on 12 June 2010
I watched this series with great reluctance, having been urged to do so by my 20 year old son. Episode 1 actually does it a disservice, being overly influenced by 300.Gratuitous, slo-mo violence and gore and a stunning palette of colours. I declined to watch it again.
As luck would have it, I walked into the room when episode 5 was on weeks later. Mocked, sat for a few mintues intending to depart. And was hooked. By the incredible dialogue, brilliant acting and excellent casting. I have watched every episode since. Last night, I saw the finale- we were actually clutching each other and shouting at the tv at times.
I would URGE people to see 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand'. Take a deep breath as regards the violence and nudity. Because plot,dialogue and character-wise? This was redolent of the best of the Royal Shakespeare Company, or the National Theatre.
John Hannah- an actor I have never rated- was magnificent as Battiatus, the owner of the Ludus (gladiator camp).Cunning, ambitious,humourous, vicious. Villainous, yet at times getting the audience's sympathy.Lucy Lawless was a revelation as his wife, Lucretia. I loved her in Xena, but would have pegged her as a light comedy actress. But here? She showed a range and power that made me long for some theatre producer to grab both her and Hannah and get them to do 'MacBeth'.Yes, Lucy Lawless would make a phenomenal Lady Macbeth, based on her performance over this series.
Lawless and Hannah are playing complex,three dimensional characters. As are the rest of the cast. Ordinarily, in a show like this,you get a great lead character, then one or two good ones and the supporting characters are two dimensional. Not here. The writers-led by Stephen deKnight, fleshed out a good 15-20 characters. The casting directors then did an incredible job in finding the actors to portray them. Characters like Crixus, Barca, Varro, Ithylia, Doctore, Solonius, Naevia,Ashur, Mira, and of course Spartcus (Andy Whitfield) make this a powerful ensemble.
Experienced character actors who usually dont get to have the story focussed on them, took the opportunity and ran with it. The level of talent is on par with HBO's 'Rome', and at times exceeds it.I grew up on 'I,Claudius' and would have said there would never be a series about historical events in ancient Rome that could match it.
'Spartacus:Blood and Sand' is 'I,Claudius' on steroids. Its 'Rome' on crack. Watching it as a viewer became addictive.
If the main actors are not nominated for Emmys,it will be a travesty. If I hear an episode got a Peabody Award, I would not be surprised.
I can only await with impatience, whilst they make the prequel that is in the pipeline, pending the lead actor's treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma. (Wishing him all the best).Definately I'm ordering the DVD!
There's been precious little in the way of quality new TV recently. One reviewer mentions Tru Blood, but in my opinion, that promised a lot, yet didn't deliver. That's something this show could never be accused of. Because not since Battle Star Galactica has there been a show on TV this good. I am of course talking about the new series of Battle Star - but in actual fact - that last statement might be true even if I were talking about the original 70's series: Blood & Sand my friends, is that good!
I eyed Spartacus with anticipation long before it came on TV. I'd read about it in a 'lads mag' I picked up for a long distance train journey, and being a fan of films like this - of films like 300, Sword & Sorcery flicks, Viking Films, and the like - it looked right up my street. The screen shots looked amazing and the write up it got said it was packed with blood & guts, gore, graphic fight scenes and beautiful naked women... awesome! Of course magazines aren't always that accurate in reporting these things, and I don't really consider myself the 'lads mag' target audience, so I didn't get my hopes up too high.
Anyway, 6 or so months later, and after seeing it advertised on Bravo for weeks - the first episode arrived... by this time I'd told my flat mate all about it and we were both looking forward to it, got the beers in, and sat down in anticipation; hoping this new series would be as good as I'd read. And boy, was it... From the word go, from the very first episode, it was amazing.
