300 – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: 300 (2006)
Release Date: 2020
Runtime: 116 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 10/6/20
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, Giovani Cimmino, Stephen McHattie, Peter Mensah, Tyler Neitzel, Eli Snyder, Robert Maillet
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Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“300” was a 2006 film adaptation of the graphic novel (comic series of the same title) written & illustrated by Frank Miller (along with colorist Lynn Varley). The film was directed by Zack Snyder, best known for directing [the remake of] “Dawn of the Dead” (2004), [the film adaptation of] “Watchmen” (2009), “Sucker Punch” (2011), “Man of Steel” (2013), and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). Snyder also technically directed parts of “Justice League” (2017), which he also co-wrote the story adaptation of. He’s also worked as a producer and screenwriter (or co-wrote the story) to films such as [this film’s sequel] “300: Rise of an Empire” (2014), “Wonder Woman” (2017), and most recently served as executive producer on “Aquaman” (2018).
The story to Frank Miller’s original graphic novel here was adapted in screenplay form by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Michael B. Gordon. Kurt Johnstad is best known for writing the screenplay to the film “Act of Valor” (2012) as well as [this film’s sequel] “Rise of an Empire” (2014), and “Atomic Blonde” (2017). Michal B. Gordon is best known for also co-writing the story adaptation of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (2009). Finally, it’s most certainly worth noting that Frank Miller served as an executive producer on this film adaptation of his graphic novel, overseeing the production.
The story to 300 takes place in ancient Sparta, at first, and involves an army led by “King Leonidis” (Gerard Butler) with his troops at what is known [historically] as the Battle of Thermopylae. This factual event involved the king and his three hundred soldiers fighting their way to a Persian army led by a man named “Xerxes” (Rodrigo Santoro). Spartan men were bred to fight, and they were put through grueling feats all throughout their young lives to condition them. This is how we are introduced to the King, as he’s growing up in a short bit of a sequence early on in the film.
What spawns this huge battle is when one day in Sparta a messenger arrives, along with some other Persians. Long story short, that whole “don’t kill the messenger” thing was overrated — at least to the Spartans, specifically to King Leonidis. He’s not pleased with the news he’s given and he assembles his army. He’s ready to leave behind his son and wife “Queen Gorgo” (Lena Headey) and go off to fight, as Spartans are meant to. The King’s army consists of some key members such as “Dilios” (David Wenham), “Stelios” (Michael Fassbender), “Astinos” (Tom Wisdom), and “Daxos” (Andrew Pleavin).
Along their journey, the 300 Spartans strong, will encounter many obstacles until they reach their final destination. One character, pretty unforgettable, is that of an outcast disfigured hunchback “Ephialtes” (Andrew Tiernan) who tries to seek the approval of King Leonidis to join his army. One can imagine what a group of Spartans who base their entire lives on achieving perfection to then only die in the field of battle thought of this guy, entirely, but it’s no spoiler to say they don’t make him the 5th Beatle — or become the 301 — hence the title. Also, as I mentioned just a moment ago, it’s not at all a spoiler — as much as it is history — to tell you that the mighty 300 do not end up surviving but they manage to put up one absolutely hell of a fight that was considered a victory based on the fact of them being outnumbered heavily. It’s a pretty violent film and earns the R rating for some rightful reasons, so be warned if you’ve never seen this and are watching it with your kids.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
“300” makes its debut on 4K UHD Blu-ray in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range. This movie was shot on Super 35mm film using Arriflex 235, Arriflex 435 Es, Panavision Panaflex Gold Ii, Panavision Panaflex Platinum, and Photo-Sonics 4Er cameras all using Panavision Primo Lenses — according to IMDb.
Next, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc itself here. This is using a BD-66 (66 gigabytes) disc, 59.69 gigabytes total, and 58.2 gigabytes for the film itself. In hindsight, the original 2007 Blu-ray release of the film only 32.42 gigabytes total, and then just 23.2 gigabytes for the film in 1080p HD. That’s an obvious improvement, with a filesize now over two times larger for the film in 4K. It’s also using almost all of the discs’ space for the film itself, now on 4K, with the exception of including an audio commentary.
Now, let’s look at some comparisons between this new 4K and the original Blu-ray release, for reasons I’ll be using to reference a tad bit further below.
SOURCES: 2007 Blu-ray (left), 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)
And, I can also offer you a video slideshow of these with my Blu-ray VS. 4K UHD Blu-ray screenshot comparison over on YouTube (also found below).
