300 (Widescreen Edition)

300 (Widescreen Edition)

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.Like Sin City before it, 300 brings Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s graphic novel vividly to life. Gerard Butler (Beowulf and Grendel, The Phantom of the Opera) radiates pure power and charisma as Leonidas, the Grecian king who leads 300 of his fellow Spartans (including David Wenham of The Lord of the Rings, Michael Fassbender, and Andrew Pleavin) into a battle against the overwhelming force of Persian invaders. Their only hope is to neutralize the numerical advantage by confronting the Persians, led by

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5 thoughts on “300 (Widescreen Edition)

  1. Review by H. Bala for 300 (Widescreen Edition)
    As a guy, if this film doesn’t get your blood churning and your testosterone pumped up to a deliriously critical level, well, you’re either dead inside or you’re a Tibetan monk with complete mastery over your cardiovascular and hormonal systems. 300 is a man’s man’s man’s flick and is a muscular love poem which celebrates the ideals of honor, courage, sacrifice, and standing up for your beliefs. Righteous stuff.

    Not being much of a history buff, the only famous last stands I can instantly come up with are the Battles of the Alamo, of the Little Big Horn, and of Thermopylae (I guess I could also throw in Game 7 between the Lakers and the Blazers, 2000). Of these, the legendary Battle of Thermopylae is the most dramatic and is the mother of all last stands. I first heard about the Battle of Thermopylae (480BC) and the 300 Spartans way back when I was in high school, and I thought it a nifty story from the very first. A few years ago, I read Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 and enjoyed it tremendously, not caring at all that he altered things here and there as he opted instead to focus on the story’s artistry, its sense of grandeur, and its mythological aspects. The filmmakers, make no mistake, take their cue from Mr. Miller. Remnants of historical facts are still somewhat represented under the film’s glossy veneer but with some tweaking. You just have to see past the somewhat ridiculous parade of grotesque LORD OF THE RINGS-like creatures which Xerxes and director Zack Snyder send out.

    SPOILERS begin now:

    The film itself begins with the voiceover detailing the austere Spartan credo as we watch a baby boy quickly transition thru several phases of maturation as he grows into a young man, all the while being instructed and severely tested in the extremely brutal and uncompromising warrior ways of his people. We see him confronting his final test and craftily passing it, thus officially entering the ranks of Spartan soldierhood. This young man is Leonidas, who will become the king of the Greek city-state, Sparta.

    We pick up decades later as a Persian emissary pays a visit to King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his proud, beautiful wife and Queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey). The Persian calls for Sparta’s submission to Xerxes, the God-King of Persia. After some deliberation, Leonidas’s response isn’t as much couched in diplomacy as it’s couched in a sandal which propels the haughty emissary into a deep pit. Then, against the wishes of a lecherous, inbred group of mystics (who, nevertheless, control the Oracle) and the wishy-washy Spartan council, Leonidas gathers the 300 most capable soldiers in Sparta and, armed with a clever strategic plan, marches away to take on the vast hordes of the Persian invasion. If you’ve read your Greek history, you know what happens next…


    300 is bold in its scope and relentless in its take-no-prisoners attitude. It is a sweeping and sumptuously stark visual feast and would’ve made Frank Frazetta cream on his canvas. If 300 is based on Frank Miller’s work (and it is), then Miller’s art has to have been influenced in some ways by the great Frazetta. The film is saturated in mostly monochromatic hues which lend luster and even more drama to the bold crimsons of the Spartans’ cloaks and the frequent spatters of blood and guts. I’m not normally a fan of slo-mo sequences, but I have to admit that, this time, the slo-mo-abruptly-segueing-into-fluid-motion (yeah, I think that’s the technical term) bits are nicely executed and result in more thrilling battle scenes. The sword/spear fights are so stylized anyway that, after a while, they resemble a form of ballet. But a manly ballet, with hair on it. And, I don’t often mention music in relation to films, but composer Tyler Bates truly adds an extra dimension of thrills with his thundering, pulse-pounding score. For sure, I’m gonna own this soundtrack.

