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DVD Review: Spartacus: Blood And Sand – The Complete First Season
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The Movie God   |  @   |  
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Spartacus: Blood and Sand
DVD | Blu-ray
CREATED BY: Steven S. DeKnight
DIRECTED BY: Rick Jacobson, Jesse Warn, Michael Hurst
STARRING: Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Erin Cummings, Jai Courtney, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, Katrina Law, Peter Mensah, Nick Tarabay, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Viva Bianca
Starz/Anchor Bay
RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2010

All men fall. It is but time and method that differ.

I’ll start things of with a personal admission of guilt: when it comes to anything set far, far back in time, especially those that involve swords and shields and horses and bloody chaotic battles, I’m usually a fan. Movies like Gladiator and Braveheart or TV shows like HBO’s Rome have all left me gleefully satisfied upon watching, and I’m always hungry for more of the same.

Because of this, you could say I might be a little biased towards a show like Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and you could be right. The moment I saw that this new show was coming, I was filled with excitement and couldn’t wait to get my eyes on it.

But to be perfectly honest, things did not start off too well for me and this show. The pilot episode was a bit of a rocky start; it crossed me as a combination of Gladiator and 300, but the overpowering stylistic effects — though the intent was pure, and the plan was to give a real graphic novel feel to the show — didn’t feel nearly as fitting as they did with Zack Snyder’s ultra-fun tale of the 300 Spartans, and it all came off as a bit too cheesy at times. Even so, with my undying love of such things, I decided to solider on and see what happens.

This was without doubt an incredibly good decision.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand tells the story of an unnamed Thracian (Andy Whitfield) who, along with his fellow warriors, have joined the Romans in their fight in hopes of protecting their homelands from the looming threat. After the Thracians swear their allegiance, the Romans instead decide to go on their own path, away from Thrace, causing the Thracian and his men to cut ties and turn back. This doesn’t go over well with the Romans, who ambush the Thracian and his wife (Erin Cummings) as they sleep, taking her away in front of his eyes.

After losing his wife, the Thracian is made a slave and sold to Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) and his House of Batiatus, a ludus known for training top gladiators for combat in the arena. At first, being so angry at what has been done to him and his wife, the Thracian is defiant and refuses to do as he is told; but once he discovers that Batiatus has found the location of his kidnapped wife and promises to return her to him so long as he begins to take his training seriously, he agrees to embrace his new life as a gladiator…one that will become known as Spartacus.

Again, the first episode had me a little weary, but after that, the show seemed to tone back on their use of CG effects. This was the best move they could have possibly made. Though there were plenty more moments with 300-like effects, it wasn’t nearly as overbearing and distracting as that pilot episode, making it much easier to warm up to the world and the characters. The next few episodes took their time building up the mythology and kept me wondering whether the show would be ultimately worth my time or not. It wasn’t until the fourth episode of this first season when my eyes were opened to the truth: Spartacus: Blood and Sand was going to be an amazing ride.

From there on out it was all great things; multiple storylines unfold and capture your complete attention, attractions, bonds, and despise are developed for many of the distinguished characters, and it becomes nearly impossible not to want to know just what’s going to happen when it all comes together. By season’s end, the series had made an incredible comeback from being something I was very skeptical of to one of my favorite shows on TV.

For me, it’s really all about the characters. Once they establish themselves, there’s such a fantastic variety of them to enjoy, and their stories become rich and intricate enough to hold your attention throughout. That paired with a massive amount of deception and old school politics as people sprint to better their own standing in life make it really a can’t-miss show. Oh, and let us not forget the massive amounts of gladiator battling going on — who doesn’t love a little violence and action to sweeten the pot?

Some people may connect with Spartacus: Blood and Sand right away; others might require four or more episodes to realize how great this series is, as I did; some will of course never quite warm up to it, unfortunately. In any case, you should all surely give it a chance. The only ones who this really is not for is those who don’t react well to highly graphic content like blood and sex and ultra-violence.

With the terrible news of star Andy Whitfield’s diagnoses of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and the decision that he will be replaced for season 2 due to a setback in his recovery, it’s unclear whether this show will ever surpass what they accomplished in their maiden season. Hopes are high that they can continue their impressive pace, but it’s hard to think it could get better than this. Just watching the series, as well as the special features (listed below), you can see just how important Whitfield is and how much his castmates enjoyed working with him. With his recasting, it will take time to get used to a new face and voice, but ironically, this could be similar to how the first season took a little time to take hold.

For those of you who have yet to acquaint yourself with the series, now is the time. You must see it for yourself, give it a fair chance, and you shall not likely regret it. This is one that’s simply too good and too much fun to miss, you have my word.

SPECIAL FEATURES

There’s a great collection of featurettes that come with the DVD. Loads of extra footage and looks at what went into the show always makes something even more worth having!

* Spartacus: Blood and Sand — Behind the Scenes: Your traditional making of feature, looking at the filming of the show, all of the sets and green screen work, all while setting up the story and how the show came to be. This is the must-have featurette on every movie or show, simply because it’s so fun to see the creation process.

* Spartacus: Battle Royale — As you should probably know, you should never watch special features before you’ve seen the main content first. This feature plays kind of like a music video, showing off a lot of the action and fights that take place over the course of the first season. Fun to watch, but definitely not until you’ve finished checking out the show.

* Gladiator Boot Camp — Pretty self-explanatory. A nice look at the crazy six-week training camp that went into preparing the actors and stuntmen for their demanding roles in the show. Much like war movies usually send their cast to a boot camp to really lay the foundation for their characters out, this was the idea here.

* Grime & Punishment — A feature looking at the making of a particularly nasty punishment that Spartacus and Varro (Jai Courtney) must endure involving a pit and quite a few gallons of sewage.

* Andy Gets Plastered — This one documents star Andy Whitfield getting his whole body cast in plaster for use in prosthetic work and keeping track of any scars he gets on the show.

* Legend Re-Imagined — A deeper look into the idea behind the show: taking the real history of Spartacus and loosely creating a wholly entertaining show around it. Another similarity to 300, which was also based from history but magnified greatly in the name of good entertainment.

* Oh, Those Randy Romans — For those who don’t know, back in the times of the Romans, inhibitions were completely non-existent and sex was often and open with either gender. This feature explores the thriving sexual elements within Spartacus, and the love story that does exist at its core.

* Shooting Green: The Shadow of Death — Here’s a featuring looking at the major usage of green screen on the show to create the epic backgrounds and settings that set the tone.

* Exposing Your Ludus — The final feature on this DVD acts as the blooper reel, showing the actors having a lot of fun and goofing around during filming.

Trailer

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