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300: The Complete Experience Blu-ray

United States
Blu-ray + Digital Copy
Warner Bros. | 2006 | 116 mins | Rated R | Jul 21, 2009

300: The Complete Experience (Blu-ray)

Large: Front Back




Video
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Audio
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish:Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles
English SDH, French, Spanish

Discs
50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)
Digital copy (on disc)
DigiBook
Price
List price: $39.99 
Amazon: $21.49 (Save 46%)
Third party: $21.06 (Save 47%)
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Buy 300: The Complete Experience on Blu-ray

Blu-ray review
Movie 4.5 of 5 4.5
Video 5.0 of 5 5.0
Audio 5.0 of 5 5.0
Extras 4.5 of 5 4.5
Overall 5.0 of 5 5.0

Playback
Region free


300: The Complete Experience Blu-ray Review


Warner takes the word "complete" to heart with this must-own Blu-ray release...


Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 23, 2009

Normally I'd use the opening paragraph of a review to indulge in my own writer's revelry, drawing connections between comic art and classic cinema, blathering on and on about the unexpected box office success of a niche genre pic like 300, or discussing director Zack Snyder's seemingly overnight emergence as one of Hollywood's newest visionaries. Instead, I'd like you to take a moment and peruse the breathtaking images on this page. Go on... I'll wait. Finished? Now click on the "screenshots" tab above and soak in fifteen more. Pay particular attention to the striking composition of each frame, the deft fusion of sepia tones and rustic primaries, the heavy brush-stroked shadows and painterly clouds. Take note of each fleck of blood, scattering stone, and searing flame. Memorize every pore, every tattered spear, ever rough-hewn garment, every fallen warrior, and every nick in Leonidas' battle-worn helmet. Seriously, take your time. When you're done, meet me in the next section.



Pause the movie at any point and treat yourself to an exquisite work of art...


Director Zack Snyder's divisive sophomore outing, 300 (itself an adaptation of Frank Miller's divisive comicbook miniseries), has been labeled many things -- superficial drivel, poorly paced actioner, shallow, special effects-driven nonsense... you name it -- but its harshest critics seem to have missed the point. Like Robert Rodriguez's gut-punch-a-minute masterpiece, Sin City, 300 is a graphic novel come to life; a visually arresting showstopper that effortlessly captures the static intensity, suspended momentum, and simmering fury of its comic-panel roots. Snyder isn't concerned with historical accuracy or the traditional mechanics of film, nor is he interested in spending too much time developing his admittedly one-note characters. No, the young director focuses on one thing and one thing alone: crafting a legend that rings as true as the embellished literary epics of old. Miller and Snyder's Leonidas confronts monsters with the unwavering determination of Beowulf, scoffs at Xerxes with the confidence of Achilles, and leads his men with the cunning temperament of Odysseus. The filmmakers' Spartans are a fearless race of tenacious freedom fighters, their Persian army an endless ocean of blood-thirsty warriors. Their skies are filled with the rage of gods, their grounds shake with the thundering approach of bewildering beasts. Make no mistake, 300 isn't, and was never meant to be, a typical Hollywood production.

As such, its story has been stripped of extraneous subplots and unnecessary exposition. When a Persian envoy arrives in Sparta and demands allegiance, a brave king named Leonidas (Gerard Butler) kills the insolent messengers and sends word to the Persian ruler, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), that his nation will never bow to foreign aggression. Xerxes responds by sending his massive army to a thin sliver of beach and rock called the Hot Gates, the only tactical entranceway to Sparta. With just three-hundred of his finest fighters, Leonidas marches against Xerxes to prove even a small band of Spartans is more dangerous than legions of enemy soldiers. But the war isn't just waged on the battlefield. In Snyder's biggest departure from Miller's graphic novel, Leonidas' queen (Lena Headey) is forced to deal with a corrupt politician (The Wire's Dominic West) secretly working to convince the Spartan Council to surrender to the Persians. It all results in a stirring third act that reveals just how much Sparta's bravest heroes are willing to sacrifice for freedom.

Those unwilling to accept the film on its own terms will find it's incredibly easy to pick it apart. Character arcs are few and far between, the story often takes a backseat to Snyder's visuals, and an uber-heightened reality permeates every shot and scene. However, 300's power lies in its ability to lure its viewers into its meticulously designed world of clashing swords and slinging spears, drawing people into the same rousing tale the film's narrator is telling his audience. Those who balk at its lingering, slow-motion trappings will miss the beauty of each steady shield and rampaging swordsman. Those who shrug off its homespun emotional core will miss the untapped rage and stirring loyalty pulsing just below the surface. Those who raise an eyebrow at its strange parade of monstrosities and limbless executioners will miss the nature of the narrator's story and the intent behind his exaggerated claims. Me? I get caught up in the sheer magnificence of the imagery and the audacious swaths cut by the script. Watching Leonidas rally his troops into a frenzy gives me chills, seeing them press against an oncoming horde makes the hair on my neck stand at attention, studying the warriors as they accept their fate leaves me with the overwhelming desire to watch it all over again.

I have no doubt 300 will continue to divide audiences. It defies expectations, shatters genre conventions, and ignores a variety of filmic fundamentals. Even so, it excels at everything it sets out to accomplish. It breathes new life into its source material, represents a complete realization of Miller's comicbook miniseries, and stands as one of the best comic-to-film adaptations of all time. I know there are plenty of people out there who despise its slowburn pacing and restrained action, but I'm always blown away by its assuredness and control. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch 300 yet, try to approach it without any preconceived ideas. Simply sit back, soak in the sublime imagery, and lose yourself in the simplicity of its mesmerizing story.


Video

  5 of 5


Yes, 300: The Complete Experience recycles the same 1080p/VC-1 transfer that graced Warner's original Blu-ray edition, and yes, Snyder's grizzled, hotly debated grainfield is intact (in all its glorious entirety). But I challenge anyone to explain to me how the studio's impressive, proficient, and exceedingly faithful 2007 presentation is a detriment to this re-release of the film. Most of the complaints I've read about the technical transfer are actually nitpicks about Snyder's directorial intentions and aesthetic decisions. Skewed color saturation, flattened dimensionality, bottomless shadows, and the aforementioned veneer of grain (which I don't personally find distracting) have all been employed for a specific purpose: capturing the painterly tone and stark imagery of Miller's original comic. In fact, taken on its own merits, 300 delivers an impeccable visual extravaganza; a beautiful technical achievement that prioritizes the director's intent above focus groups, hate mail, and DNR apologists. I love a slick and polished picture as much as the next guy, but a slick and polished picture isn't always the shiniest image on the block. Sometimes it comes in the form of a transfer that deftly recreates the theatrical experience without sacrificing the wonders of a high definition upgrade.

Simply put, true fans of 300 are in for a real treat. Larry Fong's amber-rich colors are absolutely stunning: bold reds splash across the screen, deep browns provide a sense of depth even when Snyder restrains it, and startling blues interrupt the proceedings with commanding presence. Contrast is strong and stable, blessing each frame with the stark, rugged qualities of Miller's original artwork. Detail is exceptional as well, imbuing the picture with crisp edges, fierce textures, and relatively revealing delineation. Even the softness that graces the backgrounds has been lovingly reproduced with the utmost care. And the technical image? Artifacting, unintended noise, crush, and aliasing are nowhere to be found, and the presentation is free of any unnecessary post-theatrical tampering. While a slight application of edge enhancement and some faint color banding threatens to disappoint videophiles, both are thankfully kept to a bare minimum.

As it stands, I can't imagine 300 looking much better than it does here. I'm sure some viewers will continue to complain about Snyder's hyper-stylized visuals, hoping for a miraculous studio intervention, but I'm indescribably thrilled with Warner's commitment to the intended look of the film. Despite its supposed "flaws," 300 will always be a high definition disc I trot out to wow my friends and impress my neighbors.


Audio

  5 of 5


Warner pairs its sumptuous video transfer with a fantastic Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that, superfluous praise aside, is a shocking sucker punch in its own right. Dialogue is crystal clear, weighty, and perfectly prioritized in the busy, oft-times chaotic soundscape. Leonidas' hearty speeches and Dilios' throaty narration are spot on, while the gurgled cries of their Persian victims are wet and wounded. LFE output is powerful, to say the least, injecting charging hordes with imposing presence, thrusting spears with undeniably immediacy, and devastating storms with pounding rain, veracious winds, and roaring waves. Rear speaker activity is just as remarkable, filling battles with fallen foes, toppling creatures, clanging swords, and splattering blood. The film's ultra-violence is immersive enough to make a droog weep. The soundfield surrounds the listener, grabs hold and refuses to let go, leading to a number of top tier scenes and memorable encounters. More importantly, directionality and channel pans are as precise as they come, creating an accurate, indisputably involving sonic experience worthy of more praise than I care to impart. As rare as it may be, I don't have a single complaint.

(Note the previously released 2007 Blu-ray edition of 300 offered two high-end audio options: a TrueHD 5.1 track and an uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix. However, since the actual listening experiences they provided were indiscernible from each other, Warner decided to jettison one for this new release. As a result, The Complete Experience doesn't include the PCM mix.)


Supplements

  4.5 of 5


300: The Complete Experience arrives on Blu-ray in style, fulfilling every promise the studio and the disc's producers have made. It boasts four densely packed Picture-in-Picture experiences, all of the previous content from the original Blu-ray release, and enough material to keep even the film's most rabid fans busy for days. Moreover, it comes packed in an attractive 40-page Digibook case with an embossed cover, and includes a Digital Copy of the film. I wouldn't say, as many have put it, "it's the most beautiful packaging I've ever seen" -- especially since it's essentially just a traditional Digibook with a striking cover photo, a shiny disposition, and a well-conceived interior layout -- but it's certainly the most gorgeous Digibook available on the market.

  • The Complete 300: Comprehensive Immersion: The most obvious new feature that's been added to Warner's Complete Experience release is a trio of Picture-in-Picture tracks, each of which can be engaged and disengaged at will while watching the film. Tapping the green button on your remote accesses "Creating a Legend," a filmmaker-focused track that digs into Zack Snyder and Frank Miller's interpretation and adaptation of the story itself. Pressing the blue button provides access to "Bringing the Legend to Life," a more thorough look at the artistry, talent, and effort that went into creating the comicbook's big screen counterpart. And a quick flick of the yellow button accesses "The History Behind the Myth," an intriguing look at the real Spartans, the advancing Persian army, and the Battle of Thermopylae.

    The button-babysitting experience is a bit cumbersome -- particularly in lieu of the Maximum Movie Mode featured on the Blu-ray edition of Watchmen -- but it provides a fairly intriguing and extensive overview of the production. Just beware its daunting main menu (which, at first glance, looks as if it requires a team of technicians to decipher), its at-times tricky navigational interface, and its lack of an obvious, user-friendly exit. Even so, stick with it. The experience becomes far less taxing and far more intuitive as you begin to understand the lay of the land.
  • Bluescreen Picture-in-Picture Experience: You can also watch the entire film alongside its decidedly low-rent, pre-CG incarnation. Snyder hosts this visual commentary of sorts, using every opportunity to discuss the techniques, shortcuts, and practical wizardry that laid the groundwork for his CG artisans. The track tends to get repetitive after a while (and only perks up during the film's more complicated action scenes), but it showcases yet another aspect of the production that truly helps complete this Complete Experience release.
  • Filmmakers' Audio Commentary: If all the PiP shenanigans didn't give you your proper fill, try this more traditional filmmakers' commentary with Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad, and director of photography Larry Fong. While the trio tend to stick to subjects of the technical variety, they also avoid plowing through material that's been covered elsewhere on the disc. Minor repetition is inevitable, sure, but their personal banter is still involving enough to keep hardcore 300 fans on board till the end.
  • 300 Spartans: Fact or Fiction? (HD, 24 minutes): This whirlwind tour of genre films, ancient legends, and Snyder's stylized adaptation soon evolves into a more engrossing documentary as the director discusses his vision for the film, the changes he made to history and Miller's comic, and the story elements he highlighted and shoved aside.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 minutes): I find it hard to believe this small assortment of scenes were the only things left on the cutting room floor, but I'm still glad to see they've survived long enough to find their way here. While each one was wisely trimmed from the film, fans will get a kick out of seeing scenes that could have been. Snyder is also on hand to provide an introduction to the footage.
  • Production Webisodes (SD, 38 minutes): A generous helping of twelve webisodes are available as well. Segments include "Production Design," "Stuntwork," "Wardrobe," "Training the Actors," "Adapting the Graphic Novel," "Culture of the City State," "A Glimpse from the Set," "Fantastic Characters," "Gerard Butler," "Lena Headey," "Rodrigo Santoro," and "Scene Studies."
  • Preparing for Battle (HD, 6 minutes): This all-too-brief featurette shows the many hoops Snyder had to jump through to hand him the reigns to 300. Of particular note is a video montage he created to help sell execs on his unique vision for the film.
  • The Frank Miller Tapes (HD, 15 minutes): The "Dark Knight Returns" artist and scribe wasn't always fond of handing his books to filmmakers, but he's since come around. This informative short looks at his involvement in 300, his investment in his own work, and his stunning compositions.
  • The Making of 300 (SD, 6 minutes): More an extended trailer than a legitimate featurette, this back-patting promo is, without a doubt, one of the few low points of this release. Ah well, completists will be happy to see everything from the previous Blu-ray edition -- even schlock like this -- has been retained in The Complete Experience.
  • The Warriors of 300 (HD, 6 minutes): A secondary featurette that gives the film's actors a chance to chat about their characters, the Spartan way of life, and the personalities they helped realize on screen.
  • Making 300 in Images (SD, 3 minutes): Another one for completists, this bland and redundant video montage isn't worth the three minutes it takes to watch it unfold.
  • Bonus Digital Copy: A Digital Copy disc is included in a separate cardboard sleeve.
  • BD-Live Functionality: The usual WB access.



Final words

  5 of 5


What more is there to say about 300 that hasn't already been said? It has the distinction of being one of the most divisive, beautiful, and faithful comic-to-film adaptations of all time, and has continued to build upon its surprising box office success with a hungry home video fanbase. The Complete Experience is an answer to prayers to some and a shameless double-dip to others. But regardless of where you stand, this Blu-ray release is impressive. Its dazzling video transfer is exceedingly faithful, its earth-shaking TrueHD audio track is resonant and immersive, and its supplemental package -- which includes four PiP experiences, an audio commentary, and a hefty collection of additional special features -- is as extensive as they come. In my humble opinion, this latest 300 release is worth every penny.

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