    Gerard Butler comes into his own here. With his compelling and righteous performance, with towering machismo sweating out of his pores, he out-GLADIATORs Russell Crowe and, by comparison, reduces that silly ponce into a puddle of wussiness. No doubt, you and I’ll be directly quoting from Leonidas in days to come: “This…is…SPARTA!” or “Tonight, we dine in Hell!” or (my favorite) “Give them nothing but take from them…everything!” As Leonidas, Butler displays all the innate qualities of leadership necessary to command an elite force like the Spartans, he’s very convincing. Yet, his fierce and uncompromising temperament and his joy in battle are tempered by the obvious love and respect he holds for his wife. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, by his ideals and actions, he paved the way for the Greeks eventually routing the Persian masses.

    Lena Headey as the beleaguered Queen proves to be a match for Leonidas as she attempts to fight tooth and nail on the homefront to get the council off its collective arses and muster reinforcements for her husband. As Gorgo, Headey works hard to be fierce, dedicated, intelligent, and realistic. The actress is successful as I never doubted for a sec that this resolute woman is a Spartan to the very core. Her main adversary is the virulent Theron (Dominic West), a politician who reeks of underhandedness while holding a certain resemblance to Harry Hamlin. Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro has a showy but crucial part as the towering and deep-voiced King Xerxes.

    In the world of sword-and-sandal cinema, 300 quickly separates itself from the likes of TROY and ALEXANDER. I’d place it at the same excellent level as GLADIATOR. The story is unmatchable in its timelessness and resonance, the action is non-stop and visually compelling, the images are oh-so-memorable, and the lead characters are mezmerizing. And, from a mythological standpoint and in terms of cultural impact, the brave yet tragic 300 Spartans strike a chord as no other heroes do as they continue to be a testament to steadfast loyalty and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. “Go tell the Spartans…”

  2. Review by Lawrance M. Bernabo for 300 (Widescreen Edition)
    Before going to see “300” this afternoon I watched the 1962 film “The 300 Spartans.” I have a strong affection for the marching music in the film and the shot of Leonidas leading the Spartan phalanx for the last time, plus an enduring sense of injustice at the Persians dispatching the last Spartans by wave after wave of cartoon arrows. I had read Frank Miller’s “300” when it was first published in five issues so I knew what to expect. This film is not history: it is art. Granted, we are talking post-modern art, but that still counts as art in a world where computers are as important as cameras when making a movie.

    The Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 B.C. The Persian army of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is invading Greece with the largest army the world has ever seen. With the Spartan army prohibited from marching north because of a religious festival, King Leonidas (Gerald Butler in fine form) heads for the natural bottleneck on the main road between Locris and Thessaly with the 300 men of his bodyguard. After three days of battle the Spartans were betrayed by a man named Ephialtes who showed the Persians a mountain path that led behind the Greek lines. While the rest of the Greek soldiers retreated, the 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians were slaughtered to the last man. Simonides composed a famous epigram that was engraved as an epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae: “Go, stranger, and tell the Spartans, That we lie here in obedience to their laws.”

    Miller was inspired by historical events but was not constrained by it in telling his story. In his version Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan) is no longer a poor shepherd but a deformed figure who was born to parents who fled Sparta rather than leave their infant on a rock to die, adding elements of pathos and irony hitherto unseen with regards to the character. Nor is this movie the attempt to faithfully bring Miller’s art to life that we saw with “Sin City,” which is perfectly fine with me. Besides, director Zack Snyder’s film reminded me more of lots of other films, from “Gladiator” to “Hero,” more than it did “Sin City.” I want to say that what we saw of this type of modern filmmaking in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” has been refined, but that would be quite an ironic comment to make about such a gory and gritty film. Ultimately, the movie is rather impressionistic in nature, emphasizing graphic images over everything else, which brings us back around again to the idea that “300” is art and not history.

