Updated: Oct 9
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
King Leonidas played by Gerard Butler, leads his Spartan men into battle against the Persian Empire army.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy, 2006, R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity; Streaming via Amazon Video Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The 300 – Fact or Fiction?
FROM THE opening frames, you’re going to notice a major bump in natural film grain with the new 4K presentation of Zack Snyder’s striking and gritty “300.” Plus, the upgraded Dolby Atmos eight-channel soundtrack is extremely active with your height speakers, as the dialogue, music, and effects are pushed to the designated channels.
Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, the story follows King Leonidas played by Gerard Butler of Sparta, and his elite army of 300 men who take on a million soldiers from the Persian Empire in the Battle of Thermophylae in 480 B.C. For centuries historians have debated the actual number of men on both sides of the battle.
“The king realizes he must take his best men and go make a stand and save his nation.” – Actor Gerard Butler
(1&2) Eli Snyder the son of the director plays seven-year-old Leonidas, who's taken into the Agoge, and learns death on the battlefield was the greatest glory he could achieve. (3) By rod and lash Leonidas was punished and taught to show no pain, no mercy. (4) At 15, he was tossed into the wild and confronts a large wolf for his initiation.
All of the bonus features are included on the 13-year-old Blu-ray and digital platforms, including the “Making of 300” featurette, which Snyder had high praise of Miller’s novel, “It’s a piece of beautiful art and you look at it and every frame is like a beautiful painting.” Author and historian Dr. Victor Davis Hanson provides perspective to the story during the featurette “Fact or Fiction?” “This adaptation is consistent with a long line of interpretations, whether novelists from the 19th century, or poets from the 17th or 16th or 12th centuries, or based on face painters in the 4th century. Every person is trying to convey this wonderful event of a few men who are willing to risk to all for a western concept of freedom and liberty.”
The storyteller of “300” is Dilios played by David Wenham, who’s sent back to Sparta before the final battle to provide an oral account. “The storyteller knows how not to ruin a good story with truth necessarily. He knows how to exaggerate a moment for dramatic purposes because he has these young Spartans listening. Certainly, it’s been told thousands of times before it was written down,” says the director. The Greek historian Herodotus, of the 5th century B.C., was known for writing the book “The Histories,” which details the Greco-Persian Wars.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to walk that land [Greece]. The Spartans remain a mystery. They were completely a battle culture – they were absolutely dedicated to warfare, but at the same time they had a code of honor,” says author Frank Miller. “It was very cruel. If a child was born sickly or deformed the child was murdered. But, out of this arose a heroic class that the world hadn’t seen before.”
(1&2) Years later, Persian messengers arrive in Sparta. (3) King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) listen to the emissary (Paul Mensah), as he warns of the impending attack by King Xerxes and his Persian army.
(1-3) The Persian emissary and King Leonidas exchange words, which leads to the death of the messenger and his guards. (4) The king has a vision of his people while contemplating his words and actions.
“Earth and water. You'll find plenty of both down there. You bring the crowns and heads of conquered kings to my city steps. You insult my queen. You threaten my people with slavery and death. Oh, I’ve chosen my words carefully, Persian. Perhaps you should have done the same. This is Sparta!” - King Leonidas
From age 7, the young boys were taken from their mothers and trained for nothing more than war – to create “the ultimate warrior,” says historian Betty Hughes. “In the film are elements of truth.” Leonidas was the king of city-state Sparta, and his name means ‘Born of Lions stock,” and was expected to be a hero with connections to Hercules. “The Spartans worshipped Hercules and thought they were actual descendants of the hero,” says Hughes.
Rodrigo Santoro plays the God-King Xerxes of the Persian Empire. “This was a man with personality issues,” says Hughes. He had never been challenged his whole life, and when he and his father decided to invade Greece and to conquer the rest of the world, his advisors try to persuade him against the attack. The Persians had left a long trail of blood throughout Asia, North Africa, and parts of Europe.
Additional extras include a dozen webisodes, deleted scenes, battle test footage, the Frank Miller Tapes, and "Who Were the Spartans? And, the 4K disc does include the commentary with Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad, and cinematographer Larry Fong.
(1) Leonidas seeks the approval of the Ephors, prophets to the ancient Greek kings. (2&3) The council has withheld permission to go to war, but the king responds, “I’ve issued no such orders. I’m here just taking a stroll, stretching my legs. These 300 men are my personal bodyguard. Our army will stay in Sparta... I suppose I'll head north.” (4) Queen Gorgo gives the king the wolf tooth necklace.
Using the original 2K master, sourced from the Super 35 format camera negative (2.35:1 aspect ratio), which captured the actors on a virtual blue screen world. The backgrounds were completely created in a VFX environment. That's kept Warner from an upgrade 4K master, as they created for the “Matrix” Trilogy and the upcoming “V for Vendetta” on November 3 and “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” box sets on December 1.
The HDR toning – surprisingly only HDR10 on the 4K disc, while the digital platforms get the Dolby Vision encoding, which reveals a higher level of the course to medium post-production film grain filtering. It still looks very natural and grittier. The desaturated sepia tone palette is more defined with bolder highlights and deeper and darker shadows while keeping the Spartan capes with the right level of redness.
The sharpness and clarity are more defined, while overall the 4K is a nice upgrade over an old and tired Blu-ray.
From the opening lightning flash to the final musical passages, the new sonic Dolby Atmos soundtrack is extremely active. You won't be disappointed. The height speakers are active with effects and music cues from composer Tyler Bates’ bold score – which mixes Middle Eastern passages of strings, percussions, electronic tones, and choirs.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer