Fans of 300 who already bought the previous two-disc version on DVD will probably find themselves wondering if the new Limited Collector's Edition is worth shelling out another $40 to $50. The answer is "yes" for only two groups of people: those who don't own a previous version of the film and the biggest 300 fans. This new version has all of the extras that were on the previous two-disc DVD set, plus a few new extras. But it's also lacking a few things that would have made it well worth buying a second copy of the same movie.
First, what's here:
Disc 1 has the full film, plus the audio commentary with Zach Snyder (director), Kurt Johnstad (screenwriter), and Larry Fong (cinematographer). Or at least that's who the disc says is on the commentary. But you wouldn't know that from listening to it, because Johnstad and Fong talk very little. It's mostly a commentary track with Snyder. If you want to listen to him talk for a couple hours -- and it is interesting; he gives lots of facts about the making of and clearly has passion about this project -- with a few notes of agreement or even questions from those other two, you'll like this one. It's the same track from the previous versions of the film, but if this is your first 300, you'll want to give it a listen.
This disc still has the same Easter Egg that was included on earlier versions, obviously. It's easy to access. After you've selected "Special Features" from the main menu, hit the up button once until the blood around the words "Special Features" is highlighted. This will take you into a short doc featuring Snyder and a few others (mostly Snyder again), explaining what made him want to adapt 300, and how it came to life. Oh, and it's interspersed with really cool narrated graphic novel segments (narrator: Scott Glenn).
One huge problem with Disc 1: It has about seven previews or trailers on it, assuring that even though you bought this, you still have to deal with advertising. You can skip past them, but it's still pretty annoying for a product you purchase to come with so much advertising. You expect it with newspapers and magazines, but those cost about $1-$2 instead of $50.
Disc 2 is the same second disc that came with the previous two-disc version. It has five featurettes on it, plus deleted scenes, and webisodes.
As for the featurettes, "The 300 - Fact or Fiction" is about as good as it gets. We get lots of interviews with most of the cast and crew, and this 25-minute documentary presents as much information about the Spartans as any film fan would want, going back in history, through the comic books, up to the movie. Obviously, it's not even close to all of the information available on this topic, but let's be honest: If you wanted to know any more than this, you'd take a class, not buy a DVD. It's by far the best of the featurettes. There are a couple short, making-of type of docs that mostly repeat what's said in the audio commentary -- but with the bonus of behind-the-scenes footage that is worth a peek. "The Frank Miller Tapes" is about 15 minutes, and it's a fascinating reminder about the brilliant Frank Miller and the graphic novel, 300. (Which brings me to a good point to talk about the glaring omission from this DVD set: the graphic novel. The addition of that here would make this a can't-miss set for any film or comic buff.)
The deleted scenes on Disc 2 consist of three extremely short (the total runtime for all of them is less than five minutes) scenes, with introductions by Snyder. It's hilarious when he introduces one of them by saying he loved it but it slowed the movie down too much. As if these five extra minutes would really slow down or lengthen the movie any.
Finally, the webisodes. There are twelve of them, and they're five minutes each. They're informative and entertaining, on topics from Lena Headey to adapting the graphic novel to the culture of Sparta. The problem is that they can only be watched individually. They really should have been put together into one movie so that fans could just sit down and enjoy. If set up with chapters, you could still choose to watch them this way, but having the opportunity to watch them all at once without going back to the remote every five minutes would be nice for the non-fidgety among us who can actually sit still for an hour.
So, the new stuff on this Limited Collector's Edition starts on Disc 3, where we find one 30-minute doc, "To the Hot Gates: A Legend Retold," which looks at the history behind the story and the movie. Again. Because, remember, we had "The 300 -- Fact or Fiction" on Disc 2. Granted, it was the best original special feature, but I think doing something more than duplicating it and adding a few minutes is going to be required to make this set worth it. Oh, right, this disc also includes the digital copy. Thanks, but no thanks.
Finally, in addition to discs, this new set comes in some pretty -- if bulky -- packaging, including some new fun toys for collectors. But it will take up a lot more space than a slim DVD case, so non-packrats should steer clear. There's a 50-page book of "art," which is essentially a gallery of stills from the movie with a few quotes from the movie interspersed throughout. This also serves as the DVD case, which is pretty cool. Folks who like this packaging but don't care for the other goodies might just store it in this book, which is much slimmer than the bulky box it comes in.
And that bulk is because also inside the box are six cards, depicting the movie's original poster images (once you've looked at them, what then? They probably would have been better as part of the book/DVD case). And there's also what the DVD packaging calls a "Lucite Display with Motion Film Image." Or what I like to call a hologram paperweight thing that depicts Leonidas in a scene from the movie, spearing something. It's probably fun for kids, but once you've grown past the state of finding holograms cool, it loses its luster quite a bit. Unless you really need a paperweight for your desk. And, come on: Who doesn't?!
Looking for a good paperweight? Buy it now!