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Rome: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
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187 of 197 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
When I was younger, I used to love watching movies like Spartacus, not so much because they provided particularly great depictions of ancient Rome, but because they were the way anybody get any sense of the grandeur of the Roman empire. In fact, looking back, those films were often quite cheesy. Hollywood stopped making movies about ancient Rome for a long while, until Gladiator came out in 2000. As a movie, Gladiator was awesome and showed a vastly more realistic yet grander Rome than ever before seen in Hollywood. Yet, as history, the movie had its flaws (most notably that it distorted the historical record quite bit). However, I'd despaired that it would be the pinnacle of our ability to visualize Rome.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that HBO did an excellent job at recreating the ancient Roman empire in its miniseries Rome. At first, I was suspicious, worried that Rome would become twisted by HBO, the same creators of Sex and the City. Yet, the series is awesome. In terms of the production quality, it looks and feels like a big budget movie (indeed, the cost of the series eventually doomed it). The acting, visual effects, and soundtrack are exceptional (be sure to get Jeff Beal's soundtrack Rome: Music from the HBO Series).

HBO also took care to portray Rome in a somewhat historically accurate fashion. HBO hired expert historians and consultants for every detail. Unlike most movies about ancient Rome, HBO did not shy away from portraying the less glamorous sides of Rome. In fact, much of the series deals with everyday citizens, from prostitutes to roving gangs. This in turn means that the series includes a lot of explicit sex and violence. While this means the series isn't appropriate for kids or the faint of heart, it does mean that Rome shows Rome as it actually was.

One thing I love about this series is that it deals with the last years of the Roman Republic, one of the most compelling eras in history. Most movies and TV shows shy away from historically important events, but HBO tackles it with gusto. The show manages to remain historically accurate while using actual historical to provide the drama in the show. HBO did a great job finding actors to portray Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, Cato, and the rest of the dramatis personae (although I wasn't as pleased with their choices for the Augustus side of the family - see below). At times, you almost feel like you traveled back in a time machine to witness these epic events. If you're interested in this period, I'd recommend Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic for more depth on events during the period. I only wish the series had been longer rather than only two seasons - it would have great to have seen the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD, or the end of Augustus' reign. However, apparently the budget for the show grew so large that HBO (foolishly) decided to cancel it.

My only criticism of the show is the portrayal of Augustus and his mother, Atia (Polly Walker). Historians don't necessarily have accurate information on the personalities of these figures, and there probably isn't a "definitive" interpretation of their lives. Still, I thought the show took a few too many liberties. While Atia in real life was probably cunning and ambitious, Polly Walker's version of Atia makes her into a psychotic and sadistic woman. In one scene, she even has a torture room and tortures Servilla. There's no historical basis for any of that, and it does seem a bit outlandish. For his part, Augustus as played by Simon Woods seemed a bit too dull and cynical. Again, while I'm sure Augustus must have had excellent political acumen to rise so high, he was also a brilliant administrator and did have a vision for Rome. I just didn't think HBO's depiction of either character stood up well or resembled what I had read in Anthony Everitt's excellent Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor.

A quick note about the DVDs themselves. They are excellent quality and include hours of bonus materials, including deleted scenes and "making of" featurettes. I found some of the commentary about the interpretation of the characters pretty interesting. IF you or anybody you know loves ancient Roman history, Rome should definitely be on your Christmas list.
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384 of 412 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
THE SERIES

Rome wasn't built in one day, we all know that and its story can't be told over 2 seasons but this is probably the best we're going to have, audio-visually, for a long time to come. This is an interrupted, extremely ambitious and, eventually, unaffordable HBO project meant to illustrate the process though which an up and coming but flawed - expansionist, aristocrat driven, slave labor dependent - republic morphs into an equally or more so flawed, unsustainable empire. [Hmmm... lessons to learn? Anyone? Anyone?]

HBO and the producers of the show should be commended for doing everything in their power to stay as close as artistically possible to the historical record, whatever was available, of the period - and 'Rome' covers Cesar's climb to power and the period shortly thereafter, up to Octavian's triumph and transformation into 'Augustus' - the struggles, the intrigue, the atrocities - and how the events it triggered affected the aristocrats and the plebes, rich and poor, citizens, free men and slaves. The point of view and the storytelling shifts or swings between the history makers - Cesar, his family, Octavian, the aristocrats opposing Cesar - and two more or less ordinary Forrest Gump-like Roman soldiers who find themselves involved with almost everything historians wrote about those years and are also depicted during their more ordinary moments.