As you can tell from the comparisons above, this comes with even more film grain than before, and much finer details such as on close-ups with facial features, strands of hairs standing out more than ever, fabric textures seeming more realistic, and whatnot. Some remarkable changes come thanks to the wide color spectrum that you get from all of that is high dynamic range, here in the HDR10 basic form. Things like shadows seem more sensible as well, as does the lighting being darker during nighttime or near dark. That said, the black level here (with HDR) is as solid as the black inks that were found in the outlines of the original illustrations in the graphic novel itself. The color timing doesn’t seem to have been changed much at all really, as much as it’s just high dynamic range allowing for a wider range of colors to be achieved in some cases. This truly has a nice presentation in 4K that serves as on very nice upgrade from the previous 1080p HD on both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats we got some 13 years ago — back in 2007.
Now, I have to admit that upon my closer inspection of the film, while doing all these screenshot comparisons, and while viewing the film multiple times, that I have come to the conclusion that this is using the very same 2K DI (digital intermediate) master found on that 2007 Blu-ray (and HD-DVD). That’s just my opinion though, as no definitive info has been made by the studio regarding this.
This 2K mastered Super 35mm film source material has been seemingly upscaled to 4K here for a release on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format and has not received — that I can tell — a new 4K scan of the film. It has some of the exact same imperfections on the scan of the Super 35mm film print visible on both versions when looking very closely. So, this isn’t a true 4K release in the sense that it has received a completely 4K scan of the original film elements. It’s still using a 2K source that was the first scan of the film source. Don’t let that scare you though, especially if you’re a fan of this film and considering making the upgrade. This actually looks pretty damn impressive from start to finish, in my opinion, and still proves to be one very unique and enjoyable experience in a home theater.
That all being said, this did impress me, as mentioned, and I feel that it’s a nice enough improvement over the original HD releases of the film that I’ve owned over the years — discussed a bit further in the bonus section. “300” in its debut to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format impressed me enough to earn it a respectable 4.75 rating for video quality. It’s totally not perfect, being only from a 2K scan, but it looks very good and is a definite improvement. Next time around, on the film’s next 4K UHD Blu-ray release, perhaps they’ll give it a true 4K scan or remaster it. For now though, visually in 4K, this will do just fine and is one sure to leave the fans pleased.
Video Quality Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“300” makes its debut on 4K UHD Blu-ray in Dolby Atmos, with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core, for those who don’t have the proper equipment to fully decode the Atmos. Now, this is something always worth noting that the previously released original 2007 Blu-ray included a lossless 5.1 mix in a different audio format: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Audio. Here, you will not probably notice too much of a difference if you’re listening on a non-Atmos capable sound system. I felt that’s, again something worth noting, always going to be something people need to know going into any Atmos mix or such — if they aren’t experiencing it in the format. Now, with that out of the way, I’ll move on.
Holy shit!! Pardon my language, but wow! First off, the height channels get used from the opening & they don’t ever back down. 2nd, the original TrueHD on the 2007 Blu-ray had slight dialogue distortion & it is entirely fixed! THIS IS Atmos demo material!!!
The surround rear channels here get lots of attention all throughout and will totally leave you feeling immersed by this new Atmos mix. It really packs one hell of a punch and might just kick your ass down, hopefully not the hole in the film though. It’s very intense from the very opening scene and the film never backs down, as mentioned. This sound mix has always sounded absolutely epic, and now even more so. The Atmos mix comes with one hell of a lot of low-end bass represented, that you will mostly be feeling via the subwoofer rumbling in your room. It is more than ever a mix that packs one hell of a punch (as mentioned) and it just keeps on throwing them out at you, left and right. This new Dolby Atmos mix found here is as strong and relentless as the Spartan army depicted in the film (and novel).
The original [music] Score here, composed by Tyler Bates, sounds absolutely larger than life and gets represented all across the board (so-to-speak) in the Atmos mix, with excellent use of the height and rear channels in addition to being heavily driven from the front left & right channels. The sound effects during the battles sound downright extravagant and will leave you cringing at some of the hand-to-hand or rather sword-to-body fighting scenes. The mix is just something that fits this film perfectly, utterly, from the very start of the film when the logo starts to when the end credits roll.