    I was quite pleased the overall “300” met my expectations. During the first part of the battle Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) resorts to the rapid series of cuts that I have come to deplore in contemporary action films because I can never tell what is happening. I understand that a battle is a sea of chaos, but if I cannot tell what is going on I become distracted. I want to see what is happening in order for the scenes to become memorable to me. Fortunately the rest of the movie takes full advantage of slow motion technique we see in the trailers and television spots for the film. In fact, “300” makes better use of slow motion than any film I can remember, mainly because the point is not to prolong the suspense (e.g., the end of the fight in “Rocky II”), but to let you see what is happening (e.g., River’s fight scenes in “Serenity”). Think of watching big hits in football in slow motion replay and you get a sense of how Snyder is able to strategically slow down the action to see not only the power but also the grace of the violence.

    Looks are everything in this film, so the Spartans fight bare-chested, the better for their muscles to ripple, while the Persians might be the most overdressed warriors in cinematic history (although I admit that I have to wonder where the Spartans were hiding their helmets on the long trip from Sparta to the Hot Gates). “300” is a film that glories in visual excess as the army of Xerxes becomes a computer generated million man march and the pass at Thermopylae exists between towering pillars of rock. This may or may not be the most computer generated figures on the screen at one time in the history of the world, but I have to believe “300” offers the biggest piles of corpses we have ever seen. As if quantity was not enough to overwhelm the Spartans, Leonidas and his men are confronted by a towering Xerxes and a host of monstrous men and animals. The net result may well be the best comic book movie to date, despite the fact the hero is a historical figure and not a superhero.

    This adaptation plays up a subplot regarding what is happening back at Sparta while Leonidas and his body guard face annihilation as Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to play politics with Theron (Dominic West), who complains about the legitimacy of the king’s actions rather than deal with the reality of a Persian army coming to crush Greece. But it is hard to care about such machinations in the face of the historical record and the fact that the drama is happening at Thermopylae and not back in Sparta. There are notes sounded about saving Greece from the Persians and civilization from the evils of Asian mysticism, but the legacy of the Spartans has nothing to do with their role in the development of democracy. Almost two millennium before the Alamo there was this story of a group of warriors that sacrifice their lives in a battle so that their people could win the war. The story of the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae is that of the first great last stand.

  3. Review by M. Murphy for 300 (Widescreen Edition)
    For those of you who came to read reviews of this movie only to be bombarded by format “War”riors let me try to set the record straight for some people who don’t know. I am not partial to either format, I own players and discs of both formats.

    I will be in line to buy this movie on HD-DVD opposed to Blu-ray and here is why.

    Don’t believe all the hype of Blu-ray having better picture and audio. NOT TRUE, in any instance I can think of where the studio releases a movie on both formats, they will use the same master to transfer the video on both formats. Therefore you are down to the codecs used on each format which will give HD-DVD (which uses the VC-1 codec) a slight edge over Blu-ray. Blu-Ray will rarely use VC-1(which is usually better) and often use the older MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 codecs.

    As for sound, there is rarely an instance where a movie available on HD or BR will have a superior audio track on BR unless it has the uncompressed PCM audio. For some reason many studios skimp in this department with few exceptions on their BR release and give them a meager Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround at 640kbps, while encoding the HD-DVD with Dolby Digital TrueHD at (1.5 Mbs). With the extra capacity Blu-Ray totes, it means nothing if they don’t use it.

    The truth of the matter is, both formats will most likely be around for a while. If a studio releases a film in both formats you will most likely have to compare the two and decide which is better based on the video codec and audio track available on each disc, the better quality audio and video will usually be on the HD-DVD not to mention features, extras, internet connectivity and the “In Movie Experiences (“IME”) which Blu-Ray is not capable of yet as of this writing.

    Now for the final deciding factor, after all I have mentioned, if a movie available in both formats is encoded with identical audio, video, extra features etc. which one will I purchase if the price is close….

    Blu-Ray. I feel the Blu-Ray has a better scratch resistant coating on it’s surface whereas the HD-DVD has the same coating as a regular DVD which will scratch fairly easily, even when wiped with a proper cloth. I have also noticed, that dust seems to stick to the HD-DVD more readily than the Blu-Ray discs.

    On 300, the audio and video specs are identical on both formats. However, this HD-DVD will be a winner over Blu-Ray because of the extra features Blu-Ray will not have. Another example is Blood Diamond only due to extra features.

