300 (Blu-ray) (2006)
Audio Commentary-Dir. Zack Synder, Co-Writer Kurt Johnstad, & DOP Larry Fong
Featurette-Preparing For Battle: The Original Test Footage
Featurette-The 300 - Fact or Fiction
Featurette-Who Were The Spartans?: The Warriors of 300
Featurette-Frank Miller Tapes
Featurette-The Making of 300
Featurette-Making 300 in Images
Deleted Scenes-x three
Featurette-Webisodes x 12
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Zack Snyder|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/24 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Based on Frank Miller's wonderful graphic novel, 300 is a blood-spattered, testosterone-soaked, sword-and-sandal visual assault. Similar to Miller's Sin City, as a film, 300 is an adult comic book come to life in full bloody glory. How many ways can you kill someone with a sword or spear? 300 answers this question in an orgy of violence, while remaining shamelessly entertaining. Its non-stop blood lust and striking visual style elevates it to post-modern, heroic spectacle at its very finest.
Prior to 300, Miller, was best known as the talent behind the similarly ultra-violent, Robert Rodriguez film, Sin City (2005). Born in 1957, Miller's artistic work was first published in 1978, with his work on The Twilight Zone for Gold Key Comics. Miller followed this by working as an artist for DC Comics and then Marvel Comics. At Marvel, Miller became the 'penciller' for Daredevil, and immediately began to introduce his now distinctive film noir style into the artwork. The publication became so successful that Miller took over as the series as writer as well as penciller. As the writer, Miller created the character of Elektra, who was to later have her own series.
In the mid 1980s, Miller re-invented the image of the character Batman, with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Miller introduced readers to a more adult, and darker image of Batman. The renewed interest in this darker character, eventually led to Tim Burton's successful film, Batman. Moving to Dark Horse Comics, Miller began work on the film noir, gritty crime comic, Sin City in the early 1990s, which proved to be both critically and commercially successful. Inspired by a film from his childhood, The 300 Spartans, Miller's graphic novel of 300 first appeared across five issues of Dark Horse Comics in 1998, and was published in hardcover the following year.
Following the box office success of Batman, it seemed natural that Miller's original creations would also make their way to the big screen. But having been badly burned by the critics and fans for his original scripts for Robocop 2 and 3 in the early 1990s, Miller had turned his back on Hollywood. Indeed, Miller had decided not to allow any film adaptations of his work. His view changed in the early 2000s, once convinced the resulting films would be faithful to their inspiration, and Miller allowed adaptations of his original creations Elektra, Sin City, and 300.
From a visual standpoint, 300, like Sin City before it, exists in a space where comic books and films intersect. Miller should be very happy with the resulting film, as it remarkably recreates his beautiful artwork. The striking visual style of 300 recalls not only the panels from Miller's graphic novel, but also the artwork of Frank Frazetta, the fantasy illustrator who created the iconic covers of various Conan comic books during the 1960s and 1970s.
Although the costumes, makeup, and general look of the finished film might resemble a cross between gay porn and a perfume commercial, as we are constantly reminded throughout the film, this is Sparta! The Greek city-state where boys are separated from their families at age seven to undergo years of battle training to create a population of soldier-citizens unmatched in their training, strength, capability, bravery, and loyalty. To express this visually, every one of the Spartans in the film has a set of washboard abs . . . and a wax job. Some have joked that the title of the film was an answer to the question: "How gay is this movie on a scale of 1 to 10?". But in an interview, Director Zack Snyder, claimed "I didn't sit down and say 'Guys, let's make a really homoerotic movie with lots of man-flesh!' Indeed, the look of the buffed and toned characters is true to the graphic novel, which paints the Spartans as lean and hard men.
"There is no room for softness, not in Sparta," we boldly hear in the film. "There's only room for the strong and hard."
The backgrounds in the film are generally all CGI creations - vivid layers of virtual scenery, which range from sunlit, golden fields of wheat, to dark, craggy mountains, with moody, billowing clouds. The result of the approach to filming the movie's scenes, indoor and outdoor, on a stage within a very limited space has created a very claustrophobic mood to the film. This certainly isn't a sweeping epic in the style of Gladiator or Braveheart, but then again, this was an artistic choice and it suits the film well.
