300 (2007)


By now you're probably in one of three camps regarding the surprise action hit "300."

1. You've heard about it or read about it, but have no real interest in seeing it ... except you're still a little curious.

2. You saw it and you thought it was seriously overrated and you just don't care about the DVD release. (And if that's the case, why are you reading this review, knucklehead?)

3. You freakin' loved the flick and you cannot WAIT to get your fingers on this shiny new 2-disc Special Edition from the fine folks at WB.

I fall pretty much in the third group: I really enjoyed the movie (even after multiple viewings) even if I think it gets a little too silly (as period pieces often do, I suppose) in just a few spots. But what's a few isolated moments of goofiness when you're looking at a big boy spectacle of this lunatic magnitude? It's as if someone (say, "Dawn of the Dead" director Zack Snyder) took all his favorite action scenes -- and a few of his childhood nightmares -- and filtered them through the sweaty awesomeness of Frank Miller's graphic novel. And the result is "300," a pure-bred 'fanboy' flick all the way -- but also a movie that promises lots of stylish action before delivering on those promises in spades.

Plus it's got some stuff you've simply never seen in a movie before, and that's usually worth at least a weeknight rental, right?

The plot couldn't be simpler: A massive horde of invading Persians aim to make Sparta their very own. By force. But noble King Leonidas and his ass-kickin' crew of mega-warriors can't be bothered with the politicians and the back-door dealings: It's butt-stompin' time, green-screen epic style!

And just so you don't misunderstand: "300" is one of the most entertainingly hyper-kinetic action movies ever made. If I'm making a DVD shelf for my "favorite semi-mindless action flicks," then this one earns a spot right alongside Speed, The Road Warrior, and (yeah, I'll admit it) Armageddon. (I'm not comparing these movies, mind you, just illustrating how much I adore well-delivered Hollywood action.)

But what's extra-cool about "300" (what makes it a bit more memorable than kinsmen like "Troy," "Alexander," and "King Arthur") is the way it LOOKS. Much like "Sin City" re-invented the definition of the phrase "comic book movie," Snyder's film takes the next logical step. So maybe it's little more than this generation's "Braveheart," with a glossy coat of paint, some extraordinarily impressive sights, and more monsters, mayhem and carnage than you'll know what to do with. And just like the box office proved: The men will enjoy it for the action, but the women will like it even more -- if you catch my meaning.

Now, if you're heading off to your local DVD store with visions of blood-caked Persian monsters, be sure to read up first: Available all over the place is a 1-disc version that houses the movies and a commentary track with Zack Snyder and some co-workers. If you're on budget or you just generally don't give a slap about special features, then this disc will set you back about fifteen bucks.

But if you're an extra-large "300" fan and you've got another eight bucks to spend, get a load of what's being offered on the 2-disc Special Edition. (And trust me, this edition wasn't easy to find!) Regarding the commentary (with director Zack Snyder, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad, and director of photography Larry Fong), it's not bad. A little dry and airy perhaps, with a bit too much attention paid to "this was real, that was fake." Plus you could probably make a drinking game out of how many times Snyder says "just like the graphic novel." The audio commentary also comes with subtitles, just so you know.

Aside from a not-very-hidden easter egg on disc 1, the rest of the goodies lie on disc 2:

The 300: Fact or Fiction -- This 25-minute piece delves into the truth behind the tale. It's a tenuous grasp, but (as various filmmakers and scholars attest) it's definitely there.

Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300 -- Plays like a 4.5-minute preview of the preceding featurette. Odd.

Frank Miller Tapes -- 15 minutes of praise for Frank Miller from the likes of Snyder and various artists, publishers, colleagues, etc. Very solid little piece.

The Making of 300 -- If you're expecting some sort of feature-length, all-encompassing mega-documentary on the making in this movie, sorry.
This is a surface-level 5-minute piece all the way. A few insights from the filmmakers, but even more in the way of movie clips.

Making 300 in Images -- A 4-minute piece that gives you a "photo album"
of the production in very short order.

Deleted Scenes -- Snyder introduces three sequences that were cut from the film. (Rather wisely, if you ask me.) Two of the sequences focus on the traitorous hunchback character, but the third one has blind mutated giants attacking the Spartans with midget archers on their backs. More silly than cool. Good cut.

Last but not least is a collection of twelves brief "webisodes" that focus on specific parts of the pre-release hype. Er, specific parts of the movie. A nice inclusion, but hardly anything stunning.

So hm. It sure looks like a stocked set, right? But with the so-so commentary, and the best supplement a 25-minute talking head piece, I'm assuming that WB has much bigger plans for 300 down the road. (And I sure hope they include the trailer next time!) Can't say I'm over-thrilled with the 2-disc set, but I definitely think the flick's worth adding to your collection. If these sound like extras you'll re-visit more than once, then go for the pricier release. The DVD veterans will probably opt for the 1-disc release and just wait a year for the Collector's Edition.