I’ve got a little equation for you. “Gladiator” + “300” + “Caligula”= “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” That’s it. Really! Brent already gave a great review and covered a decent amount of plot in it. I’m here to put my two cents in. Because as “Spartacus” shows us coin (and sex, and power) make the world go round.
“Spartacus” is one hell of a show. It’s the only show where nudity and/or sex is followed or preceded by ample amounts of ultra-violence. And I love the series for it. One minute I’m ogling women the next I’m cheering a decapitation, and while this is all well and good, there’s a very intriguing story to be enjoyed as well, with very well written characters to boot. I found myself really enjoying the friendship of main character Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) and Varro ( Jai Courtney), the pride and skill of Doctore (Peter Mensah) and the power hungry Batiatus and his wife Lucretia (John Hannah and Lucy Lawless). And just as the story hits a stable point in the lives of the characters it sends it into complete upheaval again, chaotically ruining plans and taking lives with abandon. It draws you in with titillating visuals and scenes of debauchery and violence and yet subtly weaves a great narrative while sowing seeds of things to come with some really nice foreshadowing. I don’t even have a least favorite episode. I would have to say my favorite and least favorite are part of a whole, as the last three episodes “Old Wounds,” “Revelations,” and “Kill Them All,” need to be watched back to back.
With a visual style that’s clearly inspired by “300,” “Spartacus” goes for a similar tone of heightened stylized history. It is even stated in interviews in the featurettes that they were going for the feel of a “live action graphic novel” and it really pays off. Admittedly in the first few episodes the slow motion is over done, but in the later episodes it’s used at just the right times to accentuate the moment. Some of the scenes are truly epic. “Shield jump” anyone? The use of Green screen backgrounds are barely noticeable except in some scenes where they WANT it noticed to give that “graphic novel” feel and to heighten the emotion of the scene, but for the most part it’s all well done. It doesn’t have the polish of “Sin City” or “300” but it’s a lot better than the backgrounds in “Sanctuary.”
The DVD set is rather cool itself. Emulating “300” once again, the case is made up like a book, with each page holding a disc. “300: The Complete Experience” on Blu-Ray had similar packaging. Special features include multiple audio commentary with different people from the shows cast and crew, several in-depth featurettes including a behind-the-scenes making of, and interviews on what went into re-imagining the Spartacus story. The bonus material alone makes you want to go re-watch the series again. I look forward to the prequel series “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” and I anxiously await a second season no matter how that comes about, as Starz has me hooked. I wish Andy Whitfield well on his recovery, as the show, and the business in general just found and could lose a great rising star.
CAST: Andy Whitfield … Spartacus
John Hannah … Batiatus
Manu Bennett … Crixus
Lucy Lawless … Lucretia
Peter Mensah … Doctore
Nick Tarabay … Ashur
Viva Bianca … Ilithyia
Lesley-Ann Brandt … Naevia