on May 21, 2010
I felt compelled to give my review in contrast to some of those I have been reading saying this series is aimed at a male demographic. I am educated, gainfully employed, well read, happily married and middle aged.
I love everything about Spartacus.
I think the problem is that some people go into it with specific expectations. Start watching with an open mind.
As film art, it is absolutely beautiful. Some of the visuals are obvious CGIs and in my opinion they were done to enhance the visual experience and it works. I think the director is presenting it as his vision to us. For a television series its stunning to watch.
As a story, it is riveting. They have done a great job baiting the viewer and building interest and depth in the plot. You become fully vested in the characters without even realizing it. There is a natural continuity through it without becoming predictable. So much going on, even the side plots are interesting.
As history, it is what it is. A fictional story based on facts. I know watching this sort of historical saga always piques my interest in true history and I research. Some people get all up in arms about how it really was. I find the way a writer or director fills in the gaps or interprets history interesting and accept it for what it is.
Frankly, this bloody, dirty, depiction of that era is far more believable then some Disneyfied version. (Don't attack. I'm a big Disney fan as well)
As far as the actors and acting is concerned, kudos all around. Lucy Lawless is the big name draw and she is amazing. But equally good is about everyone else in the film whether you like their characters or not, the acting is all top notch. The costuming and even the lack thereof, is beautiful without detracting from the show as a whole. I wouldn't be surprised to see an award nod to the costume designer at some point.
All in all I have found this one of the most worthwhile and entertaining things I have put my time into to date.
Will everyone like? Of course not, for various reasons, just like everything. I just hope they keep making it.
On that note, all the wishes and good thoughts to Andy Whitfield for his improved health.
If you thought HBO's depiction of ancient Rome was graphic and brutal, wait till you see Spartacus: Blood and Sand! Take the excellent scripting work that went into Rome, combine it with the shocking sex and violence of Caligula, mix in a little of the over the top blood spatter of 300 and your expectations will be very well set for Spartacus.
I remember when HBO's Deadwood first came out that some of the public reaction was astonished and skeptic of the portrayal of such a violent and profanity filled Wild Wild West. After decades of Westerns led by squeaky clean John Wayne characters, I'm not surprised. Similar to what Deadwood was going for with the Western, Spratacus leaves nothing for the imagination during its time period. But what makes Spartacus such a classy show is that there's nothing gratuitous. It's all intended to be a very real depiction of how day to day life went in the hierarchies of Rome circa 70 BC. Love, battle, adultery, orgy, torture, rape, murder...it's all there in all its glory...and I mean ALL its glory.
The events of Spartacus take place about 20 years prior to those depicted in the HBO Rome series, and it initially focuses on the historical figure Spartacus' enslavement and rise as a gladiator. As of this writing 7 of 13 scheduled first season episodes have aired, and I was lucky enough to catch them all this past weekend over two days in a Spartucus marathon that Starz was running on one of its alternate channels. After only seven episodes, I can say that I have found one of the best new shows--if not the best--on TV. (Edit 4/19/2010: The season finale this past weekend was phenominal.)
Spartucus is played masterfully by little known Andy Whitfield. And the rest of the cast is pretty much just as little known as Whitfield. Sure, there's Lucy Lawless and John Hannah, but they are / were hardly A-listers. But the entire cast so far give nothing but A-list performances. (Edit 7/8/2010: Whitfield was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in early 2010; he has apparently made a full recovery and will begin filming the 2nd season perhaps as early as fall 2010. Great news. Due to the delay in filming of season 2, a short 6-episode prequel to season 1 will air this fall starring Lawless and Hannah.)
