Spartacus: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
Spartacus is a series that really had to grow on me. I never saw the original TV run of the first season, Blood and Sand, or the prequel mini-series, Gods of the Arena, but I caught up a few years back on Netflix. I remember being pretty turned off at the first episode, which felt like a clumsy rip-off of 300 at the time. However, I gave the show a second chance and sure enough, it found its footing a few episodes in, and quickly became a must-watch series for me. While Spartacus obviously still owes a lot to the films 300 and Gladiator, it has found its own unique identity, delivering compelling storylines and fantastic, emotional performances on a regular basis. Few shows could survive the loss of their lead actor (the fantastic Andy Whitfield), but Spartacus defied the odds and continued on with Liam McIntyre in the role. It’s a testament to both the show’s writing and the performances of not just these two leads, but also the stellar supporting cast that Spartacus remained an engaging, powerful historical drama until its final episode. Now Anchor Bay has released Spartacus: The Complete Series, collecting every single episode of the show as well as all-new special features and an UltraViolet digital copy in a tidy box set.
Spartacus tells the tale of a Thracian warrior, who is captured by Romans and sold into slavery. Spartacus is purchased as a gladiator in the ludus of a man named Baitatus, and strung along on the promise that if Spartacus fights for him, Batiatus will ensure that he and his wife Sura are reunited. Spartacus quickly rises through the ranks and becomes the Champion of Capua, but Batiatus breaks his promise and has Sura killed. When Spartacus learns the truth of what happened, his rage can hardly be contained, yet he manages to strategically plan an uprising against the house of Batiatus and those who would enslave their fellow man. By the end of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Spartacus and his rebellion have completely overthrown Batiatus and are set to take the fight to the entire Roman empire.
Just when Spartacus was gaining steam at the end of Blood and Sand, Andy Whitfield became ill. The show’s creators came up with the idea to shoot a prequel series, Gods of the Arena, which would star the popular character Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and give Whitfield time to recover. Unfortunately, he never did, passing away in late 2011, and after a lengthy search Liam McIntyre was cast as his replacement. Despite the massive amount of pressure to keep the show going strong and impress the fans, McIntyre jumped headfirst into the role, honoring Whitfield’s take on the character while making it his own. McIntyre would play Spartacus for the remaining two seasons, Vengeance and War of the Damned.
Spartacus: The Complete Series includes a host of special features, featuring both preexisting extras from past Blu-ray releases as well as three brand new commentary tracks and a whole disk with never-before-seen extras. The three new commentaries are for the Season One episodes “Legends”, “Great and Unfortunate Things”, and “Mark of the Brotherhood”. “Spartacus Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre” has the actor talking about his top ten favorite moments from the series.
“Scoring a Hit: Composer Joseph DoLuca” takes a look at the creation of the show’s epic soundtrack. “An Eye Full: Roger Murray” gives fans a peek at the creation of the prosthetic and visual effects work on Spartacus. “Spartacus: Paul Grinder” features the 2nd unit director. “The Last Word: John Hannah” has the actor who plays the devious Batiatus giving his thoughts on the series. While these new features aren’t very long or in-depth, they merely supplement the huge amount of extras already existing on the other Blu-ray discs in this collection. There are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as extended episodes scattered throughout.
Without a doubt, Spartacus is one of the greatest shows to debut on television in recent years. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea at first, the show greatly benefits from the box set format. Watching the episodes back to back really helps to bring out the nuances in the show’s writing, and it won’t be long before Spartacus has its hooks in you and you end up devouring all 39 episodes. If you’re a fan of the show, Spartacus: The Complete Series packs an enormous amount of extra content into this collection’s thirteen discs, with a stellar audiovisual presentation, so there’s no reason not to pick this up immediately.