Spartacus War of the Damned (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus only just joined Spartacus but he fights through to the end of the show
The rebellion has swelled to thousands of freed slaves, and Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), alongside his generals Crixus (Manu Bennett), Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and Agron (Dan Feuerriegel), prepares for war with Rome. The Roman Senate turns to Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells), a wealthy, strategic politician, for aid. With a young Julius Caesar as an ally, Crassus must crush the rebellion. The epic conclusion of a legendary journey, Spartacus: War of the Damned unleashes a battle unlike anything ever seen before.
Okay cards on the table. I’d never seen a single of episode of Spartacus until this four disc set arrived at my door. I knew what it was about, I have many friends that watch it and generally I’d heard a lot of good things but somehow I’d never really had the chance sit down and watch this sword and sandals epic until now. Coming in to the last season only took about one episode before I felt that I was as up to speed as I needed to be to get what was at stake. It took even less time to realise just how extreme Spartacus is in its approach, to well, everything.
The full on sex scenes are shot with as much intensity as the fight scenes and those fight scenes are insanely brutal. Of course, Spartacus has come off of the back of 300, so there’s lots of full CGI backgrounds that never quite marry to the foregrounds in terms of realism, there’s a ton of digital blood sprays as well as half naked shouty men and the 300 staple of a whole lot of playing with frame speed to add intensity to every sword blow (or indeed pelvic thrust) is rammed down your throat as much as possible. Spartacus is far from subtle and there’s a compelling charm to just how insanely brutal, bloody and sexy the show can get.
I found that Spartacus worked wonders when it came to battle. The final battle in the final episode is incredibly impressive in terms of structure and scale and even more impressive when you remember this is a TV show. The only real thing that burst my bubble of enjoyment is that many of the actors are a tad wooden with their dialogue and it’s largely because the dialogue is pretty lousy. Like a lot of adult orientated TV shows, the requirement to drop an F-Bomb as much as possible is high on the list when it comes to screenwriting. Sadly F-Bombs drop with thuds every time they are shouted. The best comparison is can pull for those that don’t know the show is it’s essentially Star Wars Prequel dialogue with a slice of potty mouth. “ We must face the F**KING Senate and cast a vote of no F**KING confidence, F**KERS!”. It actually becomes pretty funny after a while, and unlike shows that had the same problem for a while( Game of Thrones) Spartacus never really overcame its awkward swearing for me.
Given that none of this is on location, yet most of it takes place outside thanks to the 300 style CGI environments, the lighting here is always warm and fake looking as opposed to natural. This boosts character’s tans, increases the intensity of the dark reds of the Roman cloaks and gives everything a rustic brown and beige creamy feel.
Detail is about as good as DVD can muster up with skin textures, stubble, full beards and blue eyes popping out of the screen very well, especially in close ups. The obvious CGI sets and backgrounds are bright and clean but as I mentioned before, never really marry the minimal practical foregrounds as would be expected. This gives most sets quite a fake appearance and never really sells the illusions as a visual delight as much 300 did when it debuted this visually ground breaking technique.
This doesn’t really stop Spartacus from being a pretty looking show with a solid DVD presentation. The lower lit twilight scenes can get a bit digital looking and blacks are always a little off but none of that is really enough to take away from the striking appearance this show has. It’s bright, it’s warm, there’s a whole lot of skin on show and even more blood and dirt covering it most of the time and the DVD more than copes with the bold visuals on offer (even if you know that it must look even more incredible on Blu-ray the whole time).
The clear, usually not all that convincing dialogue sits well in the centre speaker most of the time and the rest of the set up takes on everything else. Action and sex scenes (after all they are largely shot the same) are full of bassy thumps, screams and gasps but thankfully it’s just the fight scenes that come with the extra squidgy blood sprays.
There are strong slushy sword slices deep with spurts of blood at the end of them and the ambience of battle sits in the rears quite well, though it never really feels like a wall of battling men and women as you might expect form a full on battle in a movie. Still, Spartacus provides a strong and punchy audio presentation and it's used well to sell the action in the show. .
Well this is the last season of the show that’s run for four season, yet this DVD set comes with zero extras. That’s pretty weak, right?
Spartacus: War of the Damned doesn’t really let you stay on the fence about whether you like it or not. You’ll either go for the full on onslaught of blood, sex, violence, gore and F-bombs or you won’t. This is an extreme show that was probably not for everyone but I have to say, this final season delivered in spades to the teenage sector of my brain. The DVD collection looks and sounds great and delivers on the largely CGI visuals and hard hitting audio the show throws out, it’s just a shame there’s no features on here.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 29th April 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare, Dan Feuerriegel, Simon Merrells
Genre: Action, Drama and War
Length: 558 minutes
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