Frank Miller's 300 HD DVD Review

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: August 2, 2007 | Publication: gizmocafe.com | Author: Wayde
Publication/Article Link:http://www.gizmocafe.com/blogs/gizmo_cafe_blog/archive/2007/08/02/frank-miller-s-300-hd-dvd-review.aspx

300, the movie, is the CGI action film event of 2006 and is now on HD DVD, DVD and Blu-ray. Shot 100% digitally, this film begs to be viewed on one of the high definition disc formats. But itís the HD DVD users that get treated to groundbreaking disc technology: Make Your Own Movie.

300 is adapted from the graphic novel of the same name. Itís Frank Millerís impressionistic vision of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.

In the movie, a coalition of forces under the Persian Empire gathered to invade the shining light of a fledgling western civilization; Greece. Itís up to the heroic King Leonidas of Sparta and 300 hopelessly outnumbered Spartan warriors to slow the invading force long enough for Greece to muster a viable defense.

Director Zack Snyder meticulously follows the visual style of Frank Millerís comic series the way Sin City followed its respective comic book. Although comparisons to Sin City are inevitable, 300 gives us more color than Sin City ever could have. The movie is a visual feast of stylized fight scenes and CGI sets. It weighs itself down with only enough dialogue, plot and character development to drive the Spartans into action. Donít expect a wordy history lesson here. This movie is a masterpiece of unbridled digital myth making.

We Shall Fight in the Shade

Thermopylae is widely held as an important battle for western civilization. The[LC1] loss of Athenian intellectual advances to a superstitious Persian empire ruled by a king who fancied himself a god could have caused incalculable setbacks to civilization and technology. But itís only the benefit of history that affords this perspective now. The film hammers us with unlikely dialogue where Spartans blurt out high-minded platitudes between swordplay.

Itís easy to find much of the dialogue comical or even cheesy. But remember that much of it is taken from the pages of a comic book and, believe it or not, the famous line ďwe shall fight in the shadeĒ was a quote from lifted from pages written by Herodotus. Never mind the dialogue Ė the film moves at a mile-a-minute pace while weíre treated to the finest eye candy this side of the local Cineplex.

HD DVD Video

The filmís visuals are a jaw-dropping example high def disc technology. Iíve long held the HD DVD version of Peter Jacksonís King Kong to be the best example of video Iíve seen on the format with its rich, colorful detail. I now have a new one to set right along side King Kong.

But 300 provides something different. Itís not nearly as pristine as Jacksonís Kong. Instead of life-like, rich details you get overexposure, saturated colors and murky shadows Ė exactly as the director intended. You see, 300 seeks dreamy legend rather than crisp high definition reality. It delivers a visual style complete with the ambiguities youíd expect upon awakening from a half remembered nightmare.

300 HD DVD is the kind of disc you retain as a reference anytime you want a practical demonstration of the technology. Its stylized shots and creative video effects make it a veritable bookend to the clean, sunny skylines featured in Jacksonís King Kong.

Sound

I watched the film in 5.1 Dolby Digital through my Xbox 360ís HD DVD add-on player. An optical cable connection feeds my Arcam receiver - the receiver powers five NHT speakers and delivers an audio signal to my 12Ē subwoofer.

Dolby TrueHD is available on the disc and selectable through my setup. I avoided it, however, since I lack TrueHD decoding and didnít feel Iíd be acoustically served with a downsampled version. So I elected to just go with regular Dolby Digital 5.1 pending future experimentation.

The filmís soundtrack made practical use of surround channels. When young Leonidas faces the wolf in the snow, the echo in the cave was reproduced perfectly. A few times through the movie I heard odd birds fluttering about in the surrounds; effects that added depth without ever being overbearing.

There was one scene where I swore I heard a loon. And I know the call of a loon. It is summer, and living in Canada means the lonely call of the loon is fresh in my mind. Whether or not loons are indigenous to Greece is immaterial, though. If rear channel audio was detailed enough for me to believe I picked out a species of bird, I am suitably impressed.

Warning: Bass and subwoofer are used liberally throughout. Just when you start thinking the soundtrack is only feeding you a constant monotone rumble to exaggerate fight scenes, the .1 channel will do something more detailed and dynamic. There were parts of the film that dipped as far into 20Hz range as my sub was capable of and I could feel them in my chest. Itís truly a bass loverís soundtrack. If you have a sub that can follow subtle variation down low, you certainly wonít be disappointed.

Verdict Ė Who Will Like this Film?

If youíve been known to enjoy the odd mindless action film, youíll love it. tThough this is no mindless action film -- quite the contrary, itís a highly esthetic mindless action film and there is a difference.

If youíre a comics fan youíll love 300ís faithfulness to the source material. However, you might not like this movie if you expect a detailed and historically accurate Ďperiod pieceí depicting ancient Greece; this film more closely resembles fantasy. Youíll really love this film if youíre interested in seeing what groundbreaking cinematography and digital technologies are capable of producing today. And if you really enjoy the movie, the HD DVD has enough special features to keep you busy for days.