300 - The Complete Experience (Blu-ray)

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 recreates the Battle of Thermopylae in 280 BC, when Persia's King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) had his sights set on Greece as the next country to conquer. Xerxes brought his huge army to Thermopylae where he met King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartans, which held the much larger force at bay for three days.

From a historical perspective, Miller took certain liberties with the story, but this isn't a rarity in Hollywood. Technically speaking, the film is astounding. Shot exclusively with blue- and green-screen backdrops, it looks amazing on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, the action is a little too bloody and violent for me, but since it retells the story of a brutal battle, I guess I shouldn't expect anything different. Regardless, the violence does fit the story, and I don't think it could have been told any other way.

This looks like the same encode from the 2007 Blu-ray release, but the packaging has changed to include a Digibook. Still, the VC-1 encode still looks marvelous. Blacks are intentionally crushed, contrast is pumped up to highlight the heavy grain, and colors are washed out to create a sepia-toned look. The Digibook contains pictures from Miller's graphic novel, and they match exactly what's on the screen.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is amazing. From the opening monolog, it's readily apparent that the audio experience will be a joy thanks to crystal-clear dialog and 360-degree soundfield. Imaging is impeccable, ample discrete effects bombard the room from every direction, and the LFE shakes the foundation. Even two years after its initial Blu-ray release, this soundtrack rocks!

Many of the features missing from the previous Blu-ray release make their way onto The Complete Experience. As I mentioned earlier, the film gets the Digibook packaging, which is the best-looking one to date from the studio. The cover is beautiful and the information in the 40-page book is very interesting.

Features on the disc include the "The Compete 300: A Comprehensive Immersion," a new interactive feature offering three different paths ("Creating a Legend," "Bringing the Legend to Life," and "The History Behind the Myth") to follow during the film with three options—Focus Points, Trivia, and PIP. Focus Points take you outside the film to look at an aspect of the production, and at the conclusion of the detour, it returns you to where you left off. Trivia offers some background facts about the film's creation, and PIP offers interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that play in a smaller window while the movie continues (Bonus View/Profile 1.1 player required). By using the green, blue, and yellow remote buttons, you can switch between the various paths.

If it sounds confusing, it is, at least at first. But within a few minutes, I found myself able to intuitively move between each of the different paths and the different features contained therein.

More traditional supplements include a documentary, some featurettes, and another PIP feature, "Bluescreen Picture-in-Picture," where director Zack Snyder compares the pre-CGI-enhanced footage to the feature film. This feature was first seen on the HD DVD back in 2007, but it hasn't lost its luster and remains informative. Additional material includes an audio commentary, deleted scenes, webisodes, BD-Live access (registration required), and a digital copy of the film.

300 is one of the bestselling titles on the Blu-ray format, so I'm not surprised to see a double-dip already. To Warner's credit, it does offer additional supplements meant for fans and an attractive Digibook to boot. The video and audio quality equal the previous release, so if you are interested in the goodies, be sure to pick this up. Recommended for fans.

Release Date: July 21, 2009
Studio: Warner

Movie: 7/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics