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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > War > Cable TV > Mini-Series > Spartacus: Blood & Sand – The Complete First Season (2010/Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

Spartacus: Blood & Sand – The Complete First Season (2010/Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

 

Picture: A-     Sound: A-     Extras: B-     Episodes: B

 

 

Networks like HBO and Showtime have consistently produced quality television that’s rivals even the most expensive Hollywood films.  With the coming of Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season we can now solidify Starz Network as a force to be reckoned with as well.  Spartacus takes a cue from other historical series like that of HBO’s Rome as it manages to entwine action, drama and sexuality into one entertaining mass.  The series stars Andy Whitfield as the unnamed hero and, to put it briefly, he is perfect for the role.

 

Spartacus is not for the faint of heart.  The series is blood, bloody, bloody; did I mention bloody?  The violence is extreme in the series, but never delivers it in such a manner that I felt it was merely for shock factor; like a SAW movie say.  Whereas with HBO’s Rome we had the opportunity to experience the political workings of the ancient city, here with Spartacus it is all about the fight for glory.  The series embraces gladiator training and battles as its core plot device.  The series may historically feel like Rome, but visually it takes much more from that of 300.  The blood is spilled in copious amounts and every rippling muscle is extenuated as a sword, dagger or spear is thrust into the flesh of a foe.  The series takes many stylistic liberties as it utilizes “slow-mo” camera shots, altered hues for the color palette and even “breaking the 4th wall” and splashing blood on the camera lens.

 

This is certainly a limb hacking, bloodbath of a series; but that does not detract from the great storyline and plot.  The violence that Spartacus has chosen to embrace is only the icing on the cake for this intriguing and exciting series.  The series is filled with passion, deceit and plenty of plot twists.  We have the Thracians, led by the unnamed Andy Whitfield, who have been convinced by the Romans to join their army in exchange for their help in fighting off the Barbarians that have threatened their way of life.  However, the Romans don’t stick to the deal and force the Thracians into war with a different group.  The Thracians revolt against the Romans, “Spartacus” escapes back home to rescue his wife and go into hiding, but the Romans capture him and sell him into the gladiator trade.  “Spartacus” is our hero’s given name after he vanquishes several gladiators in a battle that was intended to be his execution.  With his fighting skills “Spartacus” gains celebrity status and the epic journey begins.

 

The series is absolutely addictive as its fast pace and edgy plot captures the viewer from the beginning.  I would say I see this series going far, but there has been some sad news from the home front.  Perfectly cast Andy Whitfield has been diagnosed with cancer and for obvious personal reasons has left the series.  Starz was allowing the fallen hero time to recover, in the mean time deciding to shoot a “prequel” series with the same Spartacus name, but the outlook for Whitfield making a full recovery any time soon is looking bleak.  I would recommend this 1st season to anybody as it is wonderfully constructed, but at the same time it may just end in disappointment as the series returning to its former glory is not looking good.

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital high definition presentation on this Blu-ray looks Hollywood quality as the detail is amazing and the bright color palette jumps from the screen.  The series is mostly shot with a green screen backdrop, but I assure viewers this series never feels artificial.  Granted the creators have messed with the visuals a ton, making Rome appear very stylized, but nevertheless the picture quality is rich and detailed as the inky blacks and deep reds make the picture ‘pop.’  The stylized nature of the series doesn’t end with picture as the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix cranks it up a notch to make your subwoofer boom.  Swords ‘swoosh’ and screams hail across the entire soundscape with ease, as directionality is splendid and the audience is treated to an explosive audio experience.  For a series that is so abrupt and violent the sound quality is smooth and balances pumped action and dialogue with ease.

 

The extras are nice as they contain Audio Commentaries (7 in total), Spartacus Historicus: Pop-Up History, Spartacus: Blood and Sand Behind the Scenes, Spartacus: Battle Royale, Gladiator Boot Camp featurette, Grime and Punishment, Andy Gets Plastered, Legend Re-Imagined, Oh, those Randy Romans, Shooting Green: The Shadow Death and Exposing Your Ludus.  Also on this Blu-ray we get extended looks at four of the episodes that doesn’t add much as far as content, but nice nevertheless.

 

I loved this series and I can’t wait to see more.  I am just praying Andy has a speedy recovery and can hail “I AM SPARTACUS” sometime soon.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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