Spartacus: Blood and Sand

starz-spartacus-headerWhen I saw the ads, I have to admit I was a bit put off.  It looked to me like a rip-off of the movie THE 300.   I was expecting a lot of historical revisionism. I downloaded the show on my ipod for the first episode and I was pleasantly surprized. 

It is good, and it feels real.  

I am a big fan of the Kirk Douglas Movie Spartacus, and watching the Starz production startled me a bit.  The gladiators seem happy to be enslaved to this Ludus (training camp).  In fact — like an Army platoon — they have no problem shouting that the “Capua Ludus” is the best.    

In the Kirk Douglas production there is no enthusiasm.  The gladiators do what they have to do.  They have no choice.  They fight, they eat, they die.  But the movie never leaves the premise that they are enslaved, and they are doomed.   There is alway an oppressive atmosphere draped over the  movie.

In the  movie Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) asks the name of a fellow slave.  The slave answers something along the lines of, “You don’t want to know my name.  Someday you may have to kill me.”

In this modern production by Starz, the gladitors have a certain pride in their organization.  Is this possible?   This puts forth a problem for me, because we know by the historical accounts they gladiators rebelled.  The gladiators portrayed  talk about being “gods”…”titans”…they are indoctrinated so that the “lowest base will find purpose.”   Somehow I can’t get away form from the notion we are looking at a military organization.  That the guy who wrote this decided that this is a modern platoon of soldiers.  That redemption will be found in ”joining the brotherhood” and becoming one of “them.”  For me as a member of a military organizaton I found this familiar.

Except in Roman Society the gladiator was the lowest of the low. 

I am wondering how they are going to get to the key plot point when the gladiators revolt.  This group seems a little too happy with their condition.  We know from history that the Spartacus Revolt is coming.   Where is the discontent?

As for the costuming — the show is brilliant.  As for the attitude of the characters (the historical context) of how human beings reacted at that time seems to be true to life.   I warn you that the show has strong language and strong subject matter…wait the times were that way…so it should be no surprise to hear a foul word or see someone naked.

I don’t know what direction this series is going to go, and I’m always a little nervous when it comes from actual historical characters.  I hope they keep this an accurate portrayal and not a show sub-titled the ’Ludus’ years and he never breaks free.   Anyway, the historians that wrote about Spartacus published their accounts hundreds of years after the event.  Do we know what really happened?  His body was never found — he died in battle — which makes me wonder if anyone really knew what he was like.   What’s more do we really know what his motives were?  I honestly thing the writers have some wiggle room in their interpretation.  

Is it gratuitiously violent? 

Yes. 

Is there sex and gore

Yes. 

Is it good history?

Maybe not…but something tells me if they keep to the broad strokes of history and only interpret the smaller aspects of the man that has been lost in time, this show is going to be great.

Comments

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