The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Starz/Anchor Bay - 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Feature running time: 347 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50 (2 Disk Set)
Encoding: VC-1 (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring: Dustin Clare, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, John Hannah, Peter Mensah
Directed by: Grady Hall, Rick Jacobson and Jesse Warn
Music by: Joseph LoDuc
Created by: Steven S. DeKnight
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 13, 2011
"Some Legends Are Written in Blood."
Before Spartacus struck down his first opponent in the arena, there were many gladiators who passed though the gates onto the sand. "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" tells the story of the original Champion of the House of Batiatus: Gannicus in a more ruthless time before Spartacus' arrival where honor was just finding its way into the arena.
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" was a supposed stop-gap 6 episode series while Spartacus himself, Andy Whitfield, fought his biggest bout, cancer. Unfortunately he lost that battle on September 11th, just 2 days before this sets release. I will say this 6 episode prequel was lacking some of Andy's charm while focusing on John Hannah (who is amazing in this) and Lucy Lawless as they scheme to take their collection of Gladiator/Slaves to the ranks of the more fortunate crews.
Not much has changed between this and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", so here is a snippet of that review I wrote last year.
"...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..."Spartacus" 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."
This series focuses on the rise of the house of Batiatus. In order to make it to a prime slot in the new arena, Batiatus (John Hannah, The Mummy Series) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless, Zena Warrior Princess) plot out moves like a game of chess, showing how ruthless they can be as they try to climb the ranks. Like "Blood and Sand", we follow the story of another gladiator, Gannicus (Dustin Clare, The Eye of the Storm) who is is ego manic, living for the woman, wine and kill. I found his character to less compelling than Andy Whitfield's Spartacus, who had a deeper storyline/arch. I see this series less about the one main Gladiator and more of how things got to where they were in "Blood and Sand". In its job as a prequel it was quite good, delivering the same potent mix of blood, breasts and story. I look forward to seeing if there will be a third series...count me in!
Not Rated. Extreme Violence, Nudity and Adult Themes
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
'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
Again, my thoughts are the same as "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", having reference Audio and Video quality. Here are my thoughts from that review- "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."
I did notice a stronger use of the surround channels with this series, and I was just as struck with how fun the production is, and the ante seemed to be upped with a bit more detail to the gore. There are just as many pretty naked people here, and the flesh-tones are lovely Of noted interest is the special feature- "3D Battle Sequence". It is indeed in 3D, and really looks amazing. It is a rendition of a night time fight sequence that is set around a ring of fire. The depth the black of night and contrasting fire brings make this rival any 3D release I have seen, too bad it is only 5 minutes!
- Past Transgressions, Missio, Paterfamilias, Beneath the Mask, Reckoning, The Bitter End
- Audio Commentaries on all 6 Episodes
- (HD) Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene
- (HD) 3D Battle Sequence
- (HD) Convention Panel
- (HD) Weapons of Mass Disruption
- (HD) Dressed to Kill
- (HD) On Set with Lucy Lawless
- (HD) Enter the Arena: Production Design
- (HD) Extended Episodes
- (HD) Starz Studios: Gods of the Arena
- (HD) Arena Bloopers
- (HD) 10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" is worth a watch to fans of the first series. Also, it's a good place to start if you have never seen "Spartacus: Blood and Sand". Be prepared for LOTS..I mean LOTS of blood, sex, and full frontal nudity: it's over use blood, sex and violence are as important to the ride as is its storytelling. Anchor Bay's release is packed with extras and is a reference quality A/V presentation. This comes highly recommended to those interested. Just remember, I warned you about its gratuitous nature.
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JVC DLA-X3 3D 1080p 3D High Definition Front Projector
Screen Innovations Solar HD 1.3 120" 2.40:1 CinemaScope Screen
Denon AVR 4311 Pre/Pro
Sunfire Theater Grand 7201 Amplifier
Sony PS3 Slim Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Trio On-Wall (5.1)
2 Sunfire True Subwoofer EQ Solitaire 10"