HD DVD Review: 300
Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: September 21, 2007 | Publication: blogcritics.org | Author: Matt Paprocki
A landmark in film visuals, 300 is an unforgettable experience. Its somewhat true story is mesmerizing, aided along by the style of Frank Miller and digital effects that become an actor by themselves. The visceral battles, superb performances, and uncompromising violence are only the beginning of the highlights.
True to the source material, 300 is hardly an all-out action epic. Its battles are extended, yes, but the first half hour glides along to explain the people of Sparta and their culture to those who are unfamiliar. Fantastical in nature, the story somehow never loses its feel for reality. Deep into the fights against an unrelenting Persian army, the fantastical is accepted and the adrenaline kicks in.
Visuals are important not only as something to stare at in awe. They draw the viewer deeper into the story as it's impossible to look away. Every scene has something to capture your eye. Backgrounds are beautiful, and a storm, which takes down countless advancing Persian boats, is a masterpiece.
Violence is used not only to excite, but to enhance and deepen characters. The exaggerated blood works to increase the emotional impact of certain deaths. Gore accentuates the action without becoming the focus.
A subplot involving the Spartan Queen Gorgo goes deeper than the graphic novel. This changes the style and tone of the war to avoid repetition while providing something more profound than an all-out action epic. Style is maintained while the double-crossing plot creates another level of tension.
A sly, sarcastic sense of humor smartly lightens the tone to take a slight edge off of the sheer violence depicted. This combines to make 300 brilliantly well rounded. It's a film you cannot take your eyes away from, and that's hard to find anymore.
This is an HD masterpiece. The intentional and fine grain filter adds to the grittiness of the film. You don't get this effect on SD DVD, or at least in nowhere near as much detail. Behind the digital additions to the print lies a superbly detailed transfer. Costumes, make up, and gore hold up beautifully under a harsh test of clarity.
Audio is likewise powerful, especially in the flawless TrueHD presentation. Surround use is constant, from the subtle (small rocks falling) to the strong (arrows flying through the air). Shields clashing leads to superb bass, and animal strikes (the rhino charge especially) will take some time to match.
Extras are almost entirely in HD, further adding to the value of this massive release. 300: Fact or Fiction is a 25 minute study on the film and its accuracy, or in many cases, inaccuracies. Who Were the Spartans? is a brief featurette on the actors and their studies on Spartan life.
Prepare for Battle focuses on the effort to bring the novel to life. The Frank Miller Tapes is a 15 minute piece on the artists inspirations and why he chose the story of 300 in the first place.
The non-HD features begin with a fluff promotional piece on the making of the film, along with another making of that uses still images to present the shooting schedule. A brief selection of deleted scenes include a director's introduction to explain their reasoning behind leaving it out of the print.
The twelve webisodes last for nearly 40 minutes and were shot as the production was moving forward. They focus on an incredible array of topics, and include some wonderful behind the scenes footage. A surprisingly in-depth strategy game called Vengeance and Valor is a fun time waster in which you try to fend off the Persian army with a minuscule number of troops.
Online features include the ability to edit scenes together and then upload them for other viewers to check out. It's not easy to use, and ends up as more potential than use. As if you don't spend enough money on media, you can purchase PC and mobile phone wallpapers and such through the disc.
All of this is already pushing this disc high into the annals of DVD extras, though nothing compares to the picture-in-picture comparison. Here, Zack Snyder provides a commentary while you watch the actual shot footage in a window against the finished film. Snyder points out what they had to do for certain shots, what was CG or miniature, and all while the actors look ridiculous on a soundstage in front a blue (and occasionally green) screen. This is worth the price of the disc on its own.
The Blu-Ray edition of 300 does not include the picture-in-picture feature. The discs are otherwise identical, aside from the removal of the TrueHD audio mix, which is replaced with a PCM presentation.