Connor Bynum // Film Critic
Warner Bros. has made a considerable effort this past year to release many past films in their library on 4K UHD. While these re-releases have been somewhat hit and miss, Zack Snyder’s iconic war epic, 300, does not disappoint.
Movie Grade: A-
Director Zack Snyder has become synonymous with stylized film interpretations of graphic novels over the years, and 300 is where he earned his reputation.
While the film has received plenty of criticisms for its historical inaccuracy, it’s important to note Snyder was never interested in authentically retelling the events of the real-life battle of Thermopylae. In this battle, 300 Spartan soldiers made their stand against a vastly superior Persian army. That’s about as much the film has in common with actual history. In reality, Snyder’s film is painstakingly accurate to Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name.
300 is filled to the brim with brilliant cinematography, graphic violence, and washboard abs and never tries to be anything more than as absolutely cool as possible. Audiences looking for anything deeper will likely give this one a pass, but fans of visual spectacle and pulse-pounding action will certainly have a good time.
Video/Audio Grade: A
300 is unquestionably a visually unique film. It should come as no surprise considering how it was shot is equally unique. Principal photography was captured on 35mm film, but nearly every shot was digitally enhanced or altered in the post-production process. Visual effects at the time would normally be mastered in a 2K digital intermediate, so while the live-action elements could easily have been mastered in native 4K, the film itself as a whole was kept at a conservative, albeit justified 2K resolution.
All that being said, Warner Bros has once again pulled off another impressive 4K upscale with this release. One of the more interesting digital effects added to this film is the intentional addition of film grain to give the picture a more stylized look. This could at first be mistaken as the mark of a poor 4K presentation but is easy to forgive, given the artistic motivation behind the effect. Aside from the grain, there is still plenty of detail on display. Textures on the iconic Spartan shields and capes are incredibly sharp. Skin details are thankfully well preserved because there certainly is a lot of skin throughout the film. Even the vast amount of digital creations hold up remarkably well.
Like many 4K upscales from Warner Bros, the largest visual improvement comes with the addition of HDR10. The color palette in 300 is an interesting contradiction as it can feel monochromatic while incredibly rich all at once. Heavy blues during the opening montage as Leonidas trains in the Agoge are brilliantly contrasted with the warm, nearly sepia levels of gold as the film transitions to Sparta under his rule. The deep reds of the Spartans’ capes and the copious amounts of blood also stand out quite nicely with the expanded saturation. Additionally, the brightness levels are nearly perfect. Countless shots are filled with heavy contrasts with deep shadows that never feel crushed or overbearing.
Warner Bros has recently neglected audio improvements with their 4K re-releases, but thankfully, have offered a superb Dolby Atmos audio track that will give audio fanatics a wonderful presentation. The Atmos track will default to play as a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for viewers unequipped for Atmos. Tyler Bates’ brilliant score soars throughout the space, and the overwhelming sounds from the epic battle sequences make excellent use of the overhead and side channels. These new presentations provide a much more robust viewing experience than the original 5.1 mix from the 2007 Blu-ray release.
Extras Grade: C+
Aside from the excellent commentary track with director Zack Snyder and cinematographer Lary Fong, no extras are included on the 4K disc. The included 1080p Blu-ray is identical to the 2007 release and features the same special features as it did before. They are worth viewing for first-time buyers, but everyone else will find little reason to revisit them.
All special features listed below:
- Audio Commentary
- The 300: Fact or Fiction? (24:36)
- Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300 (4:32)
- Preparing for Battle: Test Footage (6:43)
- Frank Miller Tapes (14:42)
- The Making of 300 (5:51)
- Making 300 in Images (3:40)
- Production Webisodes (12 clips, 38:23 total)
- Deleted Scenes (3:23)
Final Grade: A-
While not for everyone, 300 is undoubtedly a visual masterpiece, and it has never looked better. The heavy amounts of grain may turn off casual viewers, but home theater enthusiasts will find plenty to love with this 4K re-release.
300 is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD.