Scanning High-Def: 300 on Blu-ray, HD DVD

Warner Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD

Movie •••½ Blu-ray Picture •••½ HD DVD Picture •••• Blu-ray Sound •••• HD DVD Sound •••½ Original Extras •••½ New HD DVD Extras •••

Part comic book, part Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, 300 grips you by the throat, shakes you around, and doesn't drop you back to earth until the last Spartan has fallen with the last spray of CGI blood. The 2.35:1 images look more like they were painted than filmed, and they're tinted mainly brown. They're also very detailed, so that the texture of the armor is almost tactile, and in shots of Gerard Butler (who plays King Leonidas), you can see emotions behind his extremely expressive eyes.

The excellent Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very clear, open, and full. All channels are active nearly all the time, with the score - a conglomerate of heavy-on-the-bass electronic music and ancient-sounding male-choir chants - rumbling deeply almost nonstop throughout the film. Despite the ruckus, you can always hear the dialogue, the splatter of that blood, and of course, the marine-like oorahs of the troops about to fight the Middle Eastern bad men. There's good placement of effects, and different parts of the orchestra are distinct in each of the channels.

But which format is victorious - Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD? Both editions have VC-1-encoded transfers, but the picture on HD DVD has a bit more detail and contrast than that on Blu-ray. Blacks are slightly deeper, highlights brighter, and objects clearer. And in a big close-up of the King, you can see more of the lines on his face.

When it comes to the two TrueHD soundtracks, however, the one on Blu-ray has greater force. In the scene of the archers' attack, the hail of descending arrows sounds okay on HD DVD. But on Blu-ray, it's as if a flock of birds with sharp individual vibrations is coming through the air, each landing with a bassy whump.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those on the standard DVD: deleted scenes, Webisodes, a commentary that includes director Zack Snyder, and an hour of interesting documentaries (upgraded to high-def) on the film, graphic novelist Frank Miller, and Spartan culture.

Ditto for the HD DVD, except that the less-than-enthralling commentary is replaced by Snyder talking over a widescreen picture-in-picture that shows the same scene as on the rest of the TV screen - but without the blue-screen action or CGI. The HD DVD also adds a strategy game and the ability to buy ringtones/wallpaper via your cellphone. You can also record your favorite clips and arrange them in any order, so you can actually make your own cut of the movie. Oorah!

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