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Director Zack Snyder’s 300 ($35) is a visually stunning and blood-soaked adaptation of the Frank Miller/Lynn Varley graphic novel of the same name. The graphic novel was loosely adapted from the historic Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which 300 Spartans (amongst others) stood and held their ground against the overwhelming hordes of Persian forces for a considerable period of time. As a film, 300 is far less interested in historic accuracy, than it is in being visually compelling, and the movie succeeds brilliantly on that level- becoming a superb live action graphic novel in itself.

The basic premise of 300 follows upon King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) refusal to submit to the will and rule of the Persian god-emperor Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) by slaying of his ambassadors. Corrupt political and religious leaders prevent Leonidas from leading his entire army into battle, so the Spartan King takes 300 "personal bodyguards" on a covert mission to stand against the Persian forces. Along the way, the 300 are joined by other Greeks, and together, they blockade the encroaching Persian army, forcing them to attack through a narrow passageway, where there overwhelming numbers become far less of a tactical advantage. What follows are a series of beautifully choreographed battle sequences, which seem very much like comic book panels that leap off the page. The cast of 300 also features Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin and Andrew Tiernan.

Warner Home Video has made 300 available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. It is easy to see that the 1080p presentation contained on this Blu-ray release is superior to the original DVD release, as high definition is better suited to rendering the film’s digitally manipulated images. As I commented on the DVD review, 300 has a highly stylized look, which keeps it true to the feel of a graphic novel. Despite digital manipulation and synthetic filmmaking techniques, the picture appears quite sharp, highly dimensionality and provides terrific texturing and fine detail. For much of the film, the filmmakers have chosen a desaturated or near monochromatic pallet to enhance the atmosphere of given sequences, but bold splashes of color appear here and there. Shadow detail has been manipulated, as has the contrast, appearing both artificially boosted and crushed for visual effect. As the majority of the film’s sequences have been digitally constructed, 300 lacks an organic quality. However, 300 maintains a gritty visual nature, thanks to digital application of grain.

300 is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. No surprises here, this is a totally awesome sonic experience that bests the potent track found on the original SD DVD release. Considering the very nature of the material, it should come as no surprise that this sound design is very aggressive, with the outlying channels being well utilized during the battle sequences. The soundstage also creates convincing sonic environments during quieter passages. Fidelity is excellent; the sound effects are big and weighty, while the musical component comes across in a full-bodied manner. Additionally, the bass channel is highly percussive and ground shaking. A French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the tremendous wealth of supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director/co-writer Zack Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad and cinematographer Larry Fong. Snyder. Also featured is a Bluescreen Picture-In-Picture Commentary with director Zack Snyder that compares the footage as shot, to the fully rendered completed film (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Next is the Blu-ray release’s most significant supplement: The Complete 300: A Comprehensive Immersion (also requires a Profile 1.1 player). The Comprehensive Immersion offers three different picture-in-picture paths to follow, with each looking at the film from a different perspective, and offering different supplemental materials. Creating A Legend: Frank Miller And Zack Snyder Interpret A Classic Tale looks at how Frank Miller and Zack Snyder interpret and visualize the story. Bringing The Legend To Life: Building A World From A Comic looks at the techniques employed to create the cinematic version of the graphic novel. The History Behind The Myth: The Real Story Of The Hot Gates looks at the historic record of the Battle of Thermopylae. Each path can be switched on the fly, so one is able sample the different aspects of the supplemental materials at any given moment.

Featurettes and other programs include the following: The 300: Fact Or Fiction is a twenty-five minute program that looks at the story’s historic origins. Who Were The Spartans? clocks in at four minutes and offers some insight into the actual Spartans. The Frank Miller Tapes is a fourteen-minute program focused on the creator of the graphic novel. The Making Of 300 is a typical five-minute fluff piece made up of interviews and clips. Making 300 In Images provides a three-minute "blink and you missed it look" at the imagery, sans digital effects. Deleted Scenes With Introduction From Director Zack Snyder is self-explanatory- with three scenes offered. Lastly, one will find a collection of twelve Webisodes consisting on online promotional content, totaling thirty-eight minutes of material, which covers topics such as Production Design, Wardrobe, Stunt Work, Adapting The Graphic Novel and Cast Members. 300 is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided. 300: THE COMPLETE EXPERIENCE features handsome book styled packaging that contains forty pages of photos and production notes.

300 is a stunning accomplishment in adapting a graphic novel to cinema. As for the Blu-ray release, it offers a superb high definition presentation that has been complemented by outstanding supplemental content. Highly recommended.



300: The Complete Experience (Blu-ray Book + Digital Copy and BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (2007)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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