Anchor Bay // 2012 // 556 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // September 11th, 2012
Rest in Peace, Andy Whitfield.
This ain't your daddy's Spartacus. If you think Spartacus: Vengeance might be similar to the Kirk Douglas film, I suggest you gird your loins for something far more intense than a few guys wearing micro-mini dresses in the warm climate of Rome. I have never seen more slit throats, or sword through-and-throughs in my life, and I can't forget all the man and lady parts that are common place in every single episode. Despite all that, this is a wonderfully written show with characters that are remarkably engaging and actors who are a perfect fit in their respective roles. I have to admit, I do miss Andy Whitfield, the original Spartacus who died at the tender age of 39 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. But he was a class act to the very end, giving his blessing to his replacement, Liam McIntyre, before going on to his great reward. McIntyre is wonderful in the role, and it couldn't have been easy coming into a part that had already been established by someone else. However, Spartacus: Vengeance is such a solid show that even with the hole left by Whitfield, the cast doesn't lose any of the chemistry that made the first season so indelible.
Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), along with his fellow slaves of the House of Batiatus, stage a revolt that leaves many dead bodies in its wake. Now re-grouping with a small ragtag crew, the thing first and foremost in Spartacus' mind is enacting revenge on the Roman praetor Gaius Glaber (Craig Parker, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), the man Spartacus blames for his wife's death. But before he can rid the world of his nemesis, Spartacus must build trust and cohesiveness in a group where personal conflicts and cultural clashes could make it impossible to survive the impending onslaught of the mighty Roman army, and jeopardize the freedom they all fought so hard to attain.
Spartacus: Vengeance is an ensemble piece, not focused solely on the Spartacus character. It takes place after the slave rebellion sends Spartacus and his peers on the run from the Roman army. The writers incorporate the stories of several key characters in a cohesive and fluid manner, building up an intensity that finally boils over into a bloody and decisive final battle. We are immersed in this ancient culture, right up until the final shot fades to black and the credits begin to roll.
Vengeance runs rampant throughout (hence the title) and it's the fuel that propels many of the characters. Spartacus, who is still pining for his wife, is driven by two very strong desires: avenging her death, and freeing any and all slaves that come his way. But there are other key stories to follow as well. Crixus (Manu Bennett, 30 Days of Night) is Spartacus' former rival, but the two form a friendship after aligning forces in the revolt. Crixus also has another motive: he is in search of the love of his life, Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt), who was sold into slavery by Lucretia (Lucy Lawless, Battlestar Galactica), the former mistress of the House of Batiatus.
Lucreitia is the sole survivor of the slave rebellion, and has been wandering her former home, disheveled, and as mad as a hatter ever since. But she is crazy like fox with her own sinister plans that begin to take shape after the arrival of Glaber and his wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca). Ilithyia is the daughter of a powerful senator who wants to trade in her husband Gaius for a newer and more influential model. Forced to come back to Capua, a place filled with many bad memories, this dangerous and vindictive woman renews her friendship with Lucretia, and the two form a very dangerous alliance. Gaius hopes to be as powerful a senator as his father-in-law, and resents being sent to Capua to reign in Spartacus, but until he does, he will never reach the political heights he so desires.
Resident cockroach Ashur (Nick Tarabay) is an opportunistic slave and former gladiator who aligns himself with Gaius in order to capture Spartacus. He believes that, through this deal with the devil, he will achieve the respect and power he believes is his due. There's so much backstabbing and plot twists going on you never feel at ease. Don't make the mistake of thinking you know what a character is going to do, because motives and loyalties change on a dime. It's whiplash inducing, but oh so entertaining.
We truly believe these characters, especially McIntyre's portrayal of Spartacus. He is the undisputed leader of this disparate group of rebels, flaws and all. There's a depth and honesty to his character that is shown through his strength as well as his mistakes. On more than one occasion Spartacus flies off the handle, letting his emotions get the better of him. But he is always able to reign them in again, learn from them, and continue the fight to free the men and women living under Roman rule.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Spartacus: Vengeance is a visually stylistic production, with slick fighting scenes shot on the award winning Phantom camera, which moves at a high rate of speed and allows the fast-paced fights to be shown in super slow motion, making it possible to see every sword thrust, blood splatter,and CG wound with crystal clarity. The Dolby 5.1 mix makes for dialogue that is easy to hear along with composer Joseph Loduca's wonderfully intense score.
There is an immense amount of intensity in Spartacus: Vengeance, which will have you on the edge of your seat throughout all 10 episodes. It is a far bigger production, now that it is outside of the confinement of the arena, and one can only wonder what we have in store for us in the third and final installment which begins airing in January of 2013. With a title like Spartacus: War of the Damned, we can plan on an even grander scale than is displayed in Spartacus: Vengeance. I, for one, can't wait.
The gods have shown their favor. Not Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 556 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site