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</script></div>{/googleAds}There's a lot of heated discussion going on in the days leading up to the release of 300, director Zack Snyder's interpretation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. Seems much of the controversy comes from those who question the historical accuracy of the film. Some especially critics in Europe - even go on to criticize the film's depiction of certain Nationalities and concern themselves with who did what to whom and in the name of what. Puh-leaze!

Forget that 300 is based on the true-life ancient battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas led 300 Spartans to fight for freedom and democracy against Xerxes' massive invading Persian army. Whether or not such a battle actually took place doesn't matter. Nor does the possibility that Greeks, Persians, Spartans, Gauls, Romans or any other civilization might or might not have been involved in any such actual event. Reality is not important here. What does matter is that 300 is a beautifully told tale of heroism for all eternity. It's 10% reality, and 90% sweet, sweet eye candy. Nothing more.

Most of the film was shot digitally, in front of a green screen with the backgrounds and environment rendered in postproduction. This ensured a close visual match to Miller's wildly popular comic book that was actually used for many scenes as a storyboard. With a highly stylized look similar to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City, the film is bathed in a moody atmosphere - sometimes verging on black/white or sepia-tone - making the film look more like, well... a comic book than a movie. It's a fast paced, bloody, loud, shouting, spitting, fighting spectacle with some truly astounding battle footage that is sure to please lovers of that. If you don't care for stylized violence and I mean lopped off heads flying through the air in Matrix slo-mo fashion then 300 may not be for you.

The film's a bit slim on plot however, preferring to draw its appeal from visuals and historical references rather than complex storytelling. Gerard Butler is the above-mentioned King Leonidas, who took 300 fellow Spartan warriors and went down in history by facing insurmountable odds. Miller initially balked at including a beefed-up plotline concerning Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), but screen tests showed a greater appeal by female audiences so Warner Bros. insisted. As the battle rages on, Queen Gorgo leads a movement to convince the Spartan council to send additional forces to battle a troop surge I guess, but in the process, she uncovers treachery, bribery and perjury amongst the rulers. OK, enough of that!

Now quickly back to the battle scenes where the film really soars. Leonidas' battle plan is to lure the massive Persian army, amounting to a million or more soldiers something tells me this number has grown throughout the centuries through a narrow box canyon, known as The Hot Gates or Thermopylae, where the opponents' overwhelming numbers will mean little. Facing the outnumbered Spartans is a curious conglomeration of shiny-masked immortals that are anything but, black-hooded mystics that hurl smoke grenades, soldiers on armored rhino-back, and gigantic ogres with teeth filed to fangs. But even the most formidable foes are no match for the ass-kicking carousel of Leonidas and his nearly-naked, ripped-ab Spartans that plow through the enemy faster than Tony Jaa through his Muy Thai lineup. In fact, with no historical fighting style references to draw from, Snyder's heroes resemble a ballet of beautifully choreographed martial arts sequences, as the camera often follows a single soldier for extended takes, fast-zooming to slo-mo as sword meets flesh and body parts fly. It's truly a spectacular thing to behold. I don't think I've seen such beautiful blood-letting. We forget we're watching one of the bloodiest films to ever limbo under the dreaded NC-17, because the blood doesn't look like blood. It's more like a dark crimson paint-ball splash that's clearly computer generated. But because of the film's artistic rendering, realism takes a back seat.

There's no need to break down the acting, as that's not really important here. And if anyone tries to, they're taking the film a bit too seriously. The characters are more about physical presence than thespian dramatics. There are clearly-defined shiny-skinned heroes that scream for valor and freedom facing off against dark, brutish enemies that seem ever-willing to throw their lives away in hopes that sheer numbers will eventually prevail. If any actor in Hollywood had a black and white headshot, a washboard mid-section and could scream Freee-dum! or Spaaartans!, then he was cast for the film. No other acting abilities were needed.

300 is an extremely ambitious film that takes bold chances but scores big on the visual and visceral meter. Normally that's not enough to strike a chord. But Snyder and Miller have clearly reinvented the swords-and-sandals pic and put a fresh new coat of blood, er, paint on a reeling genre.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 presentation

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; French: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary.

* Commentary -
o Feature-length audio commentary with director Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and cinematographer Larry Fong.
* Featurette
o Easter Egg - featurette that covers the transition from graphic novel to film.
o 300: Fact or Fiction?" (24:32) - compares the film with reality and goes into a bit more detail of the graphic novel's transition to film.
o Who Were the Spartans? - The Warriors of 300 - (04:24) Touches on the Spartan life and customs of the time.
o The Frank Miller Tapes (14:30) - Collection of clips with Frank Miller talking about his early life in the comic book industry.
o Making-of Featurette (05:48)
o Making 300 in Images (03:35)
o Webisodes - 12 clips totalling just over 38 minutes
* Deleted Scenes
o Three scenes that didn't make the final cut.

Number of discs: - 2-Disc Special Edition with Keepcase Packaging