300: Two-Disc Special Edition – DVD Review


Available at Amazon.com

Director

Zack Snyder

Cast

Gerard Butler……….King Leonidas
Lena Headey……….Queen Gorgo
Dominic West……….Theron
David Wenham……….Dilios
Vincent Regan……….Captain
Michael Fassbender .Stelios
Tom Wisdom……….Astinos
Andrew Pleavin……….Daxos
Andrew Tiernan……….Ephialtes
Rodrigo Santoro……….Xerxes

The Movie

300 is one of the few films that has come out in 2007 and received an overwhelming positive response. It may not have been a historical representation of the Battle of Thermopylae, nor a complete representation of the Frank Miller graphic novel, but it was something a sword and sandals film hadn’t been since Gladiator at the turn of the century: a crowd pleasing, unapologetic film about good vs. evil.

The film is based loosely off the event of the Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartan warriors held off a massive Persian army numbering over one million men for three days. Led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), the Spartan Army held off the Persians long enough to galvanize the rest of Greece and eventually repel the invaders from the Middle East. The Spartans famous last stand, as they all ended up dead to a man, would be one of history’s great moments in valor and a battle studied by military historians for many centuries to come. It combines one of western civilization’s galvanizing moments with the flair of one of the great graphic novelists of our time into one of the best films of 2007.

The film isn’t a history lesson, nor is it purely an adaptation of a graphic novel, which is its main strength. 300 is not trying to be a complete history lesson, which allows it some leeway with the events of those three fateful days. It stays faithful to the main events of the battle, which is appreciated by those with an eye for history, but at the same time it isn’t the most faithful adaptation of the novel. It’s a combination of both, taking the best elements of the novel and meshing them with the history while leaving out certain factors that anyone whose studied Greek military history will immediately notice. But this isn’t what makes the film as enjoyable as it is.

That’s left to two things: its visuals and its cast. The film, done mainly on blue screens, is a visual gem unlike anything previous in the genre. It’s a stunning collection of visuals, as no real life atmosphere could transfer the sort of setting one needs for this sort of historical epic. Snyder and his visualization team have done a marvelous job in crafting the film. But the film wouldn’t be as powerful as it was without the cast.

This is a cast of mainly unknowns and other lower level actors. While no one besides Gerard Butler is noteworthy for accomplishments outside the film, this isn’t a bad thing. Rather it allows Snyder to have a template of actors no one will recognize or associate with other roles. In particular he gets a rather iconic performance from the former star of The Phantom of the Opera. Butler plays Leonidas in two main ways. When he isn’t in combat, he is a military leader who sets the example for his truth. When they celebrate Persian ships crashing in the ocean during a savage thunderstorm, he’s notably calm in assessing the situation. This is a man who knows the task at hand and isn’t allowing his emotions to dictate things; everything he does is calculated to keep his troops at an even keel. When he’s in battle, however, Butler seems to be in the midst of a “roid rage” in order to spur the greatest warriors in the era against overwhelming odds. He has the sort of bravado and swagger, not to mention terrific lines and moments from a carefully scripted film, but when the moment is in the heat of battle Leonidas is a crazed madman who one can’t help but not get excited over. When he screams “Give them NOTHING, and take from them EVERYTHING!” you feel it in a place that’s raw and guttural. If Butler doesn’t do anything else that’s notable in his career, he can hang his helmet on crafting one of the great heroes of the epic film.

300 had one of the best trailers of the past two years when it debuted before The Departed last fall. While it will probably not receive the same sort of praise as the Scorsese crime epic, 300 is a phenomenal film in its own right.

A/V QUALITY CONTROL

The film 300 has one main calling card over nearly any film in 2007: its audio/visual experience. In the theaters its power lay in its tremendous visuals and room-shaking audio, its epic story being matched by its epic look and feel. On DVD the film has been given a flawless transfer in a letterbox widescreen format with a Dolby Digital 5.1 format. It’s a terrific audio/visual experience, as the film takes full advantage of the formats and on the small screen is every bit as visually engaging as it was on the big screen.

The Extras

The 300 — Fact or Fiction is a look back at the historical aspects behind the actual history behind the battle of Thermopylae. Miller admits he made up a bunch of the events, including the iconic image of a young Leonidas killing a wolf, to make Leonidas into a more legendary hero. This feature delves into a lot of the history behind the time and the events. Butler, Miller and Snyder are joined by various academics in a discussion about the historical figures behind the cinematic ones.

Who were the Spartans? The Warriors of 300 is a feature that focuses on the Spartans themselves and some of the more interesting quirks of he era.

Frank Miller Tapes is a look back at the career of Frank Miller. With various figures from the comic industry, as well as Miller himself providing some self-aware commentary, it looks back at his inspiration behind writing the novel behind 300.

Making of 300 is a quick video package of highlights from the film’s production meshed with scenes from the film.

Making 300 In Images is another video package highlighting the production process.

Deleted Scenes come complete with an introduction by Snyder, who tells exactly why he cut them from the film. Mainly it has to do with story-plotting and pace, as only a few scenes were cut.

Webisodes from the film’s production that were posted online are all included for those who didn’t view them on the web originally.

Commentary by Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and Director of Photography Larry Fong

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for 300
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

10
THE AUDIO

10
THE EXTRAS

5
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)