Series: Spartacus: Blood and Sand *****
Release date: Out now
Starring: Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, Craig Parker, Erin Cummings, Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Viva Bianca, Jai Courtney
Reviewer: Adam Wing
"Betrayed by his country. Beaten into slavery. Born to be legend. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a graphic account of Rome's most famous gladiator. After being separated from the love of his life, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) is forced to fight for his freedom in the arena, where gruesome violence makes for primetime entertainment.
With the Gods on his side, only politics, corruption, sex and violence stand in the way of freedom. Power, torment and naked flesh threaten to consume him at every turn, but passion will give him the strength to prevail over every obstacle, as death, honour and endurance see him rise to the challenge – I’ll try to resist an obvious pun on that one, you can work out the rest for yourselves...
John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca and Peter Mensah join Andy Whitfield, in a no-holds-barred series created by Steven S. Deknight (Dollhouse, Angel). Facts are largely ignored in favour of flesh-infused fiction, but you don’t have to worry about that, not when there’s so much gore, nudity, action and cursing to embrace. If you’re easily offended by profanity, this isn’t the show for you. For the rest of us, Spartacus serves up a heady dose of cocks, comfort and cheer.
Andy Whitfield makes for a charismatic and convincing hero, struck down by cancer in real life, news that he won’t be joining the cast for series 2 leaves a giant footprint in the sand. John Hannah plays Batiatus, a morally ambiguous trainer of gladiators with delusions of grandeur, he plots, schemes and contrives with wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) to gain favour in the political arena. Lucretia has her eye on a different prize however, former champion and archenemy of Spartacus, Crixus (Manu Bennett). Love triangles are almost as common as naked flesh in this frenzied reboot, but when it comes to scheming, they all stand in the shadow of Viva Bianca’s Ilithyia. Beautiful and deadly, her self-obsessed seductress could prove to be Spartacus’s most formidable foe.
Shot in a similar style to Zack Snyder’s 300, the action sequences impress with blunt-force efficiency, and on blu-ray the abundance of slow-mo, CGI and female fleshy bits are a joy to behold. Thankfully there’s more to Spartacus than meets the eye, Steve S. Deknight and his team of writers have created an action packed drama with plot twists aplenty, and Spartacus cuts far deeper as a result. There are so many classic moments waiting to be discovered, and there’s no better time to catch up. With series two in production, and prequel series Gods of the Arena coming to DVD and Blu-ray in October, now is the time to become a part of legend.
Rich characters, strong performances and the occasional swear word combine to startling effect, all in the name of air-punching entertainment. Spartacus embraces the clutches of lowest common denominator viewing with wide-eyed enthusiasm, and yet somehow manages to elevate itself with well-written drama and an unwillingness to conform. Your girlfriend might not always agree, but it does kind of beg the question… 'Are you not entertained?' Wrong Gladiator I know, but by Jupiter’s cock, you really do need this series in your collection."