Now with all that being said, it should be no surprise that“300” on its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut, with its Dolby Atmos upgrade, earns itself a perfect 5 rating for audio quality. This one is the definition of a demo disc (as mentioned), in terms of sound, and should be one of the first titles you use to sample your Atmos sound system or use it to impress your friends.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film is included, via a physical paper insert with a redemption code, which is compatible with Movies Anywhere. That means you’ll get a 4K digital copy of the films on services like iTunes, VUDU, and Fandango Now.
The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes:
- Audio Commentary by Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad, and Director of Photography Larry Fong
The Blu-ray Disc includes the bonus materials, which are presented in a variety of HD and SD (standard definition) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. These include the following:
- Audio Commentary by Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad, and Director of Photography Larry Fong
- “The 300 – Fact or Fiction?” (24:36 – HD) has historians, authors, and filmmakers discussing the historical accuracy of this story and film adaptation. Those interviewed here include Dr. Victor Davis Hanson (author, historian), Zack Snyder (director), Frank Miller (novel/executive producer), Bettany Hewes (author, historian), and Gerard Butler (Leonidis).
- “Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300“ (4:32 – HD) takes a look back at the Spartan way of life as portrayed here on film by the actors as characters and told by the filmmakers. Here you’ll get interviews from Zack Snyder (director), Frank Miller (novel/executive producer), Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), Gerard Butler (Leonidis), Dr. Victor Davis Hanson (author, historian), Bettany Hughes (author, historian), and David Wenham (Dilos).
- “Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage” (6:43 – HD) lets you see how they took the original Frank Miller graphic novel’s art style and adapted it into a visual animated motion comic-style video with voiceover. Next, they decided to go one step further and shot a video with the budget the studio gave them. This original test video (#2) is what would finally get the film approved (green-lit) by the studio [Warner] to be made. This first starts out though with glimpses at the original “300” graphic novel along with interviews with Zack Snyder (director), Frank Miller (novel/executive producer), Gianni Nunnari (producer), Mark Canton (producer), and Deborah Snyder (executive producer).
- “Frank Miller Tapes” (14:42 – HD) consists of interviews with the man responsible for the original graphic novel that this film is based on, as well as his friends. Frank Miller (executive producer, on this film) is responsible for so many other memorably graphic novels — some of which have also been adapted into films. First, though, you get interviews with the following friends of Miller: Paul Levitz (president/publisher, DC Comics), Neal Adams (comic book creator), Zack Snyder (director), and Bob Schreck (group editor, DC Comics).
- “Making of 300“ (5:51 – SD) is pretty self-explanatory by its title. This has some behind-the-scenes footage, glimpses at pages from the graphic novel, and includes interviews with Zack Snyder (director), Frank Miller (executive producer), Gerard Butler (Leonidis), Lena Headey (Gorgo), Kurt Johnstad (screenwriter), Chris Watts (visual effects supervisor), and Mark Twight (Spartan trainer).
- “Making 300 in Images” (3:40 – SD) is a visual photo diary, time-lapsed, that documents the shooting of the film from day one to the last day when they called a wrap.
- “Webisodes” (38:33 – SD) have a “play all” function or you can watch each section own its own, individually. The webisodes here discuss the following topics:
- Production Design
- Stunt Work
- Lena Headey
- Adapting the Graphic Novel
- Gerard Butler
- Rodrigo Santoro
- Training the Actors
- Culture of the Sparta City/State
- A Glimpse from the Set: Making 300 the Movie
- Scene Studies from 300
- Fantastic Characters of 300
- Three Deleted Scenes (3:23 – HD) all come with Introductions by Zack Snyder.
The bonus materials here are great, as they contain well-over an hour of content, not including the audio commentary, but there’s something missing here. Well, actually a few things are missing. So, let me explain that and a short bit of the history of this film on the high definition home video format over the years shortly a bit below, and the extras that came with those releases.
Essentially all you get here are the original 2007 Blu-ray extras, the audio commentary over on the 4K disc, and a digital code (copy) of the film in 4K. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is still as impressive of a set of bonus materials as it was 13 years ago, however, there has been another Blu-ray release of this film that consisted of new materials and that was all on “The Complete Experience” Blu-ray rerelease from 2009. The extras that were new to that release aren’t found here, because it is essentially using (bundling) an outdated disc. A disc that very easily could have just been that 2009 disc, with all of the extras missing. Let me clarify a bit further.
