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DVD Review: SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA



Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Year: 2011
Cast:
Director: various
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Rating: Not Rated for Stephen Lovatt, Jessica Grace Smith, Antonio Te Maioha, Jeffrey Thomas, Gareth Williams, Lucy Lawless, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Raicho Vasilev, John Hannah, Manu Bennett, Peter Mensah, Dustin Clare, Jaime Murray, Nick E Tarabay, Marisa Ramirez
Run Time: 05h:35m:00s
Genre(s): television, action

"The fights are particularly entertaining today." - Lucretia (Lucy Lawless)

SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA

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Spartacus: Gods of the Area serves as a prequel, a continuation and an introduction to the Spartacus series. Definitely, if you don't like sex and violence in your televsion, then do not watch this show which from the first scene contains copious amounts of both. Featuring a hyper-reality graphic novel style and well-written characters, the mini-series fills the gap between the original show and the upcoming 2013 second season.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Grade: B+

The show Spartacus: Blood and Sand became one of the guilty pleasures of last year with its "ground-breaking" formula of edgy visual style, complex plots, gory violence and explicit sex. Soon after plans were made for a second season of Blood and Sand, the star Andy Whitfield was found to have cancer and the beginning of production was put off to allow for his recovery from treatment. To feed a ravenous fanbase, the producers took a proposed flashback sequence and expanded it out to a six-part mini-series as a prequel to the first series and featuring many of the same characters, including some that had died, or at least, appeared to die.

One of the pleasures of Blood and Sand was the bravura performance of John Hannah as Batiatus and he is the real star of this prequel as he is depicted as growing into his role as lanista (gladiator trainer and owner) escaping from the shadow of his father. His schemes are ambitious and when foiled, his revenge is inevitably ferocious as seen in Blood and Sand and recaptured here. His wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) is another shameless rave-up that burst all kinds of bounds of propriety, especially here when her partner in crime is the luscious Gaia played by Jaime Murray. The focus of the prequel is intended to be Gannicus, played by Dustin Clare, and he has his moments but his role inexplicably fades in and out of the latter episodes.

The overall story suffers somewhat from the expansion to a six-hour series from an idea that perhaps didn't work as a story arc in the previous series. There are some problems of logic in the character development and deconstruction, particularly Lucretia. The story is tied up a bit too neatly with a couple of developments that are too much of a stretch. I also did not particularly care for the character of Batiatus' father and I can't say it was the way he was written or acted by Jeffrey Thomas. Two other characters that are unique to this series are the antagonists of Batiatus, merchant Tullius (Stephen Lovatt) and lanista Vettius (Gareth Williams). I have to admit I did not particularly care for either of them as villains. They seemed forced and not fitting particularly well in the story line. That being said, just being the focus of Batiatus' energy gives them a dramatic momentum. On the positive side, a lot of these details just don't matter as the momentum of the story often quickly overwhelms inconsistencies. This series does contain some unnecessary sexual content that, in my opinion, is included less for adding to the story than to fill in some gaps. The plot was well planned for its beginning and ending, but flouders a bit in the middle.

On the positive side, some of the major characters in Blood and Sand get some intriguing depth added to their characters in this prequel with con man Ashur (Nick Tarabay), Crixus (Manu Bennett), Barca (Antonio Te Maioha) and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) all receiving potent back stories told compellingly. This will only add to the next iteration of the series Spartacus: Vengeance, due on Starz early next year. The battle sequences in this series almost measure up to the action in the first series. There is an effort to add some new twists in the action and the graphic novel visuals heighten the intensity of the confrontations.

On a sad note, Andy Whitfield will not return as Spartacus as he lost his battle with cancer earlier this year and the role has been recast. It remains to be seen if his loss from the cast can be overcome.

Extras:
Extended Scenes
Alternate Endings
Content Too Risqué for Cable TV
Convention Panel
Arena Bloopers
On Set With Lucy Lawless
Post Production: The Final Execution
Weapons of Mass Disruption
Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene
10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment
Dressed to Kill
Enter the Arena: Production Design

Posted by: Jesse Shanks - October 20, 2011, 7:23 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: drama, action, historical




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