( Max score: 100 )
Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus, a Thracian warrior captured by Romans, is enslaved into a gladiator training school owned by Batiatus and his wife Lucretia. He is forced to fight daily for his life against deadly foes, under the brutal whip of trainer Doctore. Against all odds, Spartacus' rebellious instincts, his intense love for his wife Sura and his powerful fighting skills drive him to win a series of near-impossible battles - setting in motion a revolution against the tyranny of Rome. To survive, he must become more than a man, more than a gladiator. He must become a legend.
'Spartacus: Blood and Sand-The Complete First Season' can be summed up as a soap opera of equal parts 300, Gladiator and Caligula. Blood, breasts and drama; sounds fun and it is. Just a warning, it's all to the extreme. Graphic sex, like late night skin-e-max stuff, with full frontal nudity is common place here. We are also treated to decapitations, swords slashing into every possible body part and a liberal use of blood...Oh and the language, wow those Romans sure did have an art for using some very colored language. For those who are not bothered by that, you will be rewarded with a fun, glossy series that is not historically accurate, taking liberties for the sake of drama and excitement.
'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' is stylized, going for a graphic novel look and feel (hence the comparison's to 300). I definitely enjoyed the production as it added an element that helped the series jump to a cooler level then it reached based on its storytelling alone. The plot is pretty typical stuff, with typical archetypes and antagonists. We have, of course, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), a Thracian who's is enslaved, forced to change his name and fight for his life, literally. He is made to become a gladiator who's motivation to defy and win is to find his wife who was taken by the same Roman who took him away from his life and killed his village. His character was not written with enough depth to really lead the series, thankfully most of the supporting players were great characters and casting choices. The stand-outs were Craig Parker (Haldir- The Lord of the Rings) as the evil Roman Claudius Glaber, who is desperate enough to do anything for power, and the always superb John Hannah (the Mummy Series) as Batiatus, the owner of Spartacus and a team of Gladiators.
I saw the pilot episode on Starz when it first aired and thought that it was not that good, so I gave up on it. For anyone who gave up, I can say it got better and better as it went along, just give it a few episodes; by the 4th it had picked up steam and I was hooked. Even though fiction, I enjoyed its take on ancient Rome, there indiscretions, overindulgences and brutal way of life. This series isn't about Rome's political system, about slavery or war. It's about how these people would do whatever it took to get by, get ahead and how greed ruled. Most of all it is about one man's journey and how love sparked his passion to defy it all and become a hero. Well that and a whole bunch of pretty people naked and killing each-other --'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' is a fun ride.
Not Rated. Extreme Violence, Nudity and Adult Themes
'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' comes to Blu-ray Disc from Anchor Bay Entertainment & Starz featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24.4 mbps and Dolby TrueHD sound that has an average bitrate of 2.2 mbps
'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' is without a doubt a reference set. The audio and video are both stylized, aggressive and original. The video production has super fine details combined with CGI backgrounds that give a depth and pop to this interesting production. The background, being mostly blue screened does look a bit fake, but the separation from the foreground image is what give it that depth and fun cartoon look. Flesh-tones and black levels are superb, adding to that depth. The arena fight scenes do have a (said in almost every article on this show) 300 meets Gladiator look. The fights are like a live comic book, having over exaggerated sounds of swords, flesh tearing and blood spurting. This blood is CGI and has a super defined red color that flies across and almost off the screen. Dialogue is crisp and clear, always discernible in the forefront in the mix. The top-notch score is used loud and liberally, adding to this front heavy presentation that has a wide front sound-stage. The surrounds are used tastefully for effect and atmosphere, and not over used as much as I anticipated given the aggressive nature of the rest of the soundtrack. The low end is articulate, never floppy, and at times, surprisingly deep. This is an super fun and cool presentation-- you will be impressed.
'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' is not for the faint of heart. Its over use blood, sex and violence are as important to the ride as is its storytelling. It is a wild, over the top bit of entertainment, and those looking for depth and historical accuracies will surely be disappointed...or possibly caught up in the insanity of it all?? I was. I really dug the series and am saddened that season two is on hold, or possibly canceled, as Andy Whitfield (Spartacus) resigned to spend time with family as he battles cancer. Best of luck to him and his family. Anchor Bay's release is packed with extras and is a reference quality A/V presentation. I can easily say giving this a spin is worthwhile, this comes highly recommended to those interested. Just remember, I warned you about its gratuitous nature.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS35 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Custom 1.3 Gain 128" 2.37:1 CinemaScope Screen
Pioneer SC27 Receiver (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Pioneer Elite BDP-23FD Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Triangle Zerius Speakers (7.1)
SVS PC13-Ultra Subwoofer