Release: 5th October 2020
Format: BR / DGTL
In this ferocious retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae based on the epic graphic novel by Sin City creator Frank Miller, King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro — Lost) amasses an army of hundreds of thousands, drawn from Asia and Africa, to invade and conquer the tiny, divided nation of Greece in 481 B.C. But when the advancing Persian forces enter the treacherous mountain pass of Thermopylae, they encounter Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler — The Phantom of the Opera) and his royal guard of soldiers numbering just 300. According to legend, their valor and sacrifice inspired all of Greece to unite against the Persian foe, planting the seeds of democracy and ushering in the Golden Age of Greece.With nonstop action and awe-inspiring visual effects, director Zack Snyder creates a breathtaking vision of one of history’s most legendary battles … and an epic tale of sacrifice and heroism.
Bombastic. Brash. Juvenile. Flamboyant. There are many ways to describe Zack Snyder’s…erm…divisive(?) take on Frank Miller’s graphic novel; but when it comes to this 4K re-release, the most prominent adjective would be dark. Not so much in tone – although the film is hardly a barrel laughs – but rather in the literal HDR colour grade. A process here that sucks an already obtuse aesthetic into a deep abyss of inky blacks.
Made in an era where filmmakers were fast discovering the joys (and woes) of green screen filmmaking, 300 proved itself to be (along with Sin City) a shining example of how one could not only put style over substance, but begin to turn the art of filmmaking into an obnoxious mess of images. Try to remember a specific scene from 300 and you’ll likely struggle to remember exactly when the scene took place. The reason for this is because for all of Snyder’s playground antics of gratuitous slow-motion and screaming oily hunks; the film almost always looks the same. Sheathed in a bronzed yellow, 300 is a film that lacks as much of a visual depth as it does an emotional one. For better or worse, this is where the HDR release comes into its own, as it somehow manages to squeeze out a few more hues whilst creating a chasm of difference between highlights and shadows. The fall out of this process is that as a film which lacks colours to contrast against, the shadows now become a mass of the unseen. They may be beautiful, rich shadows, but details are all but lost amongst them. The end result is a film that is almost always frustratingly lacking in visual dimension. The odd sprinkle of red, however, feels like fresh air in the musty haze of golden smog.
When it comes to audio, the 4K disc is a completely different animal. Serving up a lossless 7.1 track, Warners have managed to embrace the film’s sonic ambience in a way that feels almost underserved. From the pulsing drums to occasional guitar riff, 300 is as much a rock concert for the ears as it is for the eyes. Dialogue is crisp and clear against an onslaught of roars, growls, squeals and squirts.
Personal responses to the film aside, it is clear to appreciate 300 as a face-melting ode to entertainment. If Gladiator is the classical music of swords and sandals epics, then 300 is heavy metal. Here is a film without any sense of reverence; throwing caution to the wind and embracing a pseudo-sexual hedonism that feels perfect for its pubescent male audience. Does this make 300 a good film? Not really. But then again, it depends who you ask. Is this genius? It this awful? Is this visionary? It this embarrassing? One thing is for sure, this is Sparta!
Film Grade: D-
A direct port from previous blu-ray, this still remains a suprisingly intimate and engaging set of features. Only available on the blu-ray that accompanies the 4K.
Special Features Grade: B-
Someone could surely make the arguement in favour of 300. I am not that person. But, if you like the film, then you can properly make an excuse for this purchase.