    Lastly, I don’t like combo discs. They cost more when I won’t use the standard definition side. It deters customers with its inflated price and hurts HD-DVD’s overall sales at a time when they need to be selling as many discs as possible.

    By the way, 300 is a good movie and contrary to some misinformation in other reviews, THIS DISC WILL PLAY IN A STANDARD DVD PLAYER because it is a COMBO DISC!!!!

    Hope this review helps those of you who are new to the High Definition world or those not into following the entire hubbub and marketing ploys of the formats.

  4. Review by Chris Pandolfi for 300 (Widescreen Edition)
    Ah, to be male in Ancient Greece: “300” is a testosterone-driven fantasy in which all men are fearless warriors, driven by the need for battle and bloodshed. War is depicted as gloriously as any geek loner-type could hope for, with every soldier being the epitome of strength, courage, and physical brute force. Emotional bonding, sensitivity, and compassion don’t even come into play; these men were trained to be ruthless killing machines, all in the name of preserving the glory of Sparta. This would no doubt be a ridiculous film if the story were presented in a straightforward, mainstream way. But straightforward and mainstream, “300” is not; this is pure, hard-driving escapism, from the frenetic battle sequences to the elaborate special effects to the over the top performances. In this sense, it’s absolutely brilliant.

    And it gets even better. Every shot, every setting, and every event is accentuated by a look so stylized that it’s practically a living duplicate of Frank Miller’s original graphic novel. This was achieved through computer-generated imagery, which was responsible for creating most of the film’s locations. Bluescreen technology–also utilized for another incredible Miller adaptation, 2005’s “Sin City”–made for a majority of the sets, leaving very little for the actors to actually work with. I can only imagine the effort that went into post-production, the endless hours of crafting landscapes, characters, and special effects all with the click of a mouse. The work paid off; the end product is an effectively heightened reinterpretation of reality, a kind of living illustration that transcends any sense of time or place. It’s the perfect look for war story of this caliber, something so grandiose and overplayed that you can’t get enough.

    The plot is fairly simple: it’s a retelling of the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae, in which the Spartans fought against the Persians. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his army of a mere 300 soldiers are ready to defend their land against the evil King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). This is despite the fact that 1) they don’t have the blessing of the gods to go to war, and 2) they will fight against an army of over one million. But this matters not; Spartan males are trained to be warriors at a very early age, essentially the day that they’re born (only the largest, strongest newborns are spared; the small, sickly ones are unceremoniously thrown off of a cliff). They are taught the fine art of combat. They are made to take all kinds of physical pain, including lashings. They are conditioned to never retreat, even when facing insurmountable odds. Leonidas successfully survived such rigorous training (his first major battle was against a monstrous wolf with glowing eyes), as did the rest of his men. Now, they are ready for battle.

    And after taking position near a beachfront cliff, the Spartans engage in ferocious battle with the Persians. Never on film has war been so much fun to watch. This is probably because each sequence was beautifully photographed; even graphic shots of stabbings, amputations, and decapitations are so artfully constructed that it’s hard to accept them as deplorable. The bodies of Persian soldiers are used to construct a blockade of surprising strength. Blood spatters from gaping wounds in dark, unrealistic globules, effectively looking more like spots of ink. There’s a moment when arrows fly through the air in numbers so vast, they block the light of the sun. Nearly every shot is drawn out, often going in slow motion to show how carefully choreographed the gratuitous violence is.

    The Spartans also fight against the Immortals, an army of ghastly yet fantastical creatures with an appetite for destruction. They were appropriately crafted as one-dimensional barbarians, made more effective because of their appearances; they wear long black robes, and their pale, monstrous faces are hidden behind Tragedy-style silver masks. Where they came from is anyone’s guess. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, especially since they pave the way for a number of other ghoulish creatures that would give the creations of Clive Barker a run for their money. They–and every aspect of the film, for that matter–make it obvious that the real emphasis is on style instead of story, which under different circumstances would make for a miserable experience. But in this case, it works quite well; while a definite story is being told, it would be of little significance were it not for the special effects.