"Prepare for glory!"
Story-wise, 300 has as its original inspiration the Battle of Thermopylae, which took place in 480 B.C. This battle remains one of history's great last stands: An inferior number of Spartan soldiers, generally accepted to be 300, under the command of King Leonidas, defiantly and valiantly held out for three days against a vastly superior Persian force, in a narrow mountain pass by the sea, known as the Hot Gates, Thermopylae. Led by the invading King Xerxes, the Persian force has been estimated to be somewhere between 200,000 and 2,000,000 soldiers. Although the Spartans did not win the battle, the serious losses and lost momentum that the Persians suffered contributed to the defeat of Xerxes' armies a year later at the Battle of Plataea. The Battle of Thermopylae has since become a universal symbol for courage and valour.
However, the script for 300 by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Michael B Gordon makes no claims of historical accuracy. After all, 300 is based on Miller's graphic novel, and not the history books. Miller took the legend of the Battle of Thermopylae and turned it into a myth along the lines of what Homer did with the Trojan War. While there are no Greek Gods intruding into this story, there are mutant rhinos, attacking elephants, a masked army called the Immortals, various monsters, and some creature-soldiers that seem to have wandered out of a Lord Of The Rings movie. As you can see, 300 is no simple remake of The 300 Spartans (1962) either.
Narrated by Dilios (David Wenham), in 300 King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) wants to march his Spartan army against the invading Persians, but is blocked by the hideous priests, Ephors, and corrupt and scheming politicians, who, based on the rambling of an oracle, claim it's the wrong time of year to go to war. To get around this obstacle, Leonidas assembles a small force of 300 Spartan men, calling it his "personal guard". The invading Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), is a hairless, effeminate man who loves piercings, and believes himself to be a God. Xerxes keeps insisting that Leonidas get on his knees before him. But with his superior knowledge of the terrain, Leonidas plans to bottle up the invading Persians in a narrow mountain pass, known as the Hot Gates. Hopelessly outnumbered, the 300 Spartans, joined by 700 Thespins, make their stand against the mighty army of the Persians. The Spartans seem to know no fear, and are smiling at the thought of finding a "beautiful death" on the battlefield.
The Spartans successfully block the passageway into Greece, and halt the invasion by forming a phalanx. But trouble lurks when Leonidas rejects the horribly deformed Ephiates (Andrew Tiernan), a disabled and rejected Spartan who wants to join the fight, but can't raise his shield high enough to become part of a phalanx.
Meanwhile back home, the sleazy and scheming politician Theron (Dominic West) blocks Queen Gorgo's (Lena Headey) attempt to convince the council to send Leonidas the reinforcements he needs. It seems the men in the Hot Gates have been abandoned to their fate.
Confronted by such a small army, Xerxes initially sends his lesser troops into the battle, but the Spartans hardly break a sweat cutting them down. Turning up the heat, Xerxes orders in his Immortals - an army of fierce, highly trained warriors with silver masks, into battle. This will later be followed by attacking mutants and other unworldly creatures. The Persians even cut loose their most freakish giant warrior, who ends up facing Leonidas one-on-one.
The Spartans endure wave after wave of attacks triumphantly.
As a result of the fighting, the dead bodies are stacked like logs, and then pushed in a heap on top of other people who are about to become more dead bodies themselves. "Pile those Persians higher," it is ordered amongst all the gratuitous gore. The callousness of the Spartans is perhaps best seen when following yet another unsuccessful wave of attack from the Persians, Leonidas munches on an apple, knee-deep in a field of dead and dying men, while his men casually wander about stabbing or crushing the skulls of fallen Persians who might still be alive.