My recommendation is to start catching up on this great new show now on Starz On Demand. If you don't get Starz, this series makes the subscription worth it all by itself. But the benefit to waiting for the Blu Ray release is two-fold: The series is certainly worthy of collection so far and on Blu Ray you don't have to wait for the episodes to air on a weekly basis! However you do it, be sure to check out Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
on February 21, 2010
"Spartacus: Blood and Sand" continues cable television's dominance in quality programming outshining all network shows by a landslide. The series debut on Starz TV in January, 2010 and before the series was even broadcast the station ordered two full seasons worth of episodes which shows Starz's dedication to broadcasting high quality progamming. "Sparatacus: Blood and Sand" is a historical weekly drama, made along the same lines as "Rome" and "The Tudors", but with more graphic violence, sex, and language. The series is about a Roman gladiator named Spartacus who is captured and becomes a slave in a gladiator school headed by Batiatus in Capua. There, Spartacus must fight for his freedom, and he ultimately becomes the head of all slaves as others look up to him for his determination and willpower. The first season features 13 episodes all produced where money was no option. The sets, costumes, and location shooting are the best for any series produced for TV and there were times that I had to remind myself that I was not watching a movie, but a mere TV show. Andy Whitfield, an Australian actor, is mesmerizing as Spartacus, and his character is at times often bold, intense, heart-warming, and unapologetic. Lucy Lawless has a supporting role as the wife of Batiatus who is having an affair with sexy gladiator Crixus, played to perfection by Manu Bennett. The one asset the series has is the amount of male flesh that viewers can witness week after week. Obviously great care went into the casting of actors that were buffed and well-built and if your a straight woman or a gay guy you will not be disappointed in the amount of male testosterone that is shown. Full male frontal nudity, mainly by Manu Bennett, is shown as well, which is why the series has a TV-MA rating. A wonderful series, made in the manner of a weekly serial, with excellent writing and acting is what makes "Spartacus" a soon to be Emmy winning show.
This 4 disc set arrives in stores September 21, 2010 and comes with a slew of bonuses including the featurettes "Gladiator Camp", "History Rewritten", "The Hole", "Make-Up Effects", and more; audio commentaries, episodes with enhanced digital effects, trailers, bloopers, and behind-the-scenes footage. For the blu-ray release only there will be four episodes selected that will be extended cuts including scenes that were too graphic to be shown on cable television.
I recall watching the first episode of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" and literally laughing at the clumsy audacity of it. The show opened with a disclaimer ensuring us that all of the violence and "extreme sensuality" to follow was only so that they could portray a historically accurate Roman society. Sure. Right. No way can you have a true-to-life portrayal without every character screaming words we only refer to by their first initial in every sentence and every slave in the background being a gorgeous naked woman. And did you know that all the blood in gladiator matches was CG back then? Gotta love that historical authenticity. So only from a comedic standpoint did the show's pilot impress me. But hey, I like cursing and nude ladies and brutal violence as much as the next guy so I figured I'd keep on watching in spite of the moronic presentation and the obvious attempt to cash in on the popularity of the film "300" and it's uniquely-stylized version of sword-and-sandals history. Then a funny thing happened. The show got good. Real good. The second half of Spartacus was among the most compelling and unrelentingly bleak runs of television I've ever watched. It was almost HBO quality. And so it came to pass that Spartacus fought it's way into my heart and earned its place alongside Sci-Fi's Caprica as a show I could not wait to get home from work and watch. No other new show earned that kind of cred this year.
So we all know the story of the slave revolt led by the title character by now. Stanley Kubrick's classic epic saw to that. What's left to tell? Is this a remake? Well, first and foremost, the 300 style does this show some good in spite of it's contrived nature. Shots of the blood flying or blotting out the entire background as the character makes a kill and slows to a stop are pretty damn cool. The violence is plentiful and brutal as can be. The sex and nudity lets up some after the initial trying-too-hard phase, but stays present enough to keep viewers who are primarily impressed by such things interested, and the cursing becomes less comedically overdone. The blood and T&A cease to be the main draw of the series fairly early, actually. What makes Spartacus tick is not the simplistic tale of a betrayed soldier-turned-slave-turned-gladiator-turned-revolutionary; it's the fact that the show focuses not on the slave but on the master. The villains are developed enough with their own motives that you almost begin to root for them. John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as his wife, Lucretia, are marvelous to watch. Batiatus's mad ravings and ambitious schemes to ride Spartacus' success in the arena to political power drive the plot to great heights of tragedy and betrayal while Lucretia's sexual intrigue shows that women too held an element of power in Roman society. The supporting cast is even stronger. Many of the various slaves and gladiators have backstories and motives of their own that make the tapestry of the plot increasingly complex and intriguing as the story moves on. Many of them will meet with bad ends, and you will likely feel each loss. There really are no good or bad characters here. Every one is a bastard of one kind or another. But they are all enjoyable nonetheless.
The best thing I can really say about the show is that is almost constantly surprised me once it got rolling. I quite literally never knew what was going to happen next in spite of my familiarity with the classic tale. The choice to tear the story as we knew it down and rebuild it around a completely different framework was risky and bold, and it paid off. The Roman high society aspect turned out to produce some really incredible drama and plot twists to keep the story fresh while still feeding us all of the primal machismo of gladatorial combat and brotherhood. I'm really glad this is coming back for a second season. The first season ends with a massive bang that quite literally rips asunder everything that had been built over the first 12 hours. I kind of love that. If nothing else, Spartacus is a show that revels in taking bold risks. Gotta respect it. It's also worth pointing out that Sam Raimi has a producing credit. Didn't think he had it in him since light-hearted fantasy seems to be more his taste in television, but add another notch to his cool column.
Okay, so you like seeing the unclothed body parts of well-endowed males and/or females. You like limbs getting hacked off and people beaten to death. You want lots of intrigue and plot twists and romantic longing juxtaposed with sexual conquest. You want a hero who is both unconquerable and routinely humbled. You like to make gay gladiator jokes and hear a supposed proper gentleman's exclamations regarding Roman deity's genitalia. Well, you've come to the right place, my friend. And not only that, but even if these things are more of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal for you, Spartacus: Blood and Sand may still end up being a show you can't take your eyes off of if you give it a chance. It may not be an authentic representation of ancient Roman culture, but it is a compelling trip into a stylized version of it that pays a lot of dividends and is not afraid to hurt the audience's feelings or slit a major character's throat for it's own amusement or just to make the revenge that much sweeter in the end. And that willingness to constantly change the landscape of the show even after building upon that landscape is what makes it such a joy to watch in the end, all superficial crassness aside. There's simply nothing else like it on television.
on June 11, 2010
I am somewhat educated, middle age, mother and wife, and happy about all four. I started watching this series on my own and practically pushed it down my husband's throat to watch it as well. Once he did, he was hooked. This series is a total mancandy-fest. Those muscles, full-frontal nudity of the men, base sensuality, purist love, and decadent sets and costumes......hey, forget about it! This series is chock full of them all!! Yes it has sex scenes, yes it has lesbian scenes, yes it has gay men scenes, but they are not gratuitous and they are equally proportioned among the 13 episodes. The only complaint I have about this series was present during the first one or two episodes and that was the slow motion and Matrix-like blood spatters. That attention to the blood was too obvious and immediately brought my attention to special effects instead of keeping my attention on the characters and the story where it should go. With gladiators, the blood will come freely and it does not need to take center stage via special effects. Thankfully, such treatment of using special effects waned quickly after the first one or two episodes and only reappeared a few times over the remainder of the 13.
Personally I am positively thrilled by the blatant openness of this series and that nothing is withheld as if we are not mature enough to handle it. Maybe the shock of such things will initially draw you in, but the depth and breadth of the characters and the story line will keep you watching. For purely selfish reasons and my love for this series, I was worried about Andy Whitfield's health news early in 2010. Now I read of his clean bill of health and return to the set and I am elated!!
If anyone from the series is reading this, please do NOT take away our main characters or the characters who touched their lives or changed the story in a profound way, with the current exceptions from the first 13 episodes already excused of course. To the men reading this review, get your butt to the gym and dream of looking like Spartacus or Crixus. There is a reason good women love this series and it's not to share time in front of the TV with YOU!! haha
With exception to Lucy Lawless, I hadn't heard of the actors in this series before although I am recognizing a face here and there. I am thankful that their lives are forever to be changed in a good, positive way for lending their stunning talents to this remarkable series. Every character in the show is portrayed far and above the supposed "talent" pushed down our throats from Hollyweird. It's about time, too.
One more thing, guys. This series is WAY BETTER than 300!! To everyone who worked on this series, I can't say this to you enough...."GRATITUDE!!"
on September 20, 2010
Visually artistic portrayals of historical figures and events has become something of a national past time in Hollywood since the film 300 became a smashing hit at the box office. Such films are aesthetically pleasing and genuinely fun to watch but typically lack in historical accuracy in varying degrees. Then again, such films and television shows are designed to entertain the masses and not necessarily educate- if the viewer wants the reversal then they'd best turn on the History Channel.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand falls into the same category as 300 and, to a lesser extent, Pathfinder as both films display impressive visuals while depicting graphic violence and gratuitous sexuality under the guise of being a "historical representation." Spartacus is a visually stunning miniseries with a compelling plot of deception and lies accompanied by the most violent and sexually graphic depiction than all the Quinton Terrentino films combined and I mean that without any hint of exaggeration.
The plot starts simple; an unnamed Thracian leader and officer in the Roman Reserve mutinies against his superiors and goes AWOL, is caught, and later transformed into the legendary gladiator called "Spartacus." After that, there's deception, promises, broken promises, murder plots, assassinations, sex, complicated love triangles, more sex, and even more sex. Pretty straight forward.
However, despite the carnal simplicity of Spartacus, the story is compelling enough to keep the audience hooked. Thanks to Spartacus I missed out on a LOT of hours of sleep : not because I kept rewinding during the Lucy Lawless love scenes but because I felt compelled to see how things panned out in the next chapter. The acting also keeps the audience hooked such as John Hannah, the obnoxious thief of a brother from the Mummy franchise, plays Spartacus' morally devious owner Batiatus that thoroughly convinces the audience that he is one paranoid wannabe elite.
While Blood and Sand was a visually stunning and well acted story, the writers and directing staff took a large amount of creative liberty with the historical accuracy of the time. As stated in the aforementioned paragraph, the viewer is warned of the graphic nature of the series and justifies it to portray an accurate presentation of the time and culture. Fair enough given most contemporary war films depict the grotesque nature of war in a similar effort and the violence of Blood and Sand certainly portrays the violent nature of being a gladiator... then again, so did the movie Gladiator.
However, the sexualization of the series in an effort to portray Roman society is a gross exaggeration of how things were during that time. Granted the Roman elite were highly morally promiscuous individuals with sexual appetites that make porn stars blush, there were multiple love triangles within the inner-circles of the senate, and no doubt slave owners grossly abused their "property" sexually. However, it was generally frowned upon to copulate in open areas as was public nudity. In certain scenes in the series the audience witnesses many instances of couples having sex (graphically) in public areas when this would have been VERY rare even in ancient Greek society... or, at least, just as rare as it is in any society even in contemporary times.
Furthermore, I have to VERY reluctantly ask the question of why do we need to see this? Yes, as a very typical male I thoroughly enjoyed some of the scenes of extreme carnality and rewound many times, but what is the point? It doesn't accurately depict anything from that era at all. If the purpose was to draw in viewers, that's fine, but don't justify it under the false pretense of a "historical representation."
Historical inaccuracies do not end there either. First and foremost, while several aspects of gladiator life seem to be accurate the portrayal of the Roman military is not. Roman soldiers seen in Blood and Sand are depicted wearing the traditionally known garb that wasn't recorded in use till almost a century later. There are other nitty gritty historical inaccuracies including names, time-line and continuity errors but another one that really stuck out is that Batiatus is depicted as a politically ambitious character seeking office when such a position was literally above his social status via birth. If anything, his position was akin to a low-life or, according to some historical circles, a pimp. I didn't let such inaccuracies bother me much though as I thoroughly enjoyed Blood and Sand, however, it would have helped if they had paid a little more attention to detail since modifying any of the errors would not have significantly affected the plot.
All in all, Blood and Sand was truly enjoyable to watch even if the historian in me was screaming in the back of my head. I would strongly encourage anyone thinking of getting this series to be forewarned that it is extremely graphic and not for the faint of heart or stomach.
All in all, an 80% or B-.
There's almost 200 reviews already, so there's really not much I can say that hasn't already been said.
For the most part people will either love or hate this series. Both my husband and I enjoy it, however, I must say that the violence does get to me and I tend to cover my eyes in some of the more gruesome scenes. It is absolutely not something you watch when the kiddies are around - I'm sure it would cause nightmares for weeks.
All-in-all it is an interesting, seemingly realistic series that has been very well done, albeit very violent and gory. If you're not squeamish you'll likely really enjoy it. If you are squeamish, you may still like it & just cover your eyes during gory scenes like I do.
When "Spartacus - Blood and Sand" first appeared on Starz I was hoping for at the very least a minor "Rome" rip-off. So enamored of the HBO series I was hungry for more drama, intrigue, sex and blood in the Republican era of ancient Rome that I reluctantly decided to give "Spartacus" a chance.
The first episode was for me a bit of a snooze and heavily influenced by "300" in it's dark visual style. But I did find the performances arresting enough to give episode two a go. That is when "Spartacus" takes off and soars to bloody glory. The story grabs you by the gut leading you on into a world of high drama, sex, murder, lust, greed, sadism, that is both thrilling and mind-blowing. If you ever wondered if you could actually watch a gladiatorial contest, this is the test for you! Visceral, bloody splendor unfolds in the arena of Capua. If you have a weak stomach then you are in for some cinematic cgi shocks! I found the whole thing thrilling but many times I had to shut my eyes to the on screen gore. Long gone are the days of showing just the top of Pompey's severed head as in "Cleopatra" (1963) in an olive amphora. Now the severed heads go flying though the air spurting gallons of blood.
But the real treasure in Spartacus is found in the interesting writing that challenges and often elevates the story to a poetic, moving and often comedic brilliance. Sharp witty, repartee in a pseudo kind of Latin meets Shakespeare shows how varied and multi leveled our English language can be.
Then there are the performances by the cast. Andy Whitfield as the hero of the slave rebellion is magnificent. A real find for the show and brings a sexy gravitas to the proceedings. John Hannah as Batiatus takes the bull by the horns and holds nothing back in his bold and fun portrait of the owner of the Lunista. Gladiatorial nemesis and blood brother to Spartacus is Crixus played by Manu Bennett. A hunk who can act the hell out of this part. He is a joy to watch as he battles for his forbidden love entangled in the midst of a demanding mistress' lust. As the spoilt Ilithyia wife to the man who brought Spartacus to his fate as a gladiator the marvelous Viva Bianca is immensely wicked and immensely fun to watch. Then there is the best surprise of the entire show, Lucy Lawless as Lucretia wife of Batiatus and domina of the Lunista. This cunning, conniving, depraved, wicked, intelligent woman of the first century B.C. is the roll of a lifetime for Miss Lawless. She is magnificent, and splendoriforus in the part. A real treat that is the cherry on the top of the Roman feast that is "Spartacus - Blood and Sand".
on June 25, 2011
I doubt there's much I can add to the other 400-odd reviews here, so I'm just going to summarize my own observations after the second round of viewing.
Says Wikipedia, little is known about the real-life Spartacus before the massive slave revolt that he led ca. 70 BCE. This series is an attempt to fill in those gaps; a fictionalized account of Spartacus's capture and enslavement by the Romans, and the events leading up to that revolt.
And. It. ROCKS.
The good: DeKnight and co. hit this one out of the park. The storyline is complex, subtle, exciting, and utterly believable - I suspect they came closer to capturing the true flavor of life in the late Roman Republic than even they thought they did. All the leads - Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, and Lucy Lawless in particular - are amazing. The extensive CGI is rough in spots, but ambitious and imaginative for series TV - on occasion they actually use the over-the-top blood and gore to artistic effect. The camera work is wonderful; among the best I've seen on television. I've watched the series twice through now, including the first run on Starz, and I honestly can't point to a single weak episode. Everyone involved with this show clearly put their hearts into it, and it shows.
The bad, if you want to call it that: Okay folks, listen carefully. Pay close attention. Read this, and believe it: ** THIS SHOW IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. ** This is EASILY the most explicitly sexy and hyper-violent thing I have ever seen on television. Even considering the subject matter the blood and gore are retina-searing, in fact SO overdone and over-the-top at times as to short out one's suspension of disbelief...which is probably a good thing. If you're the faint-at-the-sight-of-blood sort, keep smelling salts and barf bags handy. As to the "sexy" part, we're talking full frontal for both men and women, and when the twain meet (frequently) the result is often outright soft porn.
The good news here is that very little of the generous nudity and the uncountable gallons of digital blood are gratuitous; the TV-MA material is almost always natural and integral to the plot.
The ugly: Sadly, Andy Whitfield had to leave the series due to an ongoing battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (*UPDATE* A battle which, sadly, he lost on 9/11/11. RIP.) The role of Spartacus has been recast, and the prequel mini-series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena turned out to be a worthy successor (predecessor?) despite Whitfield's absence, so I have high hopes for future episodes.
In short, if you have any interest at all in historical fiction and you can handle the adult-oriented material, this is a must-see. Five stars, unreservedly; eagerly awaiting more.
on June 9, 2010
"Spartacus" is chock-full of gratuitous sex, nudity, CGI blood/gore, derivative production, and predictability. So unabashedly over the top... and one of the most satisfying viewing experiences I've seen.