IT’S TIME FOR SPARTACUS - Manilla Times
8 July 2010
BRACE yourselves good citizens of sofas in front of TV sets, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is coming to local cable! The big event happens on Max at
10 p.m. on July 10th. There’s been quite a buzz surrounding this new show since early this year—in a nutshell it’s been compared to the Zach Snyder’s 300, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and the HBO series Rome.
In terms of look, much is borrowed from 300—stunning bright blood reds in pools and splashes providing a strong contrast to the golden, tan and brown color of sand, sandals, skin, heat and shields. The photography and art direction may not be entirely original but it is arresting. You are compelled to look.
In 300, the graphic artists tried to make the blood look aesthetically pleasing. So it is with Spartacus. Of course, it is not just blood, which becomes the main aesthetic plaything—there is the human body, played upon by blood, lamplight, oil, sweat and dirt. Let’s not be coy about this, Spartacus in its original uncut form does not just include a lot of visually gripping, rather outrageous violence, it’s got a lot of nudity.
As the throngs cheer in the gladiatorial arena, one can catch a glimpse of bare breasts of all shapes and sizes as sleeves and blouse straps roll off in the excitement of the crowds. Bare breasted slave girls perform their duties to their masters in the sheerest of smocks. In the baths of the gladiatorial ludus, finely chiseled men walk about naked or perhaps wearing but a sliver of loincloth.
In fact, the loincloth is the uniform at the ludus, accessorized by armor. In this world, everyone is tall, muscular and strong. And while all spar, fight, train, bleed, fall, it cannot be denied there is serious, gratuitous eye candy to be had. And for that, dear viewers must thank the casting department for finding such types, who not only appear to “ sculpted by Jupiter himself” but who can in fact, act.
Playing the hero, Spartacus is relative newcomer Andy Whitfield whose previous credits include a guest role in the Australian TV show McLeod’s Daughters and the lead in the Australian angel film Gabriel. It’s always
easy to underestimate these gorgeous types but Whitfield succeeds in getting us involved in the journey his character is on.
Spartacus is not even his character’s real name—we never learn it. Spartacus is a military man from Thrace who is betrayed by Claudius Glaber in his campaign against the Getae and Mithridates. He then defies future orders from Glaber— resulting in his capture and his beloved wife Sura’s selling into slavery.
He was all set to die like his comrades in the arena but fate had other plans. He survives slaughter, emerges victorious and is purchased by Lentulus Batiatus—played to perfection by John Hannah ( Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Mummy). Batiatus observes his similarity to the fierce Thracian King, Spartacus and from then on, the prisoner takes on that name.
On the surface, this all seems like some sort of guilty pleasure but thankfully, the show’s producers including Sam Raimi ( Spiderman, Evil Dead, Xena: Warrior Princess), have made sure there are memorable characters, enjoyable plotlines and engaging writing. Co-producer Steven DeKnight (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) worked with the writers on 12 of the 13 episodes and did a marvelous job with the script.
More discerning viewers will not rely on just the guilty pleasure aspect of the series alone. The Philippine press was treated to a screening of Episode 2: Sacramentum Gladiatorium, and even without certain “ juicy bits,” Spartacus still succeeds. During a particularly unexciting battle at gladiator selection, Batiatus’ beautiful and equally ambitious wife Lucretia ( Lucy Lawless) sighs in boredom and disappointment as her husband remarks, “ Not every venture ends in climax.” To which she immediately and nonchalantly replies, “A fact known well to every woman.”
A great cast of talent mostly from New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, an absolutely fine performance by John Hannah, gripping visuals, and fun , colorful dialogue—it’s easy to tell why how it’s become a hit world wide. Spartacus: Blood and Sand also stars
Craig Parker ( Lord of the Rings) as Glaber and Peter Mensah ( 300) as Doctore. Two episodes air every Saturday on Max starting July 10, with the final episode airing August 21.
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