The Series (4/5)
I'd been hearing about Spartacus since the first season entitled Blood and Sand aired on the Starz Network a number of years back, but as I choose to not have cable I missed it like many shows. I tend to try and grab things after they conclude or are deep enough into their run that I know they're not going to disappear should I become hooked. With the recent Complete Series Blu-ray set of Spartacus now available, I can now add this to a list of shows I've obsessively dived into after their conclusion.
Of course, prior to seeing this series I had seen the Kubrick film of Spartacus featuring Tony Curtis a number of times. It isn't my favorite of the masters work, but I saw how the legend of Spartacus could certainly be a springboard to an ongoing TV series, add in an executive producer of Sam Raimi's stature whose passed experience include period/fantasy series Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and the show certainly had a pedigree going in to be something special.
The show ran for 39 episodes across four series. The first series starred Andy Whitfield in the title role. Sadly, he would be diagnosed with non-hodgkins Lymphoma, and would pass on before a second series could be made. In order to give the actor time to treat his condition hoping that he would conquer his illness and return, Spartacus second season would be a prequel series. The third and fourth series would follow the stories begun in the first, with Liam McIntyre stepping into the role of Spartacus. The first series expands on the story that we all know, of Spartacus becoming a slave , rebelling, and beginning his war for freedom. The second series is a prequel showing the politics of how everything came to be in the first, this second series could have been a mere stop-gap measure for Starz and showrunner Steven DeKnight, but it feels like it should have been a part of the show from the start, and really helps tie things together going forward. The third and fourth series follow the rebellion from it's underground beginnings to it's bloody conclusion.
The show plays like a sort of deeper version of Zack Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 in the sense that at times it can feel like wall to wall sex and violence. Which if I’m being honest I’ll admit can make for a good time, but can start to feel repetitive after a while. I did find myself hooked in by the shows more political elements, and found the show offered a great balance of violent trashy entertainment, and decent drama.
The series is presented in a splendid looking 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the aspect ratio of the shows original broadcast. Spartacus has a certain stylized image, but that doesn't come at the sacrifice of image quality, and we are treated to excellent color, black levels, and exquisite fine detail.
The audio is presented in a Dolby True HD 5.1 track in English. Everything sounds quite excellent here with dialogue, score, and effects coming through loud, and clear, and no audio defects to complain about.
All the extras from previous editions have been ported over to this one, in addition there are 3 commentary tracks that have been added on the episodes Legends, Great and Unfortunate Things, and Mark of the Brotherhood, all feature Lucy Lawless, and various other participants including producer Rob Tapert and show runner Steven DeKnight. The set is completely stacked with interviews, featurettes, and commentary tracks from other releases as well.
If you buy the limited edition set, you will be treated to an awesome Spartacus statue that will look spectacular on any fans DVD shelf.
Sometimes I regret waiting on TV shows like this, Spartacus is one of those occasions. Spartacus is violent and fun TV show, that offers some nice drama and political intrigue. The A/V on these Blu-ray's looks and sounds fantastic, the extras are very comprehensive, and I'll admit the statue looks nice in my office. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.