BBC Video // 2008 // 353 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 6th, 2009
These are the legendary warriors of history.
From the BBC, a six-episode series chronicling the exploits and sword-swinging bodaciousness of some of the most infamous men of war the Earth has ever seen.
The series focuses on the following six Alpha males: Attila the Hun, Spartacus, Napoleon, The Shogun, Richard the Lionheart and Cortes. Each badass gets his own hour-long mini-biography, which concerns itself with the pivotal battles and events in his life. You've got Attila tormenting the Romans, Spartacus leading his revolt against the same, the Shogun unifying Japan, Richard the Lionheart on the Third Crusade, Cortes doing his thing in Central American with the Aztecs and Napoloen the diminutive dynamo running wild in Europe.
I enjoyed this series quite a bit. While the quality isn't quite at the level of big budget feature film, Warriors easily outpaces your standard-issue History Channel production. For a TV series, that's no small compliment and that high level of execution and production do much to raise the credibility of the show. The staging of the battles is swell and though CGI was certainly used to augment some of the larger army sequences it's implemented smoothly and not distracting. When the camera zooms in for the more intimate combat, visceral choreography takes over -- and more than a few blood squibs -- and bears some solid action fruit.
Bolstering the handsome production values is a satisfying mixture of storytelling and acting. As the title cards make clear, the stories were written through painstaking research and historians were heavily involved in the plotting. The acting is above average as well, with a few recognizable faces popping up, such as Steven Waddington, that dude who played Sean Bean's sidekick in the Sharpe series.
Each installment is interesting and informative, though varied in its content. Richard the Lionheart, Attila the Hun and Spartacus tend to feature more action whereas The Shogun, Cortes and Napoleon dwell on the politics and strategy of warfare (or in the case of Cortes, the total letdown of gold-free, smallpox-ridden Aztec civilization).
As awesome as these studs were on the battlefield, the series doesn't gloss over their warts. Cortes, for example, was a master warrior but his legacy was less than sterling. On the flipside, Richard the Lionheart is spared the PC treatment though he's neck-deep in Crusade action. All in all, it's a fair look at controversial figures.
Who's going to be into this release? A lot of folks I would think. Certainly anyone with a knack for history or biographies or generally well-done period pieces. I'd also say school teachers might find some value here. Students will get their learn on, and the research that went into the shows is sound. Plus, stabbing and stuff! (Note: despite some mild violence and the occasional bloody phlegm-ball, the material is appropriate for teen viewers.)
The DVD set is a winner, sporting a detailed and clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and solid 2.0 stereo mixes. The third disc of the three-disc set features three bonus programs, two dealing with Hannibal and one with Genghis Khan. That's a lot of burly bang for your buck.
A beautifully mounted series tackles a handful of compelling historical butt-kickers. Definitely worth a look if you have even a passing interest in this kind of stuff. Interestingly, this series was also called "Heroes and Villains." I suppose they didn't want to upset the Cortes fans out there.
Not guilty. Regulators -- mount up!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 353 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episodes