Spartacus Slays! - Manilla Times
6 May 2010
WITH everything I’ve been hearing about the new television mini-series Spartacus, I had my expectations set on a slice of television that would satisfy my predilections toward more primal persuasions.
Spartacus happily and shamelessly borrows much from the Zach Snyder film 300. The dirty, sweaty, beautiful, muscular men, the slow motion flight of the spear, shield, dagger or sword before it hits flesh, the spewing of fireengine-red blood across monotones. The various stages of dishabille, the casual manner clothes are tossed off. All here, lovingly art directed for your viewing pleasure.
But it will certainly take more than that to capture the interest of viewers— and I was wonderfully surprised to find out it does.
Spartacus is the story of a brave, honorable, passionate warrior from Thrace who was arrested by the Roman army for insubordination. Instead of dying in the arena for his crime, he rocks the decadent Roman audience and has them raising their fists and calling his “name.” His life is spared and a man known as Batiatus purchases him.
This is where the fun begins. Batiatus is played wonderfully by John Hannah Matthew from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Rachel Weisz’s scheming brother in the Mummy movies. And, surprise, Lucy Lawless a.k.a. Xena the Warrior Princess plays his cunning, complex and loving wife and partner, Lucretia.
Craig Parker, who many will remember as the rather snotty elf Haldir in Lord of the Rings, plays the spiteful Glaber. It was Spartacus’ defiance that ruined Glaber’s plans for glory in battle at the beginning of the series.
If the character Doctore played by Peter Mensah looks familiar, he’s come a long way from the pit Gerard Butler aka Leonidas kicked him into while uttering “This is Sparta.” Doctore is the sensei and master of the “ludus” owned by Batiatus’ family. He trains the gladiators so they can triumph in the arena and bring glory to the Dominus.
The cast is made up mostly of actors from the UK, Australia and New Zealand where the show is shot. Relatively new actor, former model and engineer Andy Whitfield takes on the role of the hero Spartacus. You may have seen him in the 2007 Australian angel movie, Gabriel on cable. While we’re not expecting Kirk Douglas here, Whitfield has the physicality, the expressive ice blue eyes and enough talent to deliver.
Sam Raimi is one of the producers of this show and co-producer Steven S. DeKnight is responsible for some really profane but really sharp and funny lines on the show.
In the second episode, Batiatus scoffs at rival Solonius’ show of gladiators at a tribute saying “That man has his fingers in all the proper a**holes, he wiggles them and everyone s***s gold.”
At the same tribute, one of the captured Thracians from Spartacus’ army beholds the food, the excess, the nearly naked women swimming in shallow pools of water and rose petals as he utters to one companion: “I’ve never beheld such sights” while the other curtly replies, “Nor will you again.”
When Doctore assesses the new batch of gladiators to be at the ludus he tells Batiatus: “One or two show promise. The rest, my own mother wouldn’t have in the arena.” Batiatus tells Doctore, “Mother? You have no mother, your were belched from the c**t of the underworld, that’s why I favor you.”
During a rather disappointing sparring session between highly gifted fighters, Batiatus remarks, “Not every venture ends in climax.” Lucretia plainly states “A fact known well to every woman.”
We don’t get Starz here, but with their first big original hit Spartacus and a King Arthur series in the making, they’re certainly putting themselves on the map.
Spartacus has been renewed for a second season, however there is a delay due to Andy Whitfield’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma. We wish him the best, I’m one of the many fans joining the arena in its cries for “Spartacus! Spartacus! Spartacus!”