BLU-RAY REVIEW: Spartacus: Blood and Sand The Complete First Season
Starz hit TV series hits home video...
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No other show on TV today has as much nudity and violence as Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Seriously, if someone had told TV producers 20 years ago viewers would be watching a show like Spartacus: Blood and Sand on TV in the year 2010, they'd have laughed out loud and said no way in hell. After all, it's one thing to swear on TV and it's one thing to shoot a guy on TV, but to show nudity, sex, mass carnage, dismemberment, and out right violence of this nature on TV...man...it really shouldn't be allowed.
OK...now that I've got that out of my system, I'll explain to you why Spartacus: Blood and Sand is one of the best shows I've ever seen. That's a lot to live up to considering the quality and quantity of TV available today, but truly I say to you, Spartcus: Blood and Sand is near the top of the heap when it comes to the best of the best.
Why, you might ask? Because it's got all the backstabbing of The Sopranos, more drama than Six Feet Under, more sex than Hung, more blood than Dexter, and more violence than the nightly news (and I live in St. Louis!).
But that's not what makes Spartacus: Blood and Sand so great. What makes the show truly great is the amazingly well developed characters and their personalities, struggles, fears, desires, needs, wants, pains, and love. It's their need to grow and change and become not just what they are, but what they can be. That's what makes Spartacus: Blood and Sand one of the best shows on TV.
Now, with the first season available on Blu-ray and DVD this week, interested viewers who missed it and fans who can't get enough can pick it up and watch or rewatch all 13 episodes.
If you're a history buff, you may already know the basic story: a slave who rises up to lead a rebellion against the slave-owning aristocracy of the Roman republic; it's truly a "cheer for the little guy" story if there ever was one. Sadly, while few real details are known about the real man, the legends continue to build thanks to modern scribes, poets, playwrights and writers.
One of those creators, producer Steven S. DeKnight (Dollhouse, Smalleville), brings to life a new retelling of this legendary hero who refuses to bow to oppressive rule on Starz and, thanks to support from an amazing cast - including Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Manu Bennett, Lucy Lawless, and Peter Mensah - the show not only succeeds, but excels.
The story follows Spartacus, a Thracian soldier-turned-slave who must fight for his life as a gladiator. Seperated from the love of his life, the warrior finds a home in the ludus of Batiatus, where he becomes one of the foremost gladiators thanks to his skills. However, it's not so much his rise to fame as his fall from normalcy that makes this show great. Simply wishing for a simple life with his wife, Spartacus is stripped of his life, love, dignity, respect, and dreams...all the while never losing hope that he'll one day have the one thing that continues to slip from his grasp: freedom.
Throughout Spartacus' story we're introduced to a number of other well-developed characters, to include his owner, his trainer, his fellow gladiators, and even slaves. Each has their own internal motivators which gives each a unique characteristic that continually becomes more and more appealing as the show progresses. No doubt there's at least one character in Spartacus: Blood and Sand's cast which each and everyone of us can relate; be it the slave with hopes for freedom, the warrior looking for love, the landowner seeking political power, the gladiator striving for victory, or the loser searching for vindication; each and every part is played perfectly thanks to the amazing ensemble cast.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, let me say first I almost didn't finish the show. When I first started watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I wasn't really that impressed. The first episode features special effects similar to those seen in the comic film 300 and the dialogue and script seemed almost too straight-forward. All I could think was the show was too much eye candy, pushing the limits of what could be shown on TV, with not enough substance to truly be worth watching. However, after three episodes, I was hooked and couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
The video and audio on the blu-ray are beautiful and pitch-perfect, delivering gorgeous 1080p at 1.78:1 aspect ratio and a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The colors are all sharp, clear, and crisp. There's really nothing quite as vivid as the blood red that splashes the screen countless times during this first season. Likewise, the dramatic score and easy-to-hear dialogue and sound effects make this one to watch and hear over and over again.
This complete first season blu-ray set features a solid variety of extras, including cast and crew commentary on various episodes and extended episodes which slightly expand the story and character development.
Likewise, the last disc in the set includes nine short featurettes which die-hard fans won't want to miss. These include "Spartacus: Blood and Sand' -- Behind the Scenes," which shows the development of the series, the cast and crew, costume and props and more; "Spartacus: Battle Royale," which focuses on the action; the self-explanatory "Gladiator Boot Camp" short; "Grime & Punishment: The Hole," which looks at one of the more unique tortures seen in the show, "Andy Gets Plastered," showing the show's star getting a full-body cast, "Legend Re-Imagined," which examines the history behind the story's story; "Oh, Those Randy Romans," which shows the nasty, orgy-filled ideas behind the Roman culture, "Shooting Green: The Shadow of Death," a short look at using a green screen to film; and "Exposing Your Ludus," which is a bit of a bloopers-type short that'll make you laugh.
Overall, Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The Complete First Season delivers a knock-down, drag-out, kick to the teeth, sword to the gut blow that'll keep you reeling and wanting for more. I seriously have no idea how this show was ever allowed to be aired on TV, but I'm thankful it was as it truly delivers an amazing story with intriguing characters, beautiful special effects and dynamic action.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The Complete First Season is available on DVD and Blu-ray on September 21 wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley
Ain't cancer a bitch?!? It was announced today Andy Whitfield, the star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has been forced to leave the show due to his cancer recurring. We want to wish Andy and his family the best and a safe and fast recovery. It is unknown if or when a replacement for the show's title character will be found or when the much-anticipated season two will begin production, but we look forward to more.