It had it all. Just as promised. Sword fights, hot chicks, nudity, and to top it all off - a great look. The story set off at a fast pace and by the end of the first episode it was well underway. And what followed each week was an hourly delight that stuck to a stunningly simple - yet very effective - formula. Each episode fed you intrigue, suspense, beautiful women, sex, breasts and cliff-hangers - before rounding it all off with a good old bit of mindless violence. Delivered, of course, in a spectacularly over the top gladiatorial showdown. And I must say, it's a formula that works.
But that makes this series sound shallow. And that's far from the truth. You see (and here's why I drew parallels with, or at least mentioned, at the start of this review, the new Battle Star series), the main crux of this series, at least so far it seems (and in true Roman style), is politics. Politics within the gladiator school - both between the gladiators and within its higher echelons. Politics within the Senate. Politics between women and their lovers. Politics between - well - the politicians, and politics between senators and families, between slaves and so on and so forth. And it made for a great story line as people constantly plan, plot, scheme and generally double cross each other as they jostle for position. Or in some cases just to stay alive.
The whole series - visually - was a joy to watch too. The whole thing looked great; with both costumes and sets, convincing and beautiful. And as I briefly touched on before, the use - or rather over use - of CGI added to the whole stylised look of the show. To say it borrowed from 300 would be an understatement. And the CGI blood, guts and gore, well, the show revelled in it; with droplets of blood - nay - fountains of the stuff, splattering the camera lens after each beheading or disembowelment.
The gladiators were cool too. A hobby of mine is fighting - or rather martial arts- and I train 3 or 4 times a week in various systems. I can tell you the brawls were well rehearsed and convincing, with no one looking ill at ease when they threw down and let slip the dogs of war (listen to me! just writing about this stuff I'm slipping into Spartacus mode, as it brings it all back!!!), and the story and fights threw up more than one or two surprises, with main characters being killed off; falling in spectacular style in the arena and leaving you thinking: 'What the?... But he can't die!'.
As a working writer myself, the dialogue too I found a delight. I really enjoyed the language and phrasing with, much to my embarrassment, one of two of their exclamations finding their way into my everyday vernacular (Jupiter's co*k!!!). There were such gems as things like: "By the gods! The nerve of the man! He greets with one hand only to part cheek with the other, and thrust his... into my....", well, you get the idea. I shan't elaborate for fear of sending Amazons' review filters into melt-down.
After the first episode I read one or two reviews of it in papers - The Times and the Guardian I think - and they kind of sniffed at it a bit. But, reading between the lines, you could tell that the reviewers had enjoyed it just as much as anyone else, even if their superior stance wouldn't let them admit it; you could just tell. It's a shame they didn't dare give the show the praise it deserved then, but that might have changed now the show's progressed. And I hope so, because Blood & Sand honestly deserves it.
Spartacus himself makes a very likeable character. And the guy who plays him is very watchable and I'm going to miss my Tuesday-nights-in now; Tuesday, until this came along, seemed to be particularly void of anything to watch on TV - and the faster the next season arrives the better!!! Now all we have to do is pray it doesn't get pulled.
And also pray for the lead character - Andy Whitfield - who has fallen ill with cancer. So ill in fact, that the second season has been put on hold, and they've had to write a prequel to the series, which comes out in the new year. Fingers crossed guys. Fingers crossed.
I'll be buying this Blu Ray the moment it's out and it'll positively shine on the format. It's the type of series made for High-Def. The CGI and warm colours will look amazing, I just know it! And it'll be nice to get rid of the silly Bravo logo that got in the way of the flying droplets of blood and the odd nipple on TV.
Every episode of series 1 was amazing and the final episode was simply off the hook! I won't spoil it for you. Just buy Spartacus now and find out what happens for yourself. So if you're thinking about pre-ordering this, I say go for it! It's man TV at it's finest! Spartacus... Gladiators... I salute you.
If you found this review helpful at all please give it a thumbs up - thanks :-)
on 20 May 2010
At first I was sceptical of having a television series based on the life of the infamous Spartacus - after all the film is such a classic!
However, it works!
