Another TV review. Might as well make it a habit.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Spartacus: Blood and Sand (and believe me, there’s more blood than sand), you will know that it looks like an extra-lame version of 300, replete with slow-motion action scenes, yelling dudes in loincloths, abundant sex scenes, and a total lack of interest in historical accuracy.
I came to watch the show when I was searching for HBO’s ROme on Netflix streaming, and they suggested this to me instead SO I watched the first episode, and…
It was exactly what I’d thought. The dialogue was corny, the plot unimaginative, the fight scenes ridiculous, and the CGI…words can’t begin to describe the mess that is the CGI in this show. I’d estimate that in the entire hour-long premiere episode, 20 of those minutes consisted of people banging each other, another 30 of people stabbing each other in slow-mo, and the last 10 of actual plot.
For some reason, I decided to watch the second episode as well. Dear God, I must have been bored.
But something happened. Something totally unexpected. The show went from horrible to not half bad. And by the end of the third episode, it had made its way all the way up to good. By the end of the fifth, it had reached the level of awesome.
That has to be the biggest turnaround I’ve ever seen in my life. Usually series get WORSE as they progress, not better. Considering that the first episode of a new show is what you use to draw viewers in, I feel like whoever designed that episode should be slapped in the face and then fired.
Because the first episode is not what the show is actually like. At all.
I’m not saying it’s not filled with sex and violence, cause it is. If you are for action, let me say that they are some of the best choreographed I have seen. If you’re looking for nudity, I can inform you that just about every main character gets naked at some point…which come to think of it may not be a good thing. But it’s also filled with the necessary ingredients to make a good show: character development, a nice story, and surprisingly great acting. Especially on the part of John Hannah, who plays the role of a smarmy Roman lanista (that’s a dude who owns gladiators) with such glee that he tends to steal the show.
Andy Whitfield, who plays Spartacus is a bit more sublet with his performance, but no less excellent. Admittedly, he starts off a little one-note. He lsot his wife to Roman treachery, you see, and now he wants her back, and he will use every second he is on screen to remind you of this fact. As things go, he develops into a very likable and complex protagonist, which is more than about half the action movies that came out last summer can boast. Viva Bianca is delectably hate-able as the conniving bimbo Illythia. Honestly, I could say something good about every member of this cast (if only the casting director for this show had gone on to cast AMC’s the Walking Dead…)
As for historical accuracy, well, the details are hit and miss, with a bit more of miss. If someone paid you a quarter every time the words c**k or a** were used, you would probably have more money than this show’s special effects budget. Especially if you also got a quarter said objects appeared on screen. I am aware that the Romans no doubt swore, and could be pretty licentious at times, but really…this can get pretty ridiculous.
Did someone say cock?
Other inaccuracies include (but are NOT limited to):
1. the statues are unpainted. Real Roman statues were painted, not marbel-ey.
2. Women and men sitting together in the arena. In reality, women were kept separate.
3. Despite what the first episode may lead you to believe, the Romans never went to war against orcs.
4. Roman armor of the period was actually chainmail, i.e. not the type of armor shown in the movie.
And in truth, no one really cares about this shit. Well, except for about the orc thing. That was pretty stupid.
Anyway, this show is closer to the truth than that famous Kirk Douglass movie. The real Spartacus actually was a Thracian who deserted the Roman army, and actually was aided in his rebellion against Rome by other slave commanders (who always get snubbed and left out of the movies and books and shit) known as Crixus, Oneomaus, and Gannicus. All of these people are major characters in this series.
But though it gets a lot of details wrong, it does a better job of capturing the essence of the slave culture of ancient Rome, than say, Gladiator. Or any movie featuring Romans you care to name. The show manages to get inside the mindsets of both the slaves and their trained killers, humanizing both without condoning their actions. Best yet, it refuses to slap a 21st century morality onto an ancient setting. The world portrayed is gritty and brutal, and the characters are often selfish in their desires. The fact that the we grow to care about them anyway is a tribute to the acting and screenwriting.
Well, that’s pretty much it. The show is excessive. In fact, it exceeds excessiveness. Id’ like to say it’s all in the service of the story, but at times it’s more as if the story exists in spite of the ultra-violence and soft-core porn rather than because of it. I’d like to say that this show didn’t include a scene in which a dude cuts off another dude’s face with a hook and then wears it as a mask–but that would be a lie. The great irony is that the opines blood and sex, rather than drawing people in as it was intended to do, are probably what’s responsible for giving this show its undeserved bad name. But if you’re willing to put up with all that stuff, you’re in for a damn good story.