Apart from the few moments of political intrigue and scheming, and the moments of beauty and sensuality, such as the young sexy oracle's orgasmic dance, or Leonidas and Gorgo's glossy sex scene, the bulk of 300 is devoted to highly stylized physical combat. Spears and swords tear into and through human flesh. Wave after wave of the Persian soldiers are hacked to pieces. But don't worry about missing any of the gratuitous violence, Director Zack Snyder frequently switches to slow-motion to savour highlights of the blood-spattered gore.
300's relentless pace, larger-than-life characters, frenetic battle sequences, lush visuals, and open embrace of Miller's graphic novel make it a post-modern, heroic spectacle at its very finest.
Visually, 300 is stunning, with a distinct visual style. The BD's transfer accurately reflects the film's original print, and it is noticeably sharper and far more detailed than the DVD's transfer.
The film has an intentional, grainy, heavily textured look, which suits the story well. The transfer is beautifully presented in a high definition, widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
As one should expect with a high definition transfer, the sharpness of the image is excellent. For example, consider the perfect delineation of the many arrows at 51:20, or the fine detail of the hair at 61:42. The sharpness of the BD's transfer is noticeably better than that of the DVD's. For example, with the high definition transfer, consider the intricate detail now visible in the king's messenger's bejewelled broach at 10:13, and the fine details now visible in the armour and shields at 23:01, or consider the coarse texture of the togas at 24:01. As with the DVD, the black level is excellent throughout with true, deep blacks. The film intentionally has a very high contrast and thus shadow detail is limited.
The film's overall production design is fantastic. Colour is used strongly throughout, and as with the DVD, the BD accurately reflects the colour palette of the source material. For example, some scenes are monochromatic, such as during the Spartan's battle with the Immortals, while others have a golden tone or silvery metallic blue hue. Skin tones are often bronze or a silvery grey in keeping with the look of the graphic novel.
The BD's transfer has an average bit rate lower than what I have seen on other BDs that I have reviewed. It ranges between 15-20 Mbps, compared to 25-30 Mbps. While the image is often intentionally grainy, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization. There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble. A few small film artefacts, for example, tiny black or white flecks, appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting, and indeed, they were hard to spot.
English, French, and Spanish subtitle streams are included. The English ones are slightly simplified, but accurate.
This is a BD-50 (50 GB) disc. As with the DVD, the feature is divided into 30 chapters.
As one would expect from a recent, big-budget action film, the movie has a brilliant sound design, which in turn translates into a great home theatre experience. 300 boasts an excellent and enveloping surround sound experience, and the BD's audio is wonderful, and again there is a noticeable improvement over the DVD.
300 was originally released in the theatres with dts, SDDS, and Dolby Digital audio, with Sonics-DDP audio for the IMAX version. The BD offers five audio options for the feature: An immersive English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, encoded at 640 Kbps, English Lossless Dolby TrueHD audio, English Linear PCM audio encoded at 4.6 Mbps, French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, encoded at 640 Kbps, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, encoded at 640 Kbps. All surround audio options are magnificent in both their clarity and range, but I particularly enjoyed the Linear PCM audio, which sounded fuller and deeper. There is also an audio commentary, which is provided with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, encoded at 192 Kbps.
As mentioned above, the BD's Linear Pulse Code Modulation (Linear PCM) audio is encoded at 4.6 Mbps. Linear PCM is not necessarily lossless, but the higher the sampling-rate and the bit-depth, the closer the LPCM audio is to the original recording. Although LPCM is supported by the DVD standard, it is very rarely used because it requires such a high bit rate, which takes up valuable disc space. But with dual-layer BD's enjoying 50 GB of disc space, movies on BD can take advantage of uncompressed PCM as an audio option.
Dolby TrueHD Lossless audio is common to both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, although for the HD-DVD format, TrueHD is a mandatory codec, and all HD-DVD players must support it. Whereas in Blu-ray, TrueHD is an optional codec, and TrueHD may only be present on BDs which already include a primary Dolby Digital 5.1 audio option. For both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, TrueHD is capable of carrying up to eight discrete audio channels, at a sample depth and rate of 24-bit/96 kHz. The maximum bitrate that can be encoded on either format is 18 Mbps.
Despite all the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.
The original music is credited to Tyler Bates, and while it often sounds like a cross between a wailing woman and a Limp Bizkit song without lyrics, it is effective, and suits the film well. Bates’ score was criticised for having elements that are heavily derivative of the scores for both Troy and Titus. Apparently Warner Bros. Pictures later acknowledged this in an official statement which mentioned that the matter had been resolved “amicably”.
As with the DVD, the surround presence and activity is wonderful, and it adds a lot to the film, in terms of giving viewers a far more atmospheric experience. The film's visuals have been presented with a sense of hyper-reality, as viewers feel they are being splattered with the on-screen blood, and the surround experience matches this. Apart from supporting many of the surround effects and the score, the rear speakers are often used to provide ambience, such as the eerie and disturbing sound effects during the Spartans battle with the Immortals. As I have noticed with other BDs, there is also a very noticeable improvement in the clarity of the sound in the rear speakers with the LPCM option, for example, consider the scene at 29:26, with the sound of pebbles cascading down the rock face, which can be clearly heard amongst the other ambient noises and score.
The film boasts a wonderful LFE track, and the subwoofer is utilised very effectively throughout.
|Surround Channel Use|
With the DVD, there were a number of genuine and interesting extras, spread over two discs. The same extras have been included on this BD.
As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.
Director Zack Synder, Co-Writer Kurt Johnstad, and DOP Larry Fong provide an informative, screen-specific commentary, with plenty of anecdotes. Synder keeps it fairly lively and light, and they also point out what was 'real' and what was CGI throughout.
Featuring authors and historians, such as Dr. Victor Davis Hanson and Bettany Hughes, this extra looks at 300 as the latest adaptation of this well-known story which has appeared in books, plays, songs, and films. Also appearing in the featurette are Frank Miller and Zack Synder.
Who Were The Spartans?: The Warriors of 300 (4:32)
Featuring clips from the film and interviews, this short extra looks at the customs and way of life of the citizen-warriors who were Spartans.
Preparing For Battle: The Original Test Footage (6:43)
This extra was an Easter Egg on the DVD. It looks at the film adaptation of the graphic novel, and the test footage used to convince the studio to green-light the production.
Frank Miller Tapes (14:42)
Featuring Frank Miller, and a few people from the Comic Book world, this is an extended interview with Miller. Some of the panels from Miller's 300 are also shown.
The Making of 300 (5:51)
This short extra includes interviews with cast and crew, with some behind-the-scenes footage, which is mostly of the actors acting to blue or green-screen backgrounds.
Making 300 in Images (3:40)
Another short extra that includes a montage of behind-the-scenes footage shown in time lapse, and in fast forward, set to music.
Deleted Scenes (3:23)
Introduced by Snyder, there are three deleted scenes. Synder explains why they were cut from the final film. They are not 16x9 enhanced:
These are interesting, and each look at a different aspect of the production. The chapters are:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
In terms of content, this appears to be the same BD as was released in the US. It even has the US anti-piracy splash screen and the US R-Rating appear when the BD is loaded.
300 has also been released on HD-DVD, with a few additional extras, most notably, a blue-screen Picture-in-Picture extra, which allows viewers to simultaneously watch the blue-screen and final versions of 300, with an audio commentary by director, Zack Snyder. There is also a simple game using your remote, and some Internet-based extras, such as 300 fan sites (to share your favourite scenes), and online shopping, via your HD-DVD player, for 300 film merchandise.
With over a quarter of a million BD and HD-DVD copies sold in just the first few days, Warner Home Video recently announced that 300 has become the fastest selling high definition movie ever. As Warner Home Video supports both high definition formats, it is disappointing that the BD has missed out on the PiP extra, especially as a Blu-ray disc has more storage capacity than a HD-DVD disc, and according to US sales figures, the BD has outsold the HD-DVD almost 2:1 in sales.
300 is about heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. It is a post-modern visual masterpiece of image and style.
The video quality is a little grainy, but accurately reflects the source material.
The audio quality is excellent, and very atmospheric.
The extras are genuine and interesting.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|