With special effects akin to those of 300, high quality acting and a cliff hanger to every episode, you really get drawn into all the subplots of the other characters as well as the Spartacus ones.
Set mostly in the training camp, you see the 'behind the scenes' of a gladiator's life.
Although VERY gory and with lots of nudity, it is not a plotless spectacle. If you enjoyed the TV series Rome and films such as 300, you will love this.
It also shows another side to the infamous Lucy Lawless (Xena Warrior Princess), she is a very good actress!
This 2010 first season sees the historical figure of Spartacus [Andy Whitfield], a Thracian gladiator who led a slave uprising against the Roman Republic arriving at the Ludis [gladiator school] of the ruthless and ambitious Quintus Batiatus (John Hannah)t. Here he must shake off his past and learn the ways of the gladiators if he hopes to survive, especially from his masters double dealings and the intrigues of dangerous rivals.
Historical accuracy may not be at the forefront, being essentially gripping entertainment but it does capture the spirit of the subject with the costumes [were they exist] being authentic, the fights brutal, life harsh and treacherous, all set in a convincing debauched provincial Capua. This has lashings of squirty blood spatter flying everywhere, sex is waiting on every street corner, as is death plus we see the brutal reality of the underworld –the Pits, where survival is everything. Lucretia [Lucy Lawless] is the calculating and scheming wife, who draws on the seductive talents of her depraved and licentious friend Ilithyia [Viva Bianca].
The thirteen 50 minute episodes are spread over four discs, audio is 2.0 default, but use 5.1 if you can, it’s a much richer sound. Rated 18 this features decapitations and nudity [including full frontal] and swearing throughout. If you can look past the blood, gore and sex, this is a tale of love, love lost, friendships and betrayal. However it is worth watching the 2011 prequel first as it sets the scene and aids continuity.
on 22 October 2010
So, right of the bat....this is not for the squeemish, or the prudish! This version of the Spartacus epic is BRUTAL. Brutal is the way life was in the Roman Empire, and for that matter everywhere in the the ancient world. Is this so different today? What I admire about this series is that it is unrelenting! It gives no quarter. Unless you turn the tv/video off, it doesn't give any leeway...you have to face the demons inside all of us!
Most people in the privileged countries today have been coddled, pampered, deluded into believing we are "civilized". The fact is we are ALL only one breath away from what we are forced to view on "Spartacus"! If you have the tenacity to watch episode after episode, to accept the lesser parts of us, you see we all have a little of ALL the characters that inhabit the ludus. Sex, violence, brutality, love, empathy, courage and sacrifice are an integral part of every human being. Deceiving ourselves that we have evolved beyond the circus is miopic.
If you love the good old days in Rome, the artistry of the arena, beautiful men and women, the ugly and cruel masses...the intricacies of local politics....IF you have the heart to face your demons...Spartacus is a fantastic journey. Give it a little time and let it wash over you without regret...like the blood into the sand. An odyssey well worth taking!
on 29 June 2012
Once you get over the shock of the use of the `c' word, nakedness and gratuitous violence Spartacus grips you on so many levels...
The enthralling combination of the relationships within the characters...But, mostly how the `human spirit' survives... Despite humiliation, degradation and suffering....
I have been known to have said the things we find interesting or amusing is those we can relate to our own experiences of life...
Spartacus had me gripped as I have survived a violent relationship... one of which I could easily have given up my existence and died many times... But, instead I chose to protect others and take a submissive stance in order to survive...
Spartacus has a will to survive despite his situation, which lacks in options.... is there any honor in dying in the arena? Honor, a little used word these days!
The story that also interested me was the `love' triangle between Crixus, Lucretia, Nivia and the obvious interest of Illithyia... Although slaves were made to have sex with their masters they were able to place that humiliation to one side to also feel love....