First off, back in the day, there was the original 2007 HD-DVD release which featured something we only later in 2009 on a rerelease (The Complete Experience) got to see ported over to the Blu-ray format: An entire “Bluescreen Picture-In-Picture Version” of the film where the director (Snyder) compared the pre-CGI enhanced version to the final product, the finished film as we see it now. That would play in PIP entirely throughout this film. This was an innovative feature that has long since been forgotten, apparently. It’s an absolute shame that we don’t get in this here on this release, as they could have opted for a BD-100 and attempted to do this feature on the 4K disc. I don’t get why PIP (picture-in-picture) seems to have totally become a thing of the past and is never considered for pretty much any 4K releases these days.
There also was a special intro and tons of extras that were all exclusive to that 2009 Blu-ray release of the film. None of that you will find here. So, if you’re a huge Zack Snyder fan and don’t already own that disc: you might want to, along with this new 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Overall, this set of extras is solid and will leave the casual fans of the film pleased. The bigger fans of the fill will find that the lack of some vital extras from the past 2009 release is a pretty big deal. So, bonus materials here get a 4.25 rating and I can’t help but deduct from what should have been a perfect rating if things were to have been as to how I suggested above.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
“300” was Zack Snyder’s 2006 bold film adaptation of Frank Miller’s original graphic novel (of the same title). Looking back, it proves still some 14 years later to be one very unique and visionary tale of an ancient Spartan city/State where the men were bred to fight. It’s also a whole hell of a lot of fun in terms of the visual style, storytelling, and ultimately the action. From a historical perspective, a pretty good amount of what you see in this film happened in some ways but things have been just slightly changed for some characters or rather real-life people. Also, things were originally very exaggerated in the visuals of the original graphic novel, so it should come as no surprise that things here are as well, and have done what Hollywood is known for in terms of delivering a beauty of an action film. Snyder’s film is unapologetic, in your face, and certainly took some creative liberties with history, just as much as Miller’s novel did. Gerard Butler delivers a performance that really made that talented actor a household name. It’s a film that almost all of you probably have seen but you might want to revisit it again now on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Speaking of which, this delivers a definite visual improvement in terms of quality all throughout in comparison to that original 2007 Blu-ray release. There’s just so much more to be seen here visually and more accurate representations of color, flesh tones, and correct shading in scenes. The extremely hard work put into all of this film’s VFX (visual effects) and translating over bluescreen performances digitally in post-production has finally made its way visually to a format that can handle it and deliver a damn-near theatrical presentation in 4K with the addition of HDR10 (a form of) high dynamic range. It has a black level here as solid as the ink on the pages of the illustrations on the original graphic novel itself.
Next, in terms of sound quality on this 4K release of 300. Here you get an improvement over the previously available lossless 5.1 surround mixes and get this time around a Dolby Atmos sound mix. This also contains a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core for those on equipment not capable of decoding the sound format. It’s simply put, one hell of a Dolby Atmos mix that is sure to leave you blown away, as it’s what I’d call downright “demo material”.
Finally, you get the extras from the original 2007 Blu-ray bundled in with this new 4K disc. The good thing there is that the 4K disc includes the audio commentary track — as found on that Blu-ray. The bad news is that some really cool and insightful extras did not get ported over and put on the 4K or just included as the 2009 Blu-ray (aka “The Complete Experience” release). This was back in 2009 when Snyder had just done Watchmen, another graphic novel film adaptation and the studio did a rerelease of the film with new extras in a promotional sense for that film, essentially.
I didn’t really get why they chose to not include these extras, given how much Snyder’s fans are known to fight to get what they want – just think about the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement on social media. However, we are getting that someday and someday they’ll do an anniversary edition or such of this on 4K with those missing extras. But, for now, what you get here is a solid set of extras. Plus, you get a digital copy of the film in 4K on Vudu, which is very nice to have if you’re upgrading — as the original release lacked digital copy and the 2009 release came with nothing above SD (standard definition) video quality.
This 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of “300” looks impressive and sounds downright amazing. It’s an improvement on each side of the presentation (video & audio). This is one highly recommend upgrade and what I’d for certain call a pretty damn good “demo disc” on the 4K physical format, even if the video isn’t what I’d rate 100% perfect — it does the job and looks very nice in the process. This is doing things you won’t see via streaming 4K, able to handle the excessive amount of post-production film grain digitally added, and it’s hitting bitrates on the audio side you’d not be hearing across streaming services. This is why you should almost always, if not always, get physical with your media, friends.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.75 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials