BEST MOVIES EVER TV REVIEW: SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA 2011
TV REVIEW: ‘Spartacus: Gods of the Arena’
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Starz made their mark with ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand‘ giving us lots of blood violence and sex for everyone whatever your into, and ‘Spartacus: Gods Of the Arena‘ doesn’t deviate from that path which isn’t a bad thing.
I didn’t watch ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand‘ until I could watch the entire season back to back on demand, and it was definitely quite the show that kept me watching ‘just one more episode’ before going to bed until I realized I’d watched the entire season. I don’t get that way about many shows aside from ‘Dexter’, but ‘Spartacus‘ had me coming back for more. One of the biggest strengths of that show was the amazing screen presence of potential star Andy Whitfield in the title role. At the end of “Blood and Sand,” it seemed like Whitfield could drive the show for years and possibly become a star.
When I found out that the second season would be delayed and without Andy Whitfield, I figured it was all over for Starz. So Starz came up with a quick fix to keep the heat going for the show and replacing Andy Whitfield has created a lot more awareness for the show. Whitfield does make a very very quick appearance in ‘Spartacus: Gods Of the Arena’ but that’s it.
Where ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ started a little slower, ‘Gods Of the Arena’ reminded me of ‘Machete’ as within minutes of it starting, men are being decapitated and women’s breasts are taking center stage. By going back to years before the action of Blood and Sand,’ the writers of ‘Gods of the Arena’ allow themselves the freedom to play with already-defined characters like Batiatus (John Hannah), Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), and Crixus (Manu Bennett). The 6-episode series focuses on Batiatus rising to power through the support of his best gladiator, Gannicus (Dustin Clare). Starz was smart in bringing back gladiator owner Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), prior to the unhappy events (for them, anyway) of the earlier show, and before Spartacus’ arrival. The writers knew what worked with ‘Blood and Sand’ and aren’t sorry about giving us more of that.
The first episode begins where the first season left off: a brief recap of some of the most significant (and the most violent) events of Blood and Sand, which we soon realize is Batiatus’ life flashing before his eyes as he lay dying at the end of that season. Just as quickly, we’re thrown right into the middle of the action and brutal scene that follows shows us that this prequel’s not messing around, and we’re gonna get a lot more coming at us. As any fan of ‘Blood and Sand’ knows, when the violence kicks in, we’re gonna get some sex soon following since we know all the pent up energy needs to be released somehow and they give us what we want. Whether it’s two guys, a girl and guy, two girls and a guy or a big crowd, this show provides it. I think that’s one of the smart decisions putting it on a Friday night since it’s an ideal end of the work week thing to watch.
One such example is the scene at a Roman toilet, which is both shocking and fascinating from a historical perspective, and there’s much more of the show’s trademark blending of sex and violence, emphasizing the brutality and perversity of the Roman empire. At one point, Batiatus is humiliated by a rival who has his men hold him down so he can piss on him. One of the big themes of ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ was that the unimaginable violence of the Roman gladiator ring and the slave trade was also mirrored in the brutal way the citizens themselves treated each other as they jockeyed for social status. We see early on how important it is to Batiatus that he improve his own standing – and hints of the total moral cowardice we already know is in his soul. A gladiator battle in a marketplace – which is all Batiatus’ men are worthy of at this point – is remarkable in its rapid shifting of fortunes. ‘Gods Of the Arena’ carries on with this, but there are some plot holes along the way, but ‘Spartacus’ is more about atmosphere and their use of slo-mo.
The only gripe about the show is with star Dustin Clare as Gannicus, not to mention the absence of Andy Whitfield. Gannicus just isn’t that interesting, but that may change in upcoming episodes. Hannah, Lawless, Murray, and Mensah all deliver the goods but the show falls flat in its center. After just one episode I really didn’t care about Gannicus or what happened to him. It seems that Clare doesn’t have talents or ‘it factor’ that Whitfield brought to the screen right from the first episode of ‘Blood and Sand’.
The good thing about this series is that there’s something in it for everyone no matter what walk of life you are. Guys can watch it with their girlfriends, closet cases can feel safe watching it as their parents will gladly think their ogling the bare breasts not realizing that they might be looking at the opposite ones. If you were a fan of ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’, ‘Gods Of the Arena’ is a nice holdover till the new season starts.
Best Movie Ever Rating: B
‘Spartacus: Gods Of the Arena’ isn’t as powerful and strong as ‘Blood and Sand’ this guilty pleasure from Starz hits all the right notes.
‘Spartacus: Gods Of the Arena’ premieres on Starz Friday, January 21, 2011.