300 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the transfer satisfied.
Sharpness always looked good. From start to finish, I thought it appeared crisp and concise, with virtually no instances of softness to distract. The image lacked jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. In terms of source flaws, the movie often looked grainy, but this occurred due to stylistic choices; the grain appeared during theatrical screenings as well and was supposed to be there. Otherwise the flick lacked any defects.
Another stylistic choice affected the colors of 300. Essentially, the movie came devoid of most hues, as it often favored either a mild golden tint or a chilly blue tone. Occasionally I saw slightly warmer colors like some rich reds, but those were rare. Within the film’s design, the hues looked solid. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. This was a solid visual presentation.
In addition, 300 boasted an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Like the movie itself, this was a constant assault on the senses, and it added serious punch to the piece. The soundfield used all five speakers to terrific advantage, especially during the battles. All the elements of war swarmed around us and created a fine sense of the setting. Even quieter scenes – which filled about three minutes of this aggressive film – still offered good ambient information. This was a powerful soundfield that placed its pieces well and combined them to work well.
Audio quality also was positive. Despite a lot of looped lines, speech remained natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music was dynamic and full, while effects seemed strong. Those elements produced good punch and lacked distortion. They seemed accurate and tight, and the movie featured excellent low-end response. This was a demonstration worthy soundtrack.
In terms of extras, this two-disc Special Edition begins with an audio commentary on DVD One. We find a running, screen-specific track with director Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong. All three sit together for this piece, though Snyder heavily dominates the proceedings.
95 percent of the chat sticks with three subjects: visual effects, sets – or the lack thereof – and comparisons with the original graphic novel. Occasionally we hear about things like the actors, stunts, and action, but those subjects pop up infrequently. Instead, we get incessant remarks about the digital sets and other banal issues. Even the notes about the adaptation tend to consist of little more than “this shot’s from the graphic novel”. Lots of dead air appears in this dull, frustrating commentary.
A few ads open DVD One. We get promos for Trick ‘r Treat, The Brave One, Superman: Doomsday, Gametap, the 300: March to Glory videogame and the 300 soundtrack.
When we shift to DVD Two, we begin with The 300 – Fact or Fiction?. This 24-minute and 32-second program mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Snyder, authors/historians Bettany Hughes and Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, writer/executive producer Frank Miller, and actor Gerard Butler. The show includes some historical notes about the Spartans and comparisons between those facts and the movie’s fiction. We also learn about Miller’s graphic novel and its film adaptation.
All those factors combine well in this pretty enjoyable piece. It manages to give us a nice examination of how 300 fits with history and fleshes out those facts to a satisfying degree. It should help expand fans’ enjoyment of the film since it broadens their understanding of the material at hand. Oh, and it helps that Hughes is a serious babe!
For more historical information, we find the four-minute and 24-second Who Were the Spartans? The Warriors of 300. It features Snyder, Miller, Butler, Hanson, Hughes, and actors Rodrigo Santoro, and David Wenham. “Warriors” expands on “Fact” as it examines the culture of the Spartans and their society. It’s not as good as “Fact”, but it offers a decent addition to the set.
Next we discover The Frank Miller Tapes. This 14-minute and 31-second piece offers remarks from Snyder, Miller, DC Comic president/publisher Paul Levitz, comic book creator Neal Adams, and DC Comics group editor Bob Schreck. “Tapes” looks at Miller’s start in comics, his development, his influences, and his work on 300. This becomes an enjoyable view of Miller, though it disappoints due to its essential focus on 300. While we get some insights into Miller’s processes and goals, I’d have liked something that took a broader look at his career to better put 300 in context. Nonetheless, “Tapes” works pretty well for what it is.
Making of 300 goes for five minutes, 47 seconds and presents remarks from Snyder, Miller, Butler, Johnstad, visual effects supervisor Chris Watts, Spartan trainer Mark Twight and actor Lena Headey, This promotional piece mostly tells us the movie’s story along with some quick notes about its visual style and the actors’ physical training. It offers exceedingly little substance; you won’t miss anything if you skip it.
A different view of the film’s creation comes from the three-minute and 34-second Making 300 In Images. This provides a visual montage of photos and video fooahe from the 300 set accompanied by music. We see the various elements but they come devoid of context and fly by at a ridiculous rate. Some potentially intriguing bits appear here but they’re robbed of substance and add little to our understanding of the film and its creation.
Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of three minutes, 21 seconds. That running time includes non-optional introductions with Snyder. The first two show a little more of Ephialtes, while the third offers some more action with midget archers. They’re all pretty silly. In his intros, Snyder explains why he cut them.
Originally shown on the Internet, 12 Webisodes go for a total of 38 minutes, 20 seconds. These present remarks from Snyder, Headey, Butler, Santoro, Miller, Johnstad, Twight, Wenham, Watts, production designer Jim Bissell, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, stunt coordinator/fight choreographer Damon Caro, assistant stunt coordinator/assistant fight choreographer Chad Stahelski, creature shop supervisor Mark Rappaport, special effects makeup supervisor Shaun Smith, and actors Vincent Regan and Dominic West. Quick promotional bits, these look at production design, wardrobe, stunts, the graphic novel’s adaptation, the actors, their characters and their training, visual effects, and some aspects of Spartan culture.
Even though the “Webisodes” clearly exist for publicity purposes, they still often manage to provide good information. The first three “Webisodes” deal with production design, wardrobe and stunts, and those prove especially valuable. I also like the ones that check out visual effects, training, makeup and characters. Most of the others tend to be somewhat fluffy, but all remain enjoyable. The “Webisodes” are probably the best extras found in this set.
More ads show up at the start of DVD Two. We get a promotion for WB’s hi-def releases as well as a preview of the upcoming Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition and NHL DVDs.
Possibly the biggest cinematic disappointment we’ll see in 2007, 300 takes an interesting premise and turns the material into laughable schlock. I feel absolutely perplexed that this ripe cheese maintains such a big audience of folks who love it, though I’ll go out on a limb and opine that they’ll be embarrassed of it within the next 10 years. This is a terrible piece of overacted, overwrought and over-dramatic action trash.
As for the DVD, it offered very strong picture and audio. The extras are hit or miss. We find some good historical notes and the “Webisodes” flesh out a variety of production issues, but the commentary is a complete bore and the other behind the scenes pieces remain superficial.
Kind of like 300 itself. Fans of the movie should like this DVD; although its supplements fall short of expectations, it delivers the film well. Too bad that flick is such an inane, overdone piece of fluff.