Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spartacus Blood and Sand: Not so bad after all?

Surprisingly the most recent low budget recreation of the ancient world, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, is actually pretty damn good.

I saw the first season in full a while ago (from U.S TV) and I was surprised how fun and interesting it really this. The teaser trailers made it look ultra low budget, faux stylistic and a little silly, and while that's all pretty much true - they've actually managed to make a pretty decent TV show that gets better as the first season goes on. That seems to be the consensus among many people - it's surprisingly not bad and it gets better episode by episode.

I'm a huge fan of the BBC'S I, Claudius and HBO's Rome, both of which are immensely well done shows that capture the essence of the classical world in different yet interesting ways. I suspected Spartacus would be a cheaply done 300 in episodic form - entertaining enough but missing something. I suppose I was wrong.

The show basically chronicles the rise of Spartacus and his reasons for initiating the servile rebellion. Since we know very little of the real Spartacus (such as one can now exist), most of this element of the show is fictive. The context it's set in (late Republican Rome) is, of course, not fictive, and the show does reasonably well in rendering the period in which Spartacus operated.

It's been remarked that the moral behind Spartacus' rebellion (betrayed by a Roman, his wife in slavery) is quintessentially modern in conception, which is true I think, but it does give some pathos and motivation to the character (despite said motivation being very similar to that of a certain Maximus Decimus Meridius, give or take).

It seems the show has been popular enough to continue, although they are making a prequel (which has to be entirely fictional) owing to the lead actor, Andy Whitfield, developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as opposed to a sequel.

If the sequel is made, I wonder how they'll characterise the defeat of Spartacus at the hands of Crassus, and if it'll essentially be Kubrick's Spartacus all over again. There is some mileage in romanticising characters who face the nefarious might of the Roman state and are unceremoniously crucified along the Appian Way, but it's curiously modern. I'm supporting the Romans here - and history does too. Despite the several servile wars - they were all crushed - slavery continued for centuries and Spartacus is nothing more now than a figure fit for embellishment in low budget TV shows. Kind of sad, really.

That idea, though, is ever so slightly cerebral, which I can be guilty of, and it really shouldn't take too much away from enjoying this show!

In other business, I'm reading a book about the ancient novel and I'll hopefully put something up about that soon.

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