DVD Review: 300

Warner
Movie •••½ Picture ••••• Sound ••••• Extras ••••
Boy, would I have loved to have had Bettany Hughes as a history teacher when I was in college! The enthusiasm she displays in a 25-minute documentary, 300 Spartans: Fact or Fiction?, really brings the past to life. Along with fellow author and historian Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, graphic novelist and executive producer Frank Miller (Sin City), and co-writer/director Zack Snyder, she conjures up potent, nearly tangible visions of Spartan society. And they all demonstrate how Miller correctly caught its savage spirit by exaggerating the gory details in his original work.

Snyder is joined by co-writer Kirk Johnstad and cinematographer Larry Fong in a friendly, spirited, and informative commentary. Other extras on this two-disc set include a featurette on Miller that seems too heavily edited, two enjoyable deleted scenes, and 13 interesting 3-minute "Webisodes" that tackle particular aspects of the filmmaking process, such as design, stunts, and training the actors for the special challenges of 300.

The DVD transfer looks superb. Contrast is just right, and there's unusually good definition in the shadows. The sharpness of the picture is quite impressive, too. You can clearly see all the beads of sweat and drops of blood, of which there are many. The sound design keeps all the channels busy, with dialogue always clear and the battles thunderous, well defined, and well placed. It's difficult to imagine picture and sound quality better than this, and the overall results are exhilarating. [R] English, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround; French and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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