300: The Complete Experience Blu-ray Review

     July 21, 2009

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We’re now in a different place with Zack Snyder. He’s directed three films, all on Blu-ray, and I have watched and reviewed all three for Collider. The most honest statement I can make is that Snyder is an amazing visual talent, who knows what the fuck he’s doing behind a camera. But after three films, I don’t know what’s going on inside his head. Sure, his first film was smartly hella commercial, and 300 was a blockbuster, but is also inherently a shallow but engaging visual spectacle. Watchmen is a great dense tome of a film, but much of its greatness belongs to the graphic novel. He has done little that can guess what he really has going on upstairs. There is great technique, but the voice is undefined. My review after the jump:

300_movie_image_gerard_butler.jpgGerald Butler (who knew? And since, who has used properly?) stars as Leonidas, the king of Sparta, and who rejects the advances of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) to bow down and accept Xerx’s rule. His wife Queen Grog (Lena Headley) agrees, but the spiritual leaders of the town (who are being bribed) suggest that having the town’s army fighting Xerxes will lead to the town’s downfall. While the ambassador Dillios (Dominic West) is something of a turncoat. To circumvent the religious leaders, Leonidas gathers 300 of his best men, and goes to the coast to protect himself and his town from the invaders. There the 300, including David Wenham, face an army that may count in the millions.

Such is where the film comes to life. It’s a film about a number of staged sieges, and Snyder has the eye. He knows how to deal these scenes. And though he might be infused with Frank Miller’s sensibilities, at this point we can safely say that Snyder knows how to choreograph this stuff, and the action scenes pack a wallop. The film’s sticky wicket is its politics. It might be safe to say that 300 is a film that doesn’t consider September 11th, though if it does, ho boy. Who is which side of the equation (you could easily paint both sides as us or them) is questionable.

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Honestly, I think of the film as a Cecil B. DeMille film for the 20th century. Because the religions of both sides are essentially pagan, that Leonidas chooses logic and reason makes it nondenominational, though both sides can claim victory. Xerxes is portrayed as something of a hedonist, a false god who traffics in odd sexuality, but the main character fucks his wife, so it’s not as if he’s sexless, which often the default setting for the heroes of comic books.  I think 300 appeals to a conservative nature, but because the film -and the war – is about the underdog fighting an un-winnable battle, everyone can relate. It’s shrewd, but I think this is partly unintentional.

Snyder’s sense of control is pretty spectacular. Though the moral compass of the film may be magnetized, the set pieces deliver and then some. The limitations of the film come from Frank Miller, as does much of the greatness of the visual design, but Snyder sees momentum in it, and his film achieves a great velocity.

300 was put out on DVD in a one and two disc edition, a rather boring blu-ray and an uber-deluxe HD edition. The new “Complete Experience” version collects all the supplements from the original HD and brings them over here. The film is in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 surround and Dolby TrueHD. This disc is, to put it simply, a stunning “show off your system” feature.

300_movie_image_gerard_butler_zack_snyder.jpgThe film comes with a commentary with Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and DP Larry Fong that is gracious, but the winner here is the Bluescreen picture in picture version, which has Snyder commenting over the original Non-CGI enhanced footage. There’s also three additional PIP tracks, some of which overlap, which allow the viewer to access three distinct PIP options, with many overlapping each other.  These can only be accessed by pressing the green, blue or yellow buttons on your remote, so if you haven’t bought a remote for your PS3, there’s some legwork to be had. On a whole this is good, but there’s also some overlap. You can also forgo navigating through the feature by hitting the menu button and just select the supplements on their own. This is the big win of this supplement, as unless a supplement is continuous throughout the feature, I don’t really like PIP.

Also included are all the supplements from the previous release: “300: Fact or Fiction?” (24: min) focuses on the historical basis of the piece, while “Who Were the Spartans? – The Warriors of 300″ (4 min) is more of the same.  “Preparing for Batlle: The original Test Footage” (7 min.) which walks through how they conceived the fil, and some great test footage. “The Frank Miller Tapes” (15 min) focuses on Miller and his genius while there’s more standard sups in the form of a making of (6 min) and s Making 300 in Images” (4 min). There’s also three “Deleted Scenes with introductions by Snyder” (3 min) and the films twelve Webisodes (38 min).  Also included is a digital copy. This is the definitive release of this title, so if you’re a fan, this is essential.

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