not quite long enough to call it an epic) but regret that the finer points of reality and truth were sacrificed on the altar of blood, sweat and tears - especially blood.
Butler, bearded and booming, is a mighty warrior, fierce and feisty Headey is a wholly believable warrior`s wife, and it`s a film well worth seeing once in your life.
The Extra Features (on the 2-disc version) are excellent, the main one a half-hour docu about the making of the film and its historical background, including interviews with Frank Miller, on whose comic the film is based, its director, and eloquent historian Bettany Hughes, among others.