'Rome' is a feast to the eye, at least in the Blu-ray version that I'm watching. The colors are vibrant and the details on ornaments, wall graffiti, costumes, makeup are as accurate as they come. I would say almost the same about the sounds of Rome but we know so much less about the music of antiquity... Due to obvious budget constraints, camera angles are almost always narrow, focusing on specific buildings or people with the occasional, probably CGI-produced, panoramic shots. And no large, uber-expensive battle scenes but that's okay because the overall story is told well. I don't believe we ever see more than a few dozen humans on any scene but we should admire the director and the camera people even more for their ability to maintain our suspension of disbelief with the limited means at their disposal. Having some of the scenes shot on location - 'Rome' was made in Italy at the Cinecita studios - makes watching even more enjoyable.

THE BLU-RAY EDITION

The Blu-ray edition excels in every aspect, from packaging to the quality of the actual episodes to the Blu-ray specific extras.

The two season's 22 episodes of about one hour each are delivered on 10 discs. They come inside an amazingly beautiful book-like binding with each disc on its own 2-page presentation/display that consists of one picture on the left page and some details on each of the episodes on that specific disc on the right-side page which also holds the disc. There are additional pages that contain titles or some artwork for a total of 30, thick cardboard, full color pages. It's nice that a cloth bookmark was added to help keep track of where one may be with the viewing. The box the book slides in is color-coordinated with the book covers - dark, weathered dried-blood reddish-brown with gold lettering and accents. Simply amazing.

Each episode is presented in 1080p, 16:9 screen and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround sound for English and German as well as DTS Digital Surround 2.0 for Spanish, French, Castilian and Polish (voice over). Subtitles are available in dozens on languages.

Blu-ray specific extras include the invaluable "All Roads Lead to Rome" - a historian presents the historical fact as the episodes run, a 'must watch' when 'Rome' is viewed the second time around because the abundance of information would make watching it the first time too distracting. Also Blu-ray specific is 'Bloodlines', another interactive guide that shows and helps us understand the connections between the various Roman families.

In addition, 13 of the 22 episodes come with audio commentary alternative sound tracks from the cast and crew - presumably to be listened to on the third watching of the series. There are also a number of the usual 'behind the scenes' and 'how did we make this' featurettes.

MY RATING

Not surprisingly, I will rate 'Rome' as a 5-star. It's not perfect but it doesn't need to be so to earn its stars - Amazon's five stars mean 'I love it' not 'it's perfect'. And I absolutely love it. In fact, I am going through the second watching now - the one with 'All Roads Lead to Rome' turned on - and I love 'Rome' even more.

My only issue is that which earned 'Rome' its MA (mature audiences) rating. I am quite frustrated for not being able to watch 'Rome' with my kids in the same room. I know that some would call it 'butchery' but Blu-ray technology should allow for a 'cleaned', PG-13 version that kids could watch too because I can see how watching a show like this, especially with the historical interactive guide turned on, would make some curious enough to actually read more on the topic.

___________________________________________________

FAIR WARNING

Anyone considering watching 'Rome' in a 'family' setting should be aware that the show is rated TV MA and for good reason. 'Rome' attempts to accurately depict the Rome of 2000 years ago where sexual inhibitions were all but absent, most women were viewed as 'property' and slaves were numerous. You WILL see explicit sex, frontal male nudity and covering your kids eyes won't be enough - consider earplugs or frequent use of the 'mute' button because the sounds of sex are even more explicit than the images. Besides engaging in sex largely for amusement, violence was part of the Roman way of life - torture, gladiator and other arena fights, assassinations were common. Well... those were the Romans - love them or hate them.
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118 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2009
Format: DVD
To paraphrase the United States recording industry mega hit, Superlatives are not enough.

Roman history, while always fascinating, has always seemed cool and static in North America. HBO, in "Rome", has breathed life into well documented time period. Those who not historically minded, will merely see this as a very well produced HBO drama. Being hstorically minded, I am thrilled that this period of history can see life.

In two seasons, viewers across North America thrilled to the power struggles within the Roman senate played out in venues from Gaul to Rome. Caesar and his men, in battle and out, realized that the power of plebian popularity. The death of Pompeys' wife, Julia, leads to a struggle for wifery, and eventually his death. The power play between Mark Anthony, Casesar, Vorenus, Pompey, Cato, and Brutus is fascinating. Social standing is valued, to the extent of sacrificing personal happiness. Integrity is merely the price of success. Ambition is the currency of Senate success.

The episodes included in the set are:

Stolen Eagle
How Titus Pullo brought down the republic
An Owl in A Thornbush
The Ram Has Touched the Wall
Egeria
Pharsalus
Utica Triumph
The Spoils
Kallends of February
Passover
Son of Hades
These Being the Words
Tortoise and the Hare
Heroes
Phillipi
Death Mask
Necessary Fiction
No God Can Stop A Hungry Man
About Your Father

Dramatically speaking, this is a stellar production with outstanding performances. In reading about Rome, I was fascinated that full size sets were constructed for the series accurate to the period. Full scale models of actual artifacts were used in the production, and that is ambitious. I can imagine that once season 2 was finished, a museum is now well stocked, and even a Roman style theme park is now fully functional.

The bonus features just add more integrity to the series that was overdue, and will be missed.

I cannot say enough about this series. It is unfortunate that more episodes were not produced, but I can imagine that the production cost was prohibitive. Perhaps a Medici period drama might be next...

Tim Lasiuta

Hail Caesar
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2009
Format: DVD
First off, if you do have the first two season sets of "Rome" on DVD already, no real reason to upgrade. The extras are all the same with no changes and the picture, if a bit sharper, is about the same too.

But if you haven't gotten this series, this is a great way to start. This is Ancient Rome the HBO way, which means amazing detail to history while mixing in contemporary language, scattered with curses, bloody violence and (this is Rome, after all), constant nudity. The story revolves around two soldiers, Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) who find themselves involved in the dramatic events of Rome. From Julius Ceasar crossing the Rubicon and becoming emperor to meeting Cleopatra, Ceasar's death and the war between Octavius and Rome, the two are in the midst of it all while handling thier own personal dramas. In the first season, Vorenus has no idea his wife had a child with another man while he was at war while Pullo's hard-drinking and violent ways get him into trouble.

The acting is terrific from the two leads, McKidd cool most of the time, which makes his bursts of incredible violence more notable. Pullo is funny as a man who'd go straight through anyone in his parth and sees no trouble killing. Ciaran Hinds gives Caesar a proud air that makes you understand why people were willing to follow him while James Purefoy plays Marc Antony as an arrogant blowhard who still manages to power his way through the ruling class. The best of the cast, however, is easily Polly Walker as the deliciously wicked Atia, a woman willing to do anything (Blackmail, murder and use her body however she wants) to get ahead in Roman society.

The show is wonderfully researched, bringing the era to life like never before and showcases some nice bits of history. The language may be contemporary but the producers do try to show how it really was. Cleopatra, for instance, is attractive but short and hardly the supermodel figure so many movies portray her as while Caesar's assaination is less a careful plot and more a near-disaster. There aren't many actual battle scenes shown due to budget but the fights we get are pretty brutal and bloody like it really was and the show is great illustrating the complex political games of the time.

Season two does suffer a bit as it was midway through production the producers learned they would only get 10 episodes and no third season. Thus, the stories feel more rushed as they try to fit in as much as they can. They do a good job with the battle over Antony and Cleopatra (which is far less than the epic romance most think) and bring it to as good a conclusion as they can. Through it all, the epic bromance between the two leads pulls you in as you get sucked into their lives, through thick and thin and care for their final fates.

The extras are good as there are multiple audio commentaries and features on putting the show together, as well as recreating the time. The best bonus is "All Roads Lead to Rome," a great subtitle guide that explains many of the references, historical notes and more on the time, showing the amazing research that went into it all and you see how true to life it is.

It may have been short-lived but the series remains one of HBO's best efforts ever. Brilliantly acted and wonderful in detail, the show is a must-have for any history or drama buff to see in all its wild glory.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Brilliant series that is hard to believe was made for TV, even if it is HBO. Top notch production featuring excellent writing, performances, cinematography, action etc. The gold box special at 60 bucks for both seasons 1 and 2, is a steal considering other sites are selling this set in excess of twice that. Lots of worthwhile extras. And to all those fans complaining about the initial high price.., Blame HBO for overpricing their stuff, not Amazon.com. Grab this set before the price goes back up.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
When I was younger, I used to love watching movies like Spartacus, not so much because they provided particularly great depictions of ancient Rome, but because they were the way anybody get any sense of the grandeur of the Roman empire. In fact, looking back, those films were often quite cheesy. Hollywood stopped making movies about ancient Rome for a long while, until Gladiator came out in 2000. As a movie, Gladiator was awesome and showed a vastly more realistic yet grander Rome than ever before seen in Hollywood. Yet, as history, the movie had its flaws (most notably that it distorted the historical record quite bit). However, I'd despaired that it would be the pinnacle of our ability to visualize Rome.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that HBO did an excellent job at recreating the ancient Roman empire in its miniseries Rome. At first, I was suspicious, worried that Rome would become twisted by HBO, the same creators of Sex and the City. Yet, the series is awesome. In terms of the production quality, it looks and feels like a big budget movie (indeed, the cost of the series eventually doomed it). The acting, visual effects, and soundtrack are exceptional (be sure to get Jeff Beal's soundtrack Rome: Music from the HBO Series).

HBO also took care to portray Rome in a somewhat historically accurate fashion. HBO hired expert historians and consultants for every detail. Unlike most movies about ancient Rome, HBO did not shy away from portraying the less glamorous sides of Rome. In fact, much of the series deals with everyday citizens, from prostitutes to roving gangs. This in turn means that the series includes a lot of explicit sex and violence. While this means the series isn't appropriate for kids or the faint of heart, it does mean that Rome shows Rome as it actually was.

One thing I love about this series is that it deals with the last years of the Roman Republic, one of the most compelling eras in history. Most movies and TV shows shy away from historically important events, but HBO tackles it with gusto. The show manages to remain historically accurate while using actual historical to provide the drama in the show. HBO did a great job finding actors to portray Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, Cato, and the rest of the dramatis personae (although I wasn't as pleased with their choices for the Augustus side of the family - see below). At times, you almost feel like you traveled back in a time machine to witness these epic events. If you're interested in this period, I'd recommend Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic for more depth on events during the period. I only wish the series had been longer rather than only two seasons - it would have great to have seen the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD, or the end of Augustus' reign. However, apparently the budget for the show grew so large that HBO (foolishly) decided to cancel it.

My only criticism of the show is the portrayal of Augustus and his mother, Atia (Polly Walker). Historians don't necessarily have accurate information on the personalities of these figures, and there probably isn't a "definitive" interpretation of their lives. Still, I thought the show took a few too many liberties. While Atia in real life was probably cunning and ambitious, Polly Walker's version of Atia makes her into a psychotic and sadistic woman. In one scene, she even has a torture room and tortures Servilla. There's no historical basis for any of that, and it does seem a bit outlandish. For his part, Augustus as played by Simon Woods seemed a bit too dull and cynical. Again, while I'm sure Augustus must have had excellent political acumen to rise so high, he was also a brilliant administrator and did have a vision for Rome. I just didn't think HBO's depiction of either character stood up well or resembled what I had read in Anthony Everitt's excellent Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor.

A quick note about the DVDs themselves. They are excellent quality and include hours of bonus materials, including deleted scenes and "making of" featurettes. I found some of the commentary about the interpretation of the characters pretty interesting. IF you or anybody you know loves ancient Roman history, Rome should definitely be on your Christmas list.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2010
Format: DVD
I have had a problem with the subtitles - the English language subtitles come on by themselves after about 5 to 10 minutes. Turning them off is only temporary as they come back on after another 5 or 10 minutes. I'm curious if anyone else has had this problem with this series.

Rome is as excellent as most people say.

The series gives a very good feeling for the historical time period, morality, ethics, and customs of the Roman people. The way the series is filmed makes you feel as if you are on the streets and in the homes of the people, like you know them.

This is nothing like Shakespeare play nor is it a watered down or glorification of these people. This is probably as true to the period of time as one can get in a film.

Some may be bothered by the violence, language and sex - of which there is plenty - but from what I understand - these things were as prevalent then as portrayed in the series. Its a bit disarming at first. But once you are used to it - it makes perfect sense. Parents - beware of letting your kids watch this by themselves.

It is very engrossing to watch how the Romans dealt with the classes, honor, religion, politics, economy, war, love, death, money, family and friendships.

The disk set has an added bonus of being able to select an on screen display that puts the scenes in historical context - explaining the Roman clothing, holidays, employment, relationships, buildings furniture, art, battles, etc. as the story progresses. I recommend watching the series with this feature on. This means you will be highly entertained - taking in the plots, sub plots and relationships as well as getting a full fledged education on this period of history. You will come away with a rich memory of a beautiful series as well as becoming a historical maven on this period of time. You will be a better person for it.

The photography, writing, dialogue, directing, editing, art direction, costumes, music and sets are just prefect.

I must commend every single actor in this series - every performance is nuanced and real. There is not one weak actor in the entire cast and some are exceptional.

I must commend the producers and HBO for taking this gamble with their money! - And not skimping on - but hiring such a top crew and creating those marvelous sets and costumes to create a memorable, daring, and very expensive looking series. Thank you.

I have finally completed this series and stand by my original review - except for one thing - the writers or director but probably the marketing people decided at about half way through the series to add the F word into the dialogue - allot!. This was inappropriate that the characters would be using this word - especially the upscale characters. Every time the actors used this word it jolts you out of the Roman time period and atmosphere and brought you to the present - horrible mistake -very costly and disappointing. Marketing people can be morons sometimes. I often felt bad for these great actors for being forced into peppering otherwise fine dialogue with this word - and I'm not prude! - I use the F word myself on occasion - it just did fit in with the time period, atmosphere, characters and damaged an otherwise great series. Sorry guys I had originally given the series 5 - Now gets 4 stars do to blatant dialogue sabotage by ignorant marketing people.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2009
Format: DVD
This series was the finest show ever created for television. It does the best job of recreating pre-christian Rome that could have possibly been done within the constraints of television or film. In fact, I am not the first to say that if you really want to see the impact that Christianity made on the world then watch Rome to find out what the world was like before it. And I am saying this as someone who has read very extensively about Rome and this time period- and had five and a half years of Latin in school, which included having to translate Ceasar's Gallic Wars. So one of the things that I really liked about this series was the attempt to really show us what Roman life and politics was about.

On the other hand, because of budget constraints, the series was cut short- it properly should have lasted at least three years and instead ended after a shortened second season. The final episodes attempt to summarize what happened on the way to Octavain becoming the sole Emperor of Rome. That is why you will probably find the first season more satisfying dramatically than the second.

While the broad outlines of history are honored that this series is not totally accurate. As an example: One of the main female characters in this series is Atia- the mother of Octavian. She is pictured as living though all of the events up until Octavian becomes Emperor of Rome. The real Atia died before Octavian reached his twentieth birthday. But this is a quibble- what Atia's character shows us is the influence of women in this period of history- Roman women were utterly powerless yet also extremely influential. So the history is not totally accurate, but the characters go a long way towaqrds showing us the realities of the time. That is why I think of this series as not a history but a portrait. The great drama of the time plays out in a way that lets us see the character of the people rather than just a depiction of events.
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38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2009
Format: Blu-ray
As I upgrade my DVD collection to Blu Ray I have not thought to upgrade any of my series. Not Battlestar Galactica, not Smallville, not Supernatural. Now I thought about getting True Blood but just couldn't bite the bullet. However, with Rome soon to be released, that is going to change. Rome is not only a great series but it follows the rise of the Empire in Roman history to the letter. It does it with two fictional characters as the protagonists and interweaves them with the key players in the first and second Triumvirate and in the process makes what was boring in Western Civilization a joy to watch. I heartily recommend this series to anyone who has never seen it and encouraging anyone with a HDTV to make this their first HD series purchase.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2007
Format: DVD
This is easily one of the best shows that has been on TV. It's a dramatic, politico-intrigue thriller, and it's pretty accurate to the broader strokes of history (by TV/film period drama standards) -- perhaps though I don't expect the same level of exacting adherence to historical fact as the previous reviewer who complained that Cicero wasn't actually in Rome during an important vote. The acting is superb and the cinematography lives up to the high standards set by other HBO shows.

All the reviewers who gave this box set a low rating for its price: you are not helpful -- The price fluctuates, but the product doesn't change. I agree with what you are saying that it is stupid how these WERE priced more as a boxset than individually, but you should add your comment about the price to the end of your post as a footnote -- and you shouldn't incorporate it into your rating of the ROME series (maybe minus one star if you feel it's a huge ripoff, but make that clear). Any semi-conscious consumer knows $180 is a rip-off, to say nothing of the fact that we all have different price points. All of you are being so unhelpful while being self-righteous/whiny it is ridiculous.
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