Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spartacus - Blood and Sand

 

I was fortunate today to get to see the first two episodes of the new series from STARZ called 'Spartacus, Blood and Sand'. Easy comparisons to the recent film '300' are no accident. Both use a slow motion technique and green screens to the fullest. It allows the viewer to watch blood spurt and limbs fly to almost balletic effect. Violence is seen in this cable series in ways that would not be allowed on Network TV. I was glad that the creators didn't hold back on the mayhem. The battle scenes are spectacular but remember that I thought '300' was one of the best action movies I have seen in years so I am an easy sell.

The story gets going quickly. Romans have come asking for an alliance with the Greek city state of Thrace against an enemy who has raided Thracian villages in the past. With assurances that the Romans would help them kill every single one of these invaders, the Thracians join with Rome. Seems like an good arrangement doesn't it? It would be like the USA teaming up with Holland to fight Denmark. Only these pacts never quite turn out as one would expect.

Given a choice between leaving the battle and staying to fight, Spartacus is too proud to give anything less than his body and blood to the oath he has made with the Romans. And like has been said many times - such pride always goes before the fall. After an arguement with the Roman commander, Spartacus leaves and returns home to his wife. However, the 'shadow of Rome is vast' and soon husband and wife are seperated and made slaves.

We wouldn't have a story or a hero to root for if he wasn't put through the hell that Spartacus endures. Like Maximus in 'Gladiator' his steps are leading him to the Coliseum of Rome and gladiatorial combat. All the while dreaming of returning home to the woman he loves. His only hope lies in the 'mob' the common people of Rome. The motto every gladiator follows is a simple one - 'win the crowd and you win your freedom'.

In real history, there was a slave revolt within the Roman Empire. Roman historians write that it was lead by a slave and former gladiator named Spartacus. This revolt was crushed by Rome but not without significant cost and disruption to the Empire.

It wouldn't be a story set in the time of the Roman Empire without political intrigue and betrayals. It is interesting to note that the 'games' were set up to not only entertain the populace (give them bread and circuses) but to secure their votes/approval. And exciting spectacle was essential if you were an ambitious politician and wanted to rise up the ranks. Even wars were fought to pad their resumes. Not too far removed from the sideshow politics is in our modern times. Hell I would love to see Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton fight it out to the death. Can you imagine the ratings?

This show is not as good or as historically accurate as the miniseries 'Rome' (it is not meant to be) but can stand proudly beside that HBO series as its lusty, angry, violent cousin. I found the story to be engaging with cool characters to follow. It had more blood splatter per minute than any ten shows so the demographic that this kind of program appeals to will not be disappointed. And for the ladies there are lots of hairy, grubby alpha males for them to fantasize about.

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1 comment:

Wings said...

It does look damn interesting and fun. I didn't read too much of your review, as I hate spoilers.

When does this premiere?