Spartacus: War of the Damned: Season 1, Episode 1

The Red Serpent (22 Jan. 2010)
"Spartacus: Blood and Sand" The Red Serpent (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Biography
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In its war on the Greek peninsula, the Romans convince the Thracians to join them in defeating the Getae, who have been raiding Thracian villages for generations. The Thracians are fierce ... See full summary »

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In its war on the Greek peninsula, the Romans convince the Thracians to join them in defeating the Getae, who have been raiding Thracian villages for generations. The Thracians are fierce warriors and prove to be valiant in battle. They are deceived by the Roman commander, Claudius Glaber, who orders them to fight against the Greeks, something they had not counted on. One of them in particular refuses to fight and rebels against the Romans only to lose the fight and is enslaved along with his wife Sura. The Thracian is transported to Capua where Senator Albinius is sponsoring gladiatorial games. In the arena, the enslaved Thracian manages to defeat four opponents and in allowing the Thracian to live, Senator Albinius decides to name him after a Thracian king from the past: Spartacus. Written by garykmcd

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22 January 2010 (USA)  »

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Trivia

Each of the four gladiators that Spartacus defeated in the arena, fought in a different gladiatorial style. Arkadios (the "Red Serpent" fighter) was a Murmillo. Among the other three fighters was a Retiarius, a Secutor (Axe-wielding) and a Hoplomachus. See more »

Goofs

At the very end when Senator Albinius signals to spare the newly named Spartacus' life he gives the modern thumbs up sign. In ancient Rome the thumbs up sign was to signify the sword being thrust into the heart and therefore death. The closed fist with the thumb against the index finger signified spare the gladiators life. If Senator Albinius had given the thumbs up sign then the gladiator would have been put to death but Spartacus' life was to be spared so the sign was incorrect for the desired result. See more »

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It is what it is
24 January 2010 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

The new Spartacus television series is already polarizing opinions, many thinking it is either genius or garbage. It's pretty early for a pronouncement on the whole series but this episode was pretty much as advertised.

Visually, this is very much what was seen in the previews. A direction that mimics 300 as closely as possible stylistically, without really understanding what Zach Snyder was doing or why. The fact it's a television show probably also limited time and money compared to a movie experience. Everything you've seen in 300 is there in theory, though. Model-like actors, slow-motions, surrealistic bluescreen backgrounds for landscape shots, color correction, etc... Unfortunately, none of it is as well done as 300 but if you loved that stuff in the movie, you may enjoy the visuals here.

Story-wise, we're in classic theory. The story of Spartacus, the movie Gladiator are obvious influences here, along with some nods again to 300. The basic plot should be simple and effective but unfortunately, the script in this particular episode was really weak. Some of the lines are downright embarrassing. We're definitely not in HBO Rome quality of dialogue. There's an old cinema feel of obviousness in most lines and plot points and you've seen all of this before.

Acting-wise is really another fairly weak spot. Andy Whitfield is barely getting by in the title role. Most of the others are embarrassingly bad, especially the female actors. Erin Cummings recites her lines and it's tough to buy the love between Sura and Spartacus. They sure can pretend to get laid, though and do that very well! Viva Bianca, much like Cummings, is another actress who seems to have gotten the part simply based on her looks and shows absolutely no acting ability whatsoever.

These acting weaknesses make it tough to take Blood and Sand very seriously. The bright spot in this episode was the ever-reliable John Hannah. Hannah and Lucy Lawless had very few screen time in this episode but I expect much of the intrigue (and actor heavy work) will come from these two. THis could make the series more interesting as a result.

So, what are you left with? Spartacus is fairly entertaining if you are a nut for antiquity-based movie/television and like epic Hollywood action. Unfortunately, the highly stylized nature of Spartacus may look very appealing right now but this is not a series that will age very well compared to others. Rome, for instance, may look much less flashy than this stuff but 10 years from now, will not look like a bad Rick Astley video clip. Spartacus on the other hand may very well end up with that fate.

It's still cool, but a little too CGI heavy. Hard not to laugh when Spartacus sticks a trident in some gladiator's back and a bloodbath that rivals "The Shining" ensues. But if you're there to enjoy highly stylized fights and polished scenes of pretty actors making out, this might entertain you. Comparisons to HBO's Rome are not only unfair but useless. They are totally different beasts and aim to entertain differently. Watch Blood and Sand for what it is.

I'm hoping the story and acting picks up and that later episodes will adjust the CGI effects a little. If not, I may lose interest despite all the chrome and polish.


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