Sunday, September 16, 2012


Review : Spartacus (A TV series)
Aired on : Starz
Released : 2010
My Rating : 5 out of 10

Starz released the first season of the Spartacus series in 2010, titled "Spartacus : Blood and Sand". The lead actor - Andy Whitfield - was diagnosed with cancer, and production of the sequel had to be stopped. While he was being treated, Starz produced a prequel instead. Sadly, Whitfield passed away in 2011 and the sequel was later produced with Liam McIntyre playing the lead role.

I have only watched the season 1 on DVD, and this review is specifically of that season.  It consists of 13 episodes, each of 1 hour.

The story is loosely based on historical facts. In ancient Roman empire, around 70 BC, there was indeed a slave gladiator called Spartacus. He was probably captured from Thrace (modern day Bulgaria) and served in a "ludas" (gladiator school) in the city of "Capua". He organized a rebellion by forming an army of fellow slaves. The Roman Army eventually crushed their rebellion in what's now known as the "2nd Serville War".

Season 1 starts with the capture of Spartacus, and ends with the successful start of his rebellion. Almost all events in between are completely fictional as historical details of Spartacus remain obscure.

When I wrote the review for "Rome", I added a strong warning that it's not fit even for teenagers. Spartacus leap frogs Rome in the aspect of being offensive, and falls woefully short in everything else. If you couldn't watch Rome because it was too explicit, you shouldn't even think about watching Spartacus. If you liked Rome (and I did), for its gripping narrative, you shouldn't expect the same from Spartacus.

The idea here is to shock the viewers. Plain and simple. The appropriate name for this series would have been "Blood and Skin", as that's all the series seems to be interested in. It's possible that for some viewers, this is a guilty pleasure. To me, it was beyond saturation. The same types of scenes are shown over and over again.

There is a small kernel of a good plot here. Although these are gladiators, they are just glorified slaves, with no rights, no freedom and just objects that can be sacrificed for the entertainment of the elites. It's impossible to not feel their plight. There are some political machinations, and they add some intrigue to the storyline. The focus of the series is elsewhere. To appeal to the base instincts, by showing beautiful women fawning over bare chested savage hunks, who are bent on killing each other in the most grotesque way. With the topic being gladiators, one might expect fight sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat. Alas, they are quite unrealistic - inspired more by the movie 300, than say Troy. (Note : Troy was NOT a good movie, but had great duels. And 300 was a visually impressive movie, but it's not famous for duels.)

The acting is a bright spot. Andy Whitfield as the lead actor is superb and convincing. A trivia : In the late 90s, there was a series with more modest aspirations, called "Xena: The Warrior Princess". It had good ratings in the demography "adult male", solely because of Lucy Lawless. She expertly plays the role of Lucretia here. The best performance though is by John Hannah who plays the role of Quintus Batiatus, owner of the ludas, which happens to be the only multidimensional character in the story.

I am not sure if I can recommend Spartacus. It's not that it fails at being good art. It's just that it has no intention of being a good art. The series is very clear about its goals. There is no point watching this series with the expectation of watching a historical fiction, and complaining that it fails to deliver. It delivers perfectly well, but something totally different - lot of sex and lot of unrealistic violence. If that's not what you want, don't watch this.

1 comment:

  1. Good night. I'm writing this comment because this article have ur name, so, i hope i'm writing for the right person =)I'm Brazilian and I need to do a seminar about ghazal, i would like to use Hafiz poems, but we need to do - besides other things - an structural analysis (rhymes, 'Beher', 'Radif' and so on). For this, i will need of a version wrote in Latin alphabet. I search in the web, i tried to change the Persian or Urdu on online Latin alphabet converters but nothing work. I find some ghazal also in Latin alphabet, but i could not translate them...So, would u have some ghazal with English translation and with the original one in persian and Latin alphabet? Thank u =)


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