R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Cameron Murray (1st October 2007).
The Film

"300" is the historical tale of when few stood against many, in the face insurmountable odds; they refused to take a backwards step. It is a story that takes every red blooded male back to their most primal and instinctive base. Where the time for words is past and the time for action comes to the fore. I guess what I mean by this; is that this movie has a lot of blood, fighting, joking and one liners that would seem ridiculous out of context, but in this film they have a resonance that stays with you after the final credits have finished. That is not to say that these lines have an incredible deeper meaning, rather they are just plain cool. In fact that pretty much summarises what I thought of this movie, it was cool.
The story is based on the history of the battle of Thermopylae (note the word based), where three hundred Spartan warriors and about 700 Athenian volunteers fought against the vast quantities of the invading Persian army, rumoured to be numbered in the millions, lead by the 'God-King' Xerses (Rodrigo Santoro). The Persian Army was made up of men from all the lands which Xerses had conquered before. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) ruler of Sparta was forced to take the few soldiers he did by Spartan law which dictated that he must obey the will of the Oracle who was cared for and translated by the 'wretched creatures' known as the Ephors, who were worshippers/ priests of the old gods. The Oracle stated that the Spartans could not go to war during the festival of Carnea. This verdict was not acceptable to Leonidas who felt that if they were to wait for the festival to end Sparta and all of Greece would already be over run by the invading hordes. So he took, what he called 'his personal bodyguards' for a stroll to the 'hot gates'; a piece of land that Xerses would have to come through to unleash his fury upon Greece, a piece of land with steep cliff faces on either side. Leodnidas' plan was simple meet the tyrant there and funnel his masses into this canyon where the numbers counted for naught.
This story remains true to the legend in many regards and uses poetic license in other areas, but in aid of the story rather than to the detriment of it. Added to the fold are the political ramifications Leonidas going to this battle against the decree of the Oracle had. This political battle is taken up by the Queen of Sparta, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey). I am not a history buff on the battle of Thermopylae and as such cannot certify the legitimacy of this part of the story, but it is a very good plot device to show that the Queen like her husband is a warrior and fights her own battle and contributes to the effort of her Husband.
Gerard Butler does a fantastic job of playing a compassionate king, and a merciless warrior. His Scottish brogue does nothing to hinder the emphatic style in which he delivers his battle cries and brutish one-liners ('THIS IS SPARTA!' is a case in point, it makes sense when you see the movie). The narration of the film is orated impressively by David Wenham, who I'm ninety percent sure was trying to put just a tad more gravel into his voice to meet with the manly quota necessary to be in this film, on the Spartan side at least. Lena Headey plays the role of Queen Gorgo very well, conveying the emotion of love and despair with looks rather than with words, which stays true to the notion with which you come to understand Sparta is ruled by. The role of Xerses is filled by Rodrigo Santoro who with the help of a voice synthesizer and some camera/post-production tricks to make him seem much larger manages to portray the godlike qualities of Xerses amply, all be it in a slightly homo-erotic way. The rest of the cast do a fantastic job of portraying the comradery and brotherhood of the battlefield, with the relationship between Stelios (Michael Fassbender) and Astinos (Tom Wisdom) comparable to that of Gimli and Legolas of Lord of the Rings fame for their competitive relationship and battle banter.
Battles make up a large portion of this film and are shot in such a style that gives you a taste for the true brutal nature that this type of warfare was fought with. With long shots of Leonidas hacking, slashing and stabbing away at any enemy that stands, runs or rides by in the general vicinity of his kill zone. The speeding up/slowing down and zooming in/zooming out of these shots give you an immaculate display of what can be achieved when using these techniques for effect rather than using them because you've got them. The other reason that makes these shots so impressive is the things that are happening in the background and the way that the camera seems to travel through the blood splatters and sprays. The color of the film is another factor that has been used with a careful touch, it never feels jarring to go from essentially black and white to almost a sepia tone and then back to a slightly diluted color style. The music used was quite broad in the genres that it crossed, with one of the battles being accompanied by some kick-ass power chords screaming forth from an electric guitar. Normally in a period piece this would send cringe induced shiver down my spine, but given the stylised nature of the film it just fits. I was in awe for a lot of this film in the way that it was directed, so my hat goes off to director Zack Snyder, I also commend his technical crew who did an awesome job from camera, lighting, sound to editing and post-production.
As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed this film. If you enjoy action films with a few one liners, some kick ass battles and a bit of pumping electric guitar this movie is all you. If you are having trouble convincing your partner that this is a date movie just point out that there are guys in loin cloths with abs that could grate cheese, who knows they might be into that sort of thing. Anyhow, this is a fantastic product of period piece meeting with an action movie. Would it beat "Gladiator" (2000) as far as the award for artistic merit? Probably not, but "300" would kick "Gladiator's" ass in the parking lot and take the award home with it. As I said earlier, this movie is cool. (Not that I'm condoning parking lot beatings).


Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 this anamorphic transfer presents the film brilliantly. The image is generally sharp and wonderfully detailed capturing all manner of intricate production design and the beautiful colour palette which is influenced by the original graphic novel. The yellows, gold and red colours pop off the screen in all their lushness, skin tones are appropriately matched to the palette, black levels are bold and shadow detail impressive throughout this clean print. The image has a considerable amount of grain and digital noise at times; this is a result of the highly-processed and stylized look of the film and can at times be a distraction. This is the only problem I can see with this image and even that adds to the overall texture and feel of the film.


Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as an English Descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for the visually impaired. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 sound track and was thoroughly impressed with its range able to finely balance the subtle ambient moments with the aggressive power of the battle sequences with a depth normally reserved for more uncompressed tracks. The fight scenes virtually burst from the surround speakers immersing the viewer amid the carnage with hacking and slashing mixed with arrows and all manner of sound effects. The film's score adds yet another layer to the complex and incredibly rich sound track. This is reference quality material.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, English for the hearing impaired, Arabic, Icelandic, Greek and Hebrew.



The only extra on this disc is a screen-specific feature-length audio commentary by the film's co-writer/director Zack Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong. The track is mainly dominated by the direction as the other two participants rarely jump in. Snyder mainly comments on what's real and what's computer generated as well as set details and revealing the various tricks of the trade to cheat shots and create the aesthetic of the film among other things. He also points out the actors and thankfully doesn't too much time praising them as he continues to comment on what's happening onscreen revealing tidbits about the production including remaining close to the original graphic novel source and using it as a template, as well as the stylized hyper-real environment as well as sharing a few funny moments from the production such as the awkwardness of having to shoot a sex scene among other things. It would have been nice had the other two participants taken a more active role in this track but Snyder seemed to take over right from the start. He provides a lot of useful and interesting information on the making of the film and although there are a few quiet gaps the overall track is never boring and worth listening to.


The second disc opens up with "The 300 - Fact or Fiction", a featurette which runs for 24 minutes 34 seconds and takes a look at how this film is an interpretation of the event and examines what has been exaggerated for dramatic purposes. Historians look at the film and point out the various elements that remain true as we look at how the Spartans lived and trained and followed their violent war-lust as well as the backgrounds to key characters including King Leonidas and Xerxes and Queen Gorgo and how Spartan women differed from other women of that era.

Next up is "Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300", a featurette which runs for 4 minutes 24 seconds and takes a closer look at the Spartans and how Miller took reality and created a mythology with his graphic novel and mostly focuses on the Spartan culture and how they differed from other Greeks, their war/conflict based society, the only Greeks to have a full-time army, training and fighting as a unit and how dieing in battle is the ultimate honour.

Following that is "Frank Miller Tapes" which is a featurette that runs for 14 minutes 34 seconds and includes some of Miller's contemporaries commenting on his work and style, as well as looks at his early days in comic books, on retelling the story of the 300 and being inspired by it as well as redefining the concept pf a hero. The clip takes a look at the inspiration of the story and talking creative liberties as well as the relationship between comics and movies.

"Making of 300" is an EPK featurette that runs for 5 minutes 50 seconds and covers the basics of the production including what it's about, the characters and creating the film from the original source material from Miller, it provides a very brief understanding of the production process.

"Making 300 in Images" is the final featurette which runs for 3 minutes 40 seconds and is a time-lapse look at the production using production photos cut together quickly and set to music.

Also on the disc are a series of three deleted scenes cut together in a reel along with introduction by the film's director Zack Snyder and runs for 3 minutes 22 seconds, these scenes include Ephialtes trying to commit suicide, Ephialtes cursing the gods when his attempt fails and a scene during the battle where the Spartans take down a giant with a midget archer on his back. Snyder comments that these scenes where cut out mainly for pacing reasons.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of twelve webisodes that can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function and include:

- "Production Design" runs for 3 minutes 50 seconds and takes a look at creating Sparta and the environment in which the characters live and fight in and how the took artistic license to create the environments.
- "Wardrobe" runs for 3 minutes 39 seconds and looks at the costumes created for both the Spartans and the Persians and the differences between the two, remaining faithful to Miller's artwork and a look at the helmets and armor.
- "Stunt Work" runs for 4 minutes 8 seconds and is a closer look at the stunt team who choreographed the fight scenes and the various fighting styles that influenced them.
- "Lena Heady" runs for 1 minute 44 seconds and is a fluff piece about how great she is amongst some background on the character and her motivations.
- "Adapting the Graphic Novel" runs for 3 minutes 46 seconds and takes a look at the process of adaptation using the graphic novel as a template and remaining loyal to Miller's vision.
- "Gerald Butler" runs for 4 minutes 6 seconds and takes a look at his character, on being a Spartan and the motivations that guide them and their actions as well as his dedication to preparing for the role.
- "Rodrigo Santoro" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds and takes a closer look at the Xerxes character and the intricate and ornate costume which helps build the character.
- "Training the Actors" runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds and focuses on the intense regiment the actors were put through in order to prepare for the film.
- "Culture of the Sparta City/State" runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds and focuses on the violent society and their code of honour.
- "A Glimpse from the Set: Making 300 the Movie" runs for 3 minutes 21 seconds and takes a behind-the-scenes look at the film and includes a brief breakdown of what the film is about and its themes as well as the development of the look and in creating an experience for the viewers.
- "Scene Studies from 300" runs for 3 minutes 15 seconds and takes a look at the visual effects including making Xerxes larger and creating the wall of the dead.
- "Fantastic Characters of 300" runs for 3 minutes 5 seconds and takes a look at the creature design and make-up of the hunchback and the giant.


The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A


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