    This isn’t to say that the story of “300” is bad. Quite the opposite: despite being simplistic, the story is quite strong, especially when a couple of subplots are factored in. Back in Sparta, Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), is up against a corrupt Senate, already bought out by the Persians in order to ensure Sparta’s stability. The arrogant and treacherous Theron (Dominic West) is clearly not ready to handle a woman of such strength, especially since she fully supports Leonidas and Sparta’s involvement in the war. Because she intends to plead to the Council for the deployment of more soldiers, Theron challenges her authority by exclaiming that her words will fall on deaf ears.

    Another subplot involves Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), a hunchbacked, hideously deformed Spartan who begs to join with Leonidas and fight against the Persians. Leonidas appreciates his passion, but refuses to let him fight; he’s unable to lift his shield, and this would only create a weak spot in their defense system. Feeling rejected, Ephialtes personally appeals to Xerxes, who promises a wealth of power, money, and pleasure in exchange for loyalty. This scene takes place in Xerxes’ den, in which a throng of misshapen creatures engages in an orgy. Before “300,” I never would have believed that any film could include such a scene, or at least a scene that would work in any way, shape, or form. I was wrong; it was a fascinating scene, forcing the viewer to reassess what is beautiful and what is ugly.

    The film is narrated by Dilios (David Wenham), a Spartan soldier with a hard-edged masculinity that shines through despite a deceptively soft voice. He recalls Leonidas, Sparta, and the Battle of Thermopylae with eloquence; when considering the heavy-handedness of war, this is no small task. Yet he always gives a perfect delivery, and that only strengthens the appeal of “300.” This is in a world all its own, a world dominated by battle cries, sword fights, and bare-chested men that are ripped like bodybuilders. It’s all thanks to Frank Miller, whose creative vision has allowed for a truly unique theatrical experience. If he creates another graphic novel, I can’t wait for it to be adapted for the big screen.

  5. Review by G P Padillo for 300 (Widescreen Edition)
    A more intense shot of testosterone you will not find in any film. Equal parts bravado, guts and glory, “300” is simply the most exciting film to come out this year – or in several. Criticized for its violence and gore, fans of Miller’s graphic novels will find that violence and gore to be as beautifully depicted on the screen as in the print version. A highly hyped CGI affair the cast could easily have been overcome by the sheer impressiveness of the physical production. To his credit director Zack Snyder is blessed with and uses a cast every bit equal to the challenge of competing with Miller’s dark fantastic take of the Spartan’s greatest story.

    Gerard Butler (Phantom of the Opera, Dear Frankie, etc.) adds yet another impressive and wildly different character to his arsenal of screen roles. As Leonidas, King of Sparta, Butler is, from his pigtail to his muscled, sandled feet, every inch a king; a true leader of men. His passion and intensity is matched by a splendid performance by Lena Headey as his wife, Queen Gorgo. Though a dutiful wife and a woman in an age when being such was near equal to slave status, she is, in her way, as bold and fearless as her husband/King. Dominic West is properly evil and oily as the traitor Theron and he’s as nasty and duplicitous a villain as one can hope for. Rodrigo Santoro as a larger-than-life Xerxes is both comical and fearfully creepy equal parts drag queen and wanna be god. Behind all the glitzy piercings and bling, he is little more than self-inflated egotistical child.

    While there is blood and gore aplenty, the film also happens to be emotionally satisfying and I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes more than a few times, as well as wanting to raise my fist in the air along with the jacked-up Spartans! While a macho stoicism pervades their attitudes, there are, to be sure, signs of a greater humanity beneath those ripped abs of Sparta’s army – and plenty of heart.

    Parallels and allegories are already being drawn between today’s warring world climate, super power dominations and the world of ancient Greece and the Middle East. While this provides an interesting commentary, I heartily recommend leaving that baggage at home and appreciating “300” on its own and embracing its escapism.

    Larry Fong’s cinematography ensures that “300” is eye-poppingly glorious from start to finish – a magnificent feast for the eyes while Tyler Bates’s score is guaranteed to keep your adrenaline pumping as it matches – frame-for-frame the visual intensity presented on the screen. While critics are divided on this one, audiences are flocking to it and cheering. For good reason, too: “300” is magnificent old-fashioned story telling wed to the very best 21st century filmmaking has to offer. See it!

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