Spartacus - Blood and Sand
If you want something leaning more towards realism, then try the Rome series (seasons 1 and 2) but if you liked the effects of 300 then Spartacus: Blood and Sand is definitely going to be up your alley.
It took a little getting used to the comic book type blood splatters (and gushes) but I figure if you're going to show someone getting slashed or speared, why not go the whole hog? Gone are the days of the spaghetti western, where getting mortally wounded didn't look all that painful. Lets advertise that the use of weaponry (whether modern or antiquated) on the human body is no walk in the park. It bloody well hurts.
Special effects aside, this series, unlike the Spartacus version featuring Kirk Douglas, really focuses in on Spartacus's gladiatorial efforts. The plot ducks and weaves, pokes and prods (and there's a lot of that, and not just by weapons made of steel), and it really draws the viewer in to the politically charged and dangerous Roman society, during the late Republic era.
All throughout this first season I was expectantly waiting for the slave revolt. When was it going to happen? I won't spoil that for you, but it really does build the tension.
* I'm only joking about Australians being better actors than everyone else.
** the last 11 words from that sentence is a direct quote from the movie Muppets From Space
The Real Spartacus Story
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator, who led a slave revolt in Italy that threatened the Roman republic. Enslaved by the Romans, he broke out of a gladiatorial school in Capua with about 70 other gladiators in 73 B.C. and succeeded in reaching the crater of Mt. Vesuvius. He was soon joined by other fugitives, and his large force defeated two Roman armies in 73 and devastated much of southern Italy.
In 72, Spartacus drove north, defeating three Roman armies on the way. His intention was to escape from Italy so his men could disperse to their homelands. The slaves, however, preferred to stay in Italy and plunder. Spartacus then led his forces south, where he was met in 71 by the army of Marcus Licinius Crassus.
Crassus failed to trap Spartacus in the "toe" of Italy but overtook him in Lucania. Spartacus was killed and thousands of slaves were crucified. An able, energetic, and apparently humane leader, Spartacus has been an inspiration to revolutionaries.
Andy Whitfield handles the role of Spartacus quite brilliantly. I first noticed him in the lead role of the Australian made film Gabriel. If you're into independent films with quirky and unpredictable plot lines, check it out. Unfortunately Andy hasn't been well and the production of a second season has been put on hold.
Crixus, who Spartacus rubs the wrong way throughout the series, is played by Manu Bennett. A Newcastle lad. My wife knows him.
John Hannah (The Mummy trilogy) and Lucy Lawless (Xena and Battlestar Galactica) are probably the only two known stars and both serve their roles well. And quite different than anything they've done before.
Peter Mensah, who the only other role I've seen him in is the small, yet pivotal role of the 'Persian messenger' in 300. He's the one who gets a face full of Sparta Madness shouted at him and a gut full of Gerard Butler foot when he gets kicked into the pit when he didn't choose his words wisely. In the role of Doctore you can't be sure where his allegiances will finally swing.
The rest of the roles are well cast and believable. And the odd smattering of Aussie and Kiwi accents can be heard. But then again when has Hollywood ever made an effort to disguise an American accent in a historical epic? Or the fall back being that an upper class British accent makes for a more believable sounding Roman.
It's going to be a series that you will either love or hate. And there's a lot to deal with before you get to love it. But for me it was one of the most exciting bits of escapism to hit the small screen. And Australian audiences would do well to buy the DVD set from Amazon because there was a lot of gratuitous nudity and violence cut from each episode to allow it to be played during prime time.
Spartacus Drinking Game
Any time one of the following words are uttered on screen:
- break word/s
- mistake intent
- cross purpose
...then have a drink!
But make sure you don't drink and drive even after watching half an episode.
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