Zack Snyder’s 300 Marches onto 4K

The Frank Miller comicbook adaptation gets a muscular makeover


The epic graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) assaults the screen with the blood, thunder and awe of its ferocious visual style faithfully recreated in an intense blend of live-action and CGI animation. Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army. Experience history at swordpoint. And moviemaking with a cutting edge.

Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, Watchmen) is undoubtedly one of the more polarizing filmmakers working today. Scripts and character treatments aside, his films are usually guaranteed to at least deliver spectacle, and 300 is probably one of the finest examples of this. A visually muscular (pun intended) feature, lifted from the pages of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, depicting a fantastical version of the heroic Spartans and their antics at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Faced with the invasion of Sparta, and after proving that diplomacy is not his strong suit, King Leonidas (a barking Gerard Butler) leads his best warriors into battle against the self-anointed Persian God-King, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). 300 men against the 300,000 men and beasts that follow this deranged soul. Left at home is hiss Queen (Lena Headey) at home to rally the people and deal with odious priests and politicians who scheme in his absence as the 300 seek to hold the line, not expecting victory, but needing to hold the line to allow their people time to prepare for the onslaught that is coming.

A few of the names and the place aside, the accuracy of the film is pretty far off the mark, marking 300 as more of a loose historical retelling mashed up with an issue of Men’s Health magazine. Prime specimens of men, faced with barbarians at the gate, brooding and blooding themselves to defend their home. The kind of old school tale guaranteed to inspire and motivate with a patriotic streak and inherent nobility, as they fight for a victory that will never come, but a hope that might. Big on action, violence, and overall theatrics, the film feels fully aware of how over the top it is. Muscles and monsters collide, memes are generated, heroics displayed, and a villain wades through the film that could come straight out of pantomime. The dramatic impact of the film owes as much to its visuals, as it’s larger than life performances. The pages of Miller’s comic book given life using green screen and chroma keying. The substance of the film may be lacking, but the style and spectacle certainly isn’t.

The Package

The (existing) Blu-ray included in the release offers a really solid viewing experience, the 4K disc is another notch up from that. A bolder presentation of vibrant colors and deep blacks, where the images really pop thanks to superb texture and depth of image, but some of the CGI is shown up a little by the increased clarity of image. The grain also feels slightly less heavy than the Blu-ray version, on balance for the benefit of the presentation.

It should be noted that the release seems to not be true 4K, rather a upscaled transfer of a 2K scan. Extra features are pretty solid but are limited to existing featurettes on the Blu-ray release, a disappointing trend with 4K releases. At least the audio commentary is ported over to the UltraHD version.

  • Commentary with director/co-writer Zack Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong: Probably the standout inclusion here. Technical insights, production tidbits, on set stories, and more
  • The 300: Fact or Fiction: A number of cast and crew members join a selection of historians in a overview of the period and Spartan civilization. Well put together and long enough (24 minutes) to have some real substance
  • Who Were the Spartans? The Warriors of 300: A short featurette on the Spartan culture, mostly comprised of cast interviews
  • Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage: A snazzy piece that showcases Frank Miller’s original artwork and its transition to the screen via these ‘proof of concept’ efforts
  • The Frank Miller Tapes: Interviews with the man himself and some of his colleagues, discussing the career of the author/graphic novelist
  • Making of 300: A thinly put together making of
  • Making 300 in Images: Picture montage
  • Webisodes: 12 webisodes with a cumulative runtime of 38 min. Fleeting rundowns revolving around; Production Design, Wardrobe, Stunt Work, Lena Headey (Queen), Adapting the Graphic Novel, Gerard Butler, Rodrigo Santoro, Training the Actors, Culture of the Sparta City/State, A Glimpse from the Set: Making 300, Scene Studies from 300, and Fantastic Characters of 300
  • Deleted Scenes with introduction by Zack Snyder (HD, 6 mins.)

The Bottom Line

300 remains a over the top piece of entertainment. A stylish spectacle, fueled by testosterone and fantasy as much it is by historical events. If you’re a fan, it’s abs-olutely (pun again intended) worth picking up for this UltraHD release.

300 is available on 4K, Blu-ray, Digital combo pack from October 6th

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