What I take away from this is.... That we do what we have to do, in order to survive... take the submissive path instead of the confrontational path that would see us bloodied or possibly dead... and guess what. That's actually okay as long as you don't lose yourself and the faith you have in yourself to be doing the right thing... But, as Spartacus did, the very moment opportunity arises be brave and take the option to fight your way out. You are the only person you have to truly face in the mirror of reflection... So ensure that your actions are the reactions of someone you're proud to see...
on 23 January 2013
The production team that made GREAT series such as Xena - Warrior Princess and Legend of the Seeker finally moves beyond the annoying restrictions of syndicated television. Gone is the censorship - and it shows: SPARTACUS is extremely explicit in violence, sexual situations and profanity (and quite creative in each).
So, if you are easily offended by either, remain far from this series and get the family friendly 1960 film Spartacus starring Michael Douglas instead, but spare us the endless complaining about the serie's blood and gore.
SPARTACUS - BLOOD & SAND shows the Roman culture in its truest way: a decadent, obnoxious, self-centered people, full of intrigues and willing to "remove" anyone who would stand in their way to attain even more power.
Many great actors brig life to the three dimensional characters, such as John Hannah as the main villain Batiatus, Lucy Lawless as his intriguing snake-like wife (brilliantly acted), Craig Parker makes a great appearance as a villain in only a few episodes, but will return in season 2. Andy Whitfield (R.I.P.) delivers an awesome performance as the title hero. Actors and writers (and directors) have really pushed to their limits, delivering better work than anything Hollywood has and ever had to offer. Brilliant plot-twists and a great visual style made me devour this in one go on blu-ray (who needs to sleep anyway?).
on 7 July 2010
I think people are being quite harsh in some of the reviews for this series. It's definitely worth sticking with as it does get better.
Okay, yes, the script is at times awful and the harsh violence and sexual content is a little in your face. Once you get used to it though, the series starts getting fun. The politics and scheming of the various different characters all scrapping for power gets more complex and develops nicely throughout. John Hannah looks like he is genuinely having fun with the part and Lucy Lawless as his Wife is also very well played. There are a host of other great parts played by the gladiators and you genuinely feel for their powerless position as slaves.
Okay, so this is hardly Shakespeare at the end of the day but the series never tries to be. Spartacus is a brilliant series though and tremendous fun, any viewers should give it at least five episodes and you'll see it grows on you. This has been one of the best series i've seen in awhile and can't wait for more.
on 15 December 2010
"Spartacus: Blood and Sand" is a historical fiction drama about the famous Spartacus and how he became Rome's best-known gladiator during the 1st century BC, the time of the Roman Republic (i.e. before Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus). The story begins with some background info about the hero and focuses on his gladiatorial years. Remember, however, that this is a fictional drama, so the script writers took some liberties with the historical information.
In the beginning of the series we meet a long-haired Spartacus, who is a Thracian villager, and we learn that he and his Thracian comrades must fight another expanding tribe in order to protect their families. Roman soldiers, under the leadership of legatus Claudius Glaber, promised to help them. Glaber betrayed them though, so Spartacus mutinies against him and he is captured and sentenced to die in the gladiator arena for his crime, while his beautiful wife Sura ends up being sold to a Syrian slave trader. Against all odds, the Thracian manages to kill all the gladiators appointed to kill him in the arena, so his life is spared and his sentence is changed to slavery. Impressed by his skills and determination, Lentulus Batiatus, the owner of a training school for gladiators (ludus) in a town away from Rome, purchases him and makes a deal with him: if he survives all the gladiatorial games and gains enough money, he will be able to buy his freedom, and Batiatus will also unite him with his wife. Although he hates the Romans and the arena, this is an offer Spartacus cannot deny, as he needs to regain his freedom and save his wife. The series focuses on the efforts of Spartacus to stay alive, see his wife again, gain the respect of the other gladiators of the school, avoid conflicts with them, and survive in a world of treachery, corruption, violence and fame. The passion for the woman he loves keeps him determined in this story about death, honour and revenge.
Despite the huge success, so far only series 1 is available, with 13 breathtaking episodes. This is because the handsome actor Andy Whitfield, who was an excellent Spartacus I must add, unfortunately is suffering from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Initially his therapy was going well, so the producers postponed the second series to allow him time for recovery. In the meantime, they decided to film a mini prequel series telling the story of the House of Batiatus and of the other gladiators before Spartacus' arrival. This prequel entitled "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" is set to première on the 21st january 2011 in America. It is a tragedy that Andy's recovery was not as successful as it originally seemed and his cancer returned. His doctors advised him to stop any preparation for the second series and focus on harsh chemotherapy. So, thanking the producers who waited for him, Andy declared that he has to quit the project and focus on his treatment. It's not quite certain what will happen next, i.e. whether the producers will cast another actor for the leading role or whether they will stop the series.
I don't know where to start, as this series is a must-see. All the actors are very well-cast in their roles. Andy Whitfield is an excellent Spartacus with a passionate voice and fire in his eyes. John Hannah, although with a wee bit of Scottish accent, is very persuasive and dramatic as Batiatus, a provincial Roman who has inherited the gladiatorial school from his father but is not happy being rich but 'middle-class'. He wants to become a noble and get elected in high offices, and will allow nothing to stop him from fulfilling his dream. His wife, Lucretia, played greatly by Lucy Lawless, known for her role as Xena, completely supports him. Together they form an ambitious and lethal couple. However, there is no black and white in this series and although Batiatus and Lucretia are no angels, they are well-rounded human beings, with their sensitivities, passions and sins. Lucretia has a crash on Crixus, the champion of the gladiatorial house, and she summons him often to her chambers. Crixus loves this special attention by his mistress, until he falls in love with the house maid Naevia. This is the cause of intrigues, jealously and lies. Another interesting plot evolves around Ilithyia, a rich Senate's daughter and wife of Spartacus' enemy legatus Claudius Glaber. Ilithyia is everything Lucretia longs to be: young, beautiful, rich and above all of great social standing by birth. As for the gladiators of the house, each one of them has his own reasons for being there, his own personality and his own aims.
So, this is not a series just about Spartacus. It has many great devious sub-plots and all the characters get coverage and look like real human beings, not one-dimensional dolls as one would expect because of their - great - physique. Still, the show manages to combine brains with beauty and does not shy away from choosing the most beautiful actors, trained to have the perfect bodies and engaged in sex scenes of heterosexuality and homosexuality. But everything is done with so much taste that it didn't offend me as a viewer.
The cinematography is beautiful and artistic, using camera filters and slow-motion during action scenes, like in Matrix or 300. My only criticism are the sets which are very repetitive. Despite its glamour, this is a small production, not a big Hollywood one. The producers decided to offset this by choosing great actors, an interesting plot and good costumes. However, they did not have the funds to build a true arena and big sets. So, they use a lot of CGI for these shots, which becomes kind of repetitive and boring. The plot and the actors do make up for this though. I also found it quite amusing that the actors use formal phrases, trying to resemble the Latin speech. For example, they say "greetings" instead of hello, "apologies" instead of sorry, and use latin words for "master" and "mistress" (dominus - domina) or for "teacher" (doctore).
In terms of historical accuracy, as I said already, this is a fictional show. In general, the show erroneously depicts the Roman free women as having too many liberties and the Roman society as having a completely open attitude towards sex.
Obviously, this is a show for the over-18 only and not suitable for the timid. The rest of you should watch it and judge for yourselves. When I started watching the series, I simply could not stop and almost died from starvation (just kiddin'). If you are lonely, sad, depressed, just watch this and it will make you forget all the rest!
on 18 November 2015
Bought this for my husband when he'd finished watching Game of Thrones and he loves it, finding it equally as good. There appears to be considerable violence to me, but it fits well with the era and the story. It is excellent value for money because of the length and number of episodes. As he's so pleased with this he's asked for the next installments for Christmas too.