Pardon my Greek, but Frank Miller's 300 is ultimately--like so many of his stories-- about balls. And not the little squishy ones you find on modern "men" like me, mustering up the courage to tell that old lady not to cut in line at the A&P as I stand there with organic tofu and almond milk in my basket. No, I'm talkin' 'bout the big bronze history-altering variety. Men who'd lay down their lives in the bloodiest manner possible for the sake of their beliefs. Inspired by the movie The 300 Spartans which he saw as a child, Miller's five-issue graphic novel is a highly stylized, fast-and-loose account of The Battle of Thermopylae, way back in 480 B.C., as King Leonidas and a mere fifteen-score soldiers from the legendary warrior city-state of Sparta seek to block the invading Persian hordes of King Xerxes, estimated by some to number in the millions. Don't go looking for a precise history lesson, just let the "action porn" flow over you. I mean no disrespect to the lovely and talented Lena Headey, but I did reach for the remote almost every time the film cut back to her character and her efforts on the home front to enlist aid for brave Leonidas, a talky subplot heavily embellished for the film. I just couldn't wait to get back to the "good parts."
Also, do give Joe Lozito's 300 movie review a read.
Put a spear to my head and I'll say that this new disc utilizes the same audio/video master as the July 2007 Blu-ray release. Despite multiple viewings (I keep a high-def recording on my Dish DVR and watch it almost every time I see it's on again), I'd forgotten how grainy this movie can be, captured as it was in the Super 35 film process. Much like with Watchmen, superhuman efforts were made to capture the look of the original source material, not strictly the costumes or production design or the ever-present computer-generated special effects, but the very deliberately manipulated light and color, preserved magnificently in high-definition. Not every charging horde against an imaginary backdrop is supposed to be realistic, but every frame captures the spirit of the story. Not to get ahead of myself, but if you watch the raw bluescreen version (available as a bonus), you can see how much work went into creating the final look of every shot.
This Warner disc defaults to Dolby Digital 5.1 so do remember to switch over to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. The surrounds in this mix are wonderfully active, providing detail amidst all the power, particularly in Tyler Bates' inspired, inventive score. Also, atmospheric touches like a heavy gate opening, a bird flapping its wings, an approaching horse, and later the very air comes alive with the arrival countless enemy arrows. There's palpable aggression in every frame, and it is underscored by the audio. Your sub will get quite the pounding as well, highlighted by the sheer thunder as the first wave of Persians crashes against the shields of the Spartans - and is repelled shortly thereafter. The low frequencies also add a sense of gravitas, suggesting that the metal of their weapons and accoutrements is indeed "heavy."
What really sets this new 300 apart are the supplements. Keep in mind that when the Blu-ray and HD DVD originally hit about two years ago, HD DVD had the technical advantage and Blu-ray could not compete with features like Picture-in-Picture. This double-dip makes up for lost time with "300: The Comprehensive Immersion" (kinda sounds like a medical treatment, doesn't it?), three different "paths" that exploit BD's Bonus View technology. "Creating a Legend: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Interpret a Classic tale" explores the genesis and lessons of the comic book, "Bringing the Legend to Life: Building a World from a Comic" breaks down the filming of the movie and "The History Behind the Myth: The Real Story of The Hot Gates" explains what probably happened.
A vast amount of material is shared in various media for these interactive experiences, guided by onscreen prompts. This section is introduced by Zack Snyder, and directors like him are going to drive Blu-ray to its full potential in the years ahead. In addition, we can watch the entire movie in its unfinished bluescreen version with full running commentary by Snyder, who also joins screenwriter Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong on a different track.
Exiting featurettes and other bonuses are carried over too. "The 300 -- Fact or Fiction?" is a dense 24-and-a-half-minute primer, while the four-and-a-half-minute "Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300" approaches the subject from a different angle, both in HD. "Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage" tells a great story about the Herculean efforts need to convince the studio to make this movie, culminating in a brief, illustrative proof-of-concept reel which successfully conveyed Snyder's vision for the film (about seven minutes, in HD). "The Frank Miller Tapes: Unfiltered Conversations with Frank & Friends" is a 15-minute interview with the revered creator of the 300 graphic novel and so much more, along with selected allies (HD). The three deleted scenes with director introductions run about three-and-a-half minutes, in HD. Only available in SD are the 12 collected "webisodes" totaling 38 minutes, a fast-paced SD still photo gallery of the entire production (about four minutes) and a condensed six-minute "Making of 300."
The disc supports BD-Live, and packed inside the beautiful little hardcover "digibook" of art, photos, quotes, credits and instructions is a second platter, a DVD containing a Digital Copy of the movie for iTunes and Windows Media Player.
300 is a guilty pleasure for some, as close as others will ever get to learning any ancient history, and great home theater for all. With this new Blu-ray from Warner--definitely worth the re-buy for fans--the deeper, richer, previously impossible extras leave no bloody stone unturned, while pushing the entire medium forward.
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