The 300 Spartans Blu-ray Review: Caveat Emptor

The inspiration for Frank Miller's 300 is less than inspiring.
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The 300 Spartans debuts on Blu-ray in conjunction with the theatrical release of 300: Rise of an Empire, which expands on the story of Zack Snyder's 300 with scenes that take place before, during, and after the events of Snyder's film. 300 was adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, and he claims The 300 Spartans "changed the course of my creative life." However, it's hard to see why because the film hasn't aged well since 1962.

Set in 480 BC, The 300 Spartans tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae when a small group of Greek soliders fought the massive slave armies of King Xerxes (David Farrar) of Persia, who was seeking revenge for his father's defeat at Marathon ten years prior. The individual Greek city-states decide to unite against Xerses' forces and agree to Spartan king Leonidas (Richard Egan) leading their armies; however, the politicians decree they must wait until after the sacred festival of Carnea. Knowing the delay could be catastrophic, Leonidas and his personal bodyguards, who answer to their king and not the politicians, head to Thermopylae.

Unfortunately, The 300 Spartans moves along at too slow a pace to keep one's interest. There are too many scenes of characters standing around talking while saying very little, and there's very little action. But even when there is action, the choreography and direction are rather bland and forgettable. Most of the battle scenes show a lot of people simply running into each other, banging swords and shields, making it seem more like children at play. Another negative is the romantic subplot between Phylon and Ellas, two characters that offer little for the audience to connect with them.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. Colors appear in dull, faded hues. Even the reds in the Sparta uniforms look flat. The green vegetation in exterior scenes might be the best a color looks. Focus can be soft at times and details are not always strong. The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono offers clear dialogue. Music and effects are limited in power. The track doesn't suffer from age or wear. The measly extras are the original theatrical trailer and TV spots.

I recommend seeing The 300 Spartans before blind-buying it because the film is underwhelming. Neither the plot, performances, or direction are engaging, which is unfortunate because this historical event has great potential for drama. For fans, the Blu-ray is also lacking in terms of its high-def video and limited extras, so caveat emptor.    

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