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365 of 392 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Rome' raises the bar for history-inspired TV shows, December 10, 2009
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This review is from: Rome: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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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Comments

Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 45 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 10, 2009 12:37:11 PM PST
A. Dent says:
As a reference, I bought my set for $59.99 in Dec. 2009 during a Black Friday quick sale.

Posted on Dec 11, 2009 9:48:43 AM PST
I have always wanted to see this. I don't watch TV or pay attention to time schedules, so either renting or buying is the way for me. From what you said, it appears that this is no longer on the air (too expensive??). I am also glad you brought up that 5 stars means "I loved it"--not whether it is perfect. I am that way when I rate books. (Actually, some perfectly constructed books are blahhh).

I am not much into battle scenes, anyway. I prefer the human interaction and conflict of the mind and tongue. This is quite pricey, so I may have to rent it first and see how it takes. Thanks for an informative review--always appreciate your levity, too.

Switterbug

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2009 1:22:49 PM PST
Jack Rice says:
Yes, it's pricey, but think of it as something of value that you'll return to through the years, even as an heirloom. In that respect, it's well worth the premium.

Posted on Jan 8, 2010 1:17:41 PM PST
iam1bearcat says:
Thank you for not downgrading this terrific show / set because it's rated MA.
Too many people give 1 star reviews for something that they obviously shouldn't let children see, especially since this was made by HBO, people should know better. And a big plus for the warning, otherwise who knows how many people would buy this and then be baffled by the sex and violence.

Posted on Sep 6, 2010 10:49:32 PM PDT
Wulfstan says:
Great review, added to my wish list. Thank you for all your great reviews!

Posted on Nov 15, 2010 5:53:09 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on May 23, 2012 1:06:20 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2011 6:44:05 PM PST
in this case perhaps a fair warning is warranted, considering the set currently lists its rating as "G" - no offense intended indeed.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2011 2:01:17 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on May 23, 2012 1:06:09 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2011 7:06:01 PM PST
sgb says:
Spencer: I don't think the reviewer went on a "diatribe" about the content of this program as much as you did about his comments. I for one appreciate information such as this, as it might influence my interest (or disinterest) toward the series. Great review.

Posted on Feb 16, 2011 11:05:27 AM PST
V. Bryant says:
"Cleaning it up" would, I believe, defeat the purpose of the show to depict the Roman times as accurate: the debauchery, spiritual bankruptcy, and savagery. Also, along with "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" one gets the requisite sordid view of human nature run amok that clarifies unambiguously the horrors of the times. One then understands better how truly revolutionary Jesus Christ must have appeared to them with his "radical" teachings. Viewing "Rome" must be when one reaches maturity. "Cleaning it up" distorts the message. Let the kids wait to see it.
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A. Dent "Aragorn"
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