This. Is. Judge Dan Mancini!
Our reviews of 300 (Blu-Ray) (published August 10th, 2007), 300 (HD DVD) (published August 10th, 2007), 300: Limited Collectors Edition (published November 18th, 2008), and 300: Two-Disc Special Edition (published August 10th, 2007) are also available.
"The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, that even a god-king can bleed."—King Leonidas
Facts of the Case
In 480 BC, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, Redbelt), god-king of the Persian Empire, is determined to conquer the city-states of Greece. Leonidas (Gerard Butler, RocknRolla), warrior-king of Sparta, decides he'd rather destroy the vast Persian army than make his people slaves to Xerxes. The five Ephors—ghastly, deformed mystics who have final say in Spartan matters of war—decide against fighting back, so Leonidas takes a small cadre of 300 men to stand against the Persians. Their plan is to funnel the foreigners into a narrow ridge called Thermopylae (the Hot Gates) where the enemy's superior numbers won't matter. The plan is so crazy, it just might work.
My favorite criticism of director Zack Snyder's 300 is that it's not historically accurate. Really? Because the giant charging rhinoceros, nine-foot tall drag queen King Xerxes, bald giant troll-man with grotesquely sinewy neck and filed teeth, sepia tone cinematography, and hyper-abundant use of speed ramping to allow us long looks at all the dismemberments had me thinking it was a History Channel production. You mean real Spartans didn't look like competitive bodybuilders in crimson capes? Color me shocked. 300 is history reduced to high-style fable couched in everything that's awesome about modern action flicks. Its message is simple: There comes a time to kick ass or die trying, and a moral victory can be more than Pyrrhic if, a couple millennia down the line, they're making movies that depict you with rock-hard six pack abs while your god-king foe is made to look like a simpering punk. At one point near the middle of movie, Xerxes tells King Leonidas that he'll wipe him and his city-state of Sparta from history; no one will remember them. Considering 300's worldwide box office exceeded $400 million and that it depicts Xerxes wearing slightly less mascara than the late Tammy Faye Messner, I'd say the Persian king won the battle but lost the war.
Sure, the part of my brain that paid attention in college wants to hate 300, but whenever it tries to complain it gets bitch-slapped by my amygdala, which just wants to eat, have sex, and watch Hollywood action movies (even ones in which Sylvester Stallone plays a professional arm wrestler—hey, I never claimed my amygdala has taste). My amygdala loves 300 because the decapitations and dismemberments only stop long enough for various Spartans to fire off one-liners that would make Commando's John "I'm Going to Kill You Last" Matrix proud—and many of them are taken right out of Herodotus' history of the Battle of Thermopylae, so take that, frontal lobe! My amygdala also loves 300 because Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Lena Headey (who plays Spartan Queen Gorgo) spends the first half of the flick either coming on to Gerard Butler or urging him to initiate a Persian bloodbath, then occupies herself in the second half with gutting bureaucratic weasels. It loves the flick because that dude who played Faramir in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (my frontal lobe would like to note for the record that that "dude's" name is David Wenham) plays one-eyed Spartan warrior Dilios, who is like some badass Scoutmaster, telling a campfire story of bravery so bodacious that it works ten-thousand Spartans into a genocidal froth. It loves 300 because blood particulate looks awesome (and oddly beautiful) in super slow motion. But mostly, my amygdala loves 300 because the movie doesn't let the truth get in the way of catharsis, and even my frontal lobe has to admit there's something to be said for catharsis.
300: The Complete Experience is the movie's fifth go-round on home video (and second on Blu-ray). The set comes housed in attractive digibook packaging that contains 40 pages of photographs and production information. The video transfer is the same 1080p VC-1 affair that graced the original Blu-ray as well as the HD DVD version that preceded it, which is to say it's essentially perfect. Color and detail are everything that Zack Snyder intended. The Dolby TrueHD audio mix is also identical to the track on the previous releases, and also perfect. Dolby 5.1 mixes in English, French, and Spanish are provided as secondary options. Gone from the original Blu-ray release is the PCM 5.1 surround track in English, probably cleared away to make room for new supplemental content.
This released is dubbed "The Complete Experience" because of an elaborate in-movie extra that combines picture-in-picture, branching featurettes, and trivia. By selecting the green button on your remote control, you can augment the film with "Creating a Legend," which explores Frank Miller's graphic novel upon which the film is based. Accessible via your remote's blue button, "Bringing the Legend to Life" covers the technical details of making the movie. "The History Behind the Myth" compares the movie and graphic novel to Herodotus' version of the historical event. You access it via the yellow button on your remote. The disc allows you to toggle between the three in-movie experiences, but it's impossible to do so without missing much of what each offers. They're really designed to be explored independently.
Also new is a separate picture-in-picture commentary in which Snyder compares the final film to raw bluescreen footage from the shoot, delving deeply into the technology behind the look of 300.
In addition to these major new supplements, the disc contains everything that the earlier Blu-ray offered. Six featurettes cover the movie's production as well as provide a little background on the graphic novel and the historical battle. Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad, and director of photography Larry Fong deliver a feature-length audio commentary. There are three deleted scenes with commentary by Zack Snyder. A collection of one dozen webisodes provide yet another layer of detail on the making of 300.
The disc is also BD-Live enabled.
Tucked under the Blu-ray's shrink wrap, in its own paper sleeve, is a digital copy of the movie for download to your PC, Mac, or mobile device.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's no debating that 300's world is one in which bare-chested machismo is associated with good, while vaguely effeminate decadence and bureaucratic nuance with evil. If you can't shut off your brain enough to prevent that from ruffling your political feathers, it's probably best to steer clear.
Truth be told, 300 isn't a movie that is custom designed for repeat viewings (except when you're in the mood to revisit all the carnage). Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have remedied that with a Blu-ray that can gobble hours of your time with testosterone-fueled entertainment and a film school semester's worth of information about how technically complex crowd pleasers are made.
This is the best home video version of 300 yet. Casual fans who own the previous Blu-ray can probably avoid the upgrade since the video and audio transfers are identical. Die-hard fans and those looking to buy their first copy of 300, shouldn't hesitate to choose The Complete Experience over the earlier BD.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• The Complete 300
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.