Spartacus: TV Series

TV series was filmed in New Zealand and premiered in 2010 on Starz network (posters). Written by Steven S. DeKnight. It’s violent, but it is also captivating and compelling. The lead actor Andy Whitfield, unfortunately, died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and was replaced by Liam McIntyre in subsequent incarnations of the Spartacus saga.

The “sword and sandals” genre isn’t exactly known for its subtlety and restraint, but even by those standards, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is deliriously, delightfully over the top. Viewers familiar with the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the best-known version of the Spartacus tale, will recognize the basic outline of the story: a Thracian warrior with a beautiful, loving wife is betrayed by his Roman “allies” and forced into slavery, whereupon he distinguishes himself as a gladiator nonpareil and, after enduring countless indignities, leads his brethren and others in a rebellion against their oppressors. But there’s a lot more Caligula than Kubrick in this Starz television series, which also features Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as the wicked wife of Spartacus’s owner. The fight scenes are highly stylized (the entire production seems to have taken a cue from the surreal, painterly look of 300) but extraordinarily brutal, featuring multiple dismemberments and decapitations amidst seas of slow-motion, CGI-generated blood; a gladiatorial battle in episode 5 pitting Spartacus and his rival-turned-ally Crixus (Manu Bennett) against a monster named Theokoles is definitely not for the squeamish, but that’s only one of many such scenes. There’s also ample sex and nudity, as the couplings involving various studly gladiators and lustful Roman noblewomen are like salacious combat between Chippendales dancers and Victoria’s Secret models. Meanwhile, the personal relationships are the stuff of soap operas, with the Romans in particular depicted as relentlessly decadent, duplicitous, and power-hungry. If this all sounds outrageously entertaining, it is, though perhaps not for everyone.  –Sam Graham

Spartacus. The Complete Series
Spartacus. The Complete Series

Reviews and criticism

After the first episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand critics were ready to send the show and its creators to the gallows, but in time it proved to be one of the most successful, popular and loved TV shows in the history of television. Here are some first impressions of the humble Spartacus beginnings by the top critics. Although true for certain parts of the first season, they don’t do justice for the whole show:

It was written either by master satirists hoping to inspire viewer drinking games each time blood drops sail in slo-mo or by teen boys. [Boston Globe – Matthew Gilbert]

The trappings up front are so over the top that to say you watch Spartacus to see a contemporary reworking of a cinema classic is like saying you go to Hooters for the food. [New York Daily News – David Hinckley]

If Stanley Kubrick were still alive – he directed the 1960 Kirk Douglas classic of the same name – he wouldn’t know whether to laugh or weep. [Newsday – Verne Gay]

Imagine watching a boring porn movie with swords, sandals, CGI, buckets and buckets of blood, and excessive slow-motion “action” scenes, all while Satan pulls your soul out of your backside. That’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand. [San Francisco Chronicle – Tim Goodman]

One less known reviewer says:

Spartacus exceeded my limits for tolerance of gratuitous violence and sex. I saw more bare breasts, swinging male appendages, and bump and grind than you could hope to pay for on the “adult” channels. I saw more blood, gore, and internal body parts than even Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino would find acceptable. [songsinsqueeminor]

Well, I loved all that gratuitous violence and sex. Just like Latin phraseologies, original antique-styled swearing, and decrepit Roman morality incorporated into the dialogs and characters’ personalities. It was ballsy and new. For all I care, the critics can go suck on Jupiter’s cock.

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