Review: 300: The Complete Experience is one of the year's best

While Watchmen is receiving the lion's share of media coverage this week, thanks to the release of its director's cut Blu-ray, Zack Snyder's previous film, the historical epic 300, is perhaps the movie that deserves more attention.

After making six different versions of the film on SD DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray, Warner Home Video has reissued what one hopes is the last, but thankfully certainly best, version of Snyder's film. Newly repackaged with all-new bonus materials and multiple ways to rewatch the film itself, 300: The Complete Experience (WHV, $39.99) is a standard-bearer for what deluxe-edition discs should be, even if you ultimately decide not to upgrade from the great sets that have already been released.

The movie itself has been discussed so much that a review of its aesthetic content feels redundant. But what's great about this particular Blu-ray is that it literally allows you to watch the film focusing only on the elements of its story and characters that appeal to you.

Specifically, the menu screen offers three separate paths: "Creating a Legend," which chronicles Frank Miller's process in transforming historical events into epic fiction; "Bringing the Legend to Life," which details the technical challenges of adapting Miller's material and making the movie; and "The History Behind the Myth," which compares the story to the actual historical events and provides a context for Snyder's epic storytelling.

Each of these plays alongside the film itself, and all provide different access points through which viewers can go behind the scenes to learn more about what interests them most.

Rather than having just one option, however, there are infinite ones even within each path, whether you want to emphasize "focus points," which delve into a specific idea or sequence; picture-in-picture footage of interviews and background information; or just basic trivia. But even with so much material attached to the film itself, the disc's library of bonus features is no less massive, adding a bluescreen picture-in-picture commentary by Snyder, interviews with Frank Miller and a bonus digital copy of the theatrical cut to the extras that were found in earlier editions of 300.

Ultimately, how badly you need to get this set depends how much you love the movie. In terms of picture and sound, the presentation is identical to earlier releases, which means that it's reference quality, while the film itself retains all of its charge and excitement. Additionally, the new materials are terrifically thorough, in-depth and comprehensive. But then again, so were the featurettes and extras on previous editions.

For my money, this not only lives up to its title but qualifies as an essential addition to any high-def enthusiast's collection; so even if you think that the 300 you've got is good enough, one more just might make the difference. But even if it doesn't, The Complete Experience is for all intents and purposes one of the best releases of the year, and should serve as a barometer by which future Blu-rays and their bonus features are measured.

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