Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

This isn't a review of the new mini-series, just a couple of comments that will tell you more about me than about the series. The reason it's not a review is that I didn't watch the show. Well, not all of it.

I'd been looking forward to this because I figured it had been too long since I'd seen a good sword-and-sandal epic, and this looked to be the real thing. Good advance reviews and such. So I tuned in. I knew I was in trouble right away because a notice flashed on the screen to let me know that the language, sensuality, and brutality I was about to see were simply a reflection of the times in which the show was set. I knew immediately that what the notice really meant was that I was about to see a whole lot of cussing, sex, and violence.

Sure enough, that's what I saw. Aside from one of the cheesiest farewell scenes ever filmed, that's all there was: blood, cussing, and sex. Since there wasn't much sex, it was mostly blood and cussing. I've never seen so much blood in such a short time. Sure, it was just CGI blood, but there was an ocean of it.

I'd read about the great "production values" of the series. My reaction to that was: "Huh?" How could anybody watch the first scene and talk about production values? Yikes. And then there's that farewell scene. See it to believe it.

I won't be seeing any more. After fifteen boring minutes, I turned off the set and picked up a book. The beautiful and classy Jean Simmons starred in the movie version of the Spartacus story, with Kirk Douglas and a host of others. I would have been better off to rent the DVD of that one than to watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

25 comments:

MP said...

I have nothing against sex, violence, the language, or the buckets of really phony looking blood. But I do object to being bored, and this thing was really, really boring. Since most of the reviews said it gets better after the first episode I may watch one more, but probably not.

Bill Crider said...

I was really bored, too. I can't figure why the reviews were so good, but maybe I should've watched all of it. Nah, no way.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Bill.

The review I sent you from the NY Daily News called it "soft core porn" and said the same as you about the blood & gore, all in stop action and slow motion.

Give me Tony Curtis and Larry Olivier!

Jeff

teve Oerkfitz said...

Didn't much care for it either. It didn't help that I had just finished rewatching the 2 seasons of HBO's much superior Rome.

Bill Crider said...

I'm glad I'm not alone.

Mr. Philoctetes Digressius (aka L. E. McKenna) said...

Bill,

I have a question for you. Is there anything you can compare it to. For instance, I enjoyed _300_. Of course, I was sold on the film to begin with because I had come to it from the comic series. Of course, the comic is still better, but it didn't take much for me to say, "Okay, mostly straight from the comic. Great film." There was lots of blood and some sex. So is _Spartacus_ even close to _300_?

Thanks.

Bill Crider said...

I confess that I liked 300. This looks like sort of the cheap Asylum rip-off of that one to me.

James Reasoner said...

Dang, I was sort of looking forward to watching this when it comes out on DVD. Now I may give it a pass. We watched the first season of ROME and liked it but never got around to watching the second season because the finale of the first one was such a bummer.

Bill Crider said...

Maybe it gets better. Or maybe I'm wrong. It happens all the time.

Anders E said...

What a coincidence - Kubrick's movie will air (can you say something "airs" when it's on cable?) over here tonight.

Generally speaking, two things ruin Roman drama for me. First, the BBC version of "I, Claudius" which is probably better than anything that will ever be made in the genre. Secondly, the Asterix comic book series which lampoons the genre beyond repair.

steve said...

Doesn't Xena, Princess Warrior get naked? Wouldn't that make it worth watching? Maybe that had something to do with the good reviews.

Bill Crider said...

I think they just need to show those parts of the series.

George said...

HBO has been marketing the bejesus out of SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND (mostly blood). Every movie we've seen in a Regal Theater had a plug for SPARTACUS as part of the preview package. That much heavy marketing is usually a Bad Sign.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

And now she's dead.

Anonymous said...

Good point, George. I knew LEGION would be a turkey even beyond the January opening and the "not available for preview" thing by the heavy-duty advertising.

Xena'a dead? I missed that.

Oh, you mean Jean Simmons.

Never mind.


Jeff

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Yes, Jean Simmons is dead. Another star gone.

Todd Mason said...

FWIW, George, Starz (sic) is the "premium" cable source of this series...Starz is a subsidiary of CBS, Inc, like Showtime is, rather than HB0 (a Time Warner property--the major cross-owernship these days between them is the CW broadcast network).

I haven't seen the SPARTACUS pilot nor later episodes yet, but Starz's track record hasn't been so good so far...their notable investment has been in CRASH, which improves on the film (it would be very difficult not to) but is also a shallow, dull, and trite affair; the Starz sitcoms have averaged better, with the rather good PARTY DOWN, the middling with moments HEAD CASE and HOLLYWOOD RESIDENTIAL...and that's about it aside from some clip shows/promo things and some anime imports they've had dubbed.

Todd Mason said...

Oops, I take that back...Starz is is a susidiary of Liberty Media, mostly known otherwise for cable and station holdings. Though they have some contracts that tie them in with Showtime.

Todd Mason said...

Having now seen 101, I can say you missed most of the best female nudity (just missed the only full-frontal), but that you were able to hear the immortal line, "Keep it near your thighs, where it will warm us both..." I think is enough joy for anyone.

By me, it was less hoky than 300 (certainly less loonily homophobic...about Spartans, no less, for Zeus's sake), but not much, and sure did feel like XENA's more serious bits, or LEGEND OF THE SEEKER's, no surprise there given the same folks are responsible. The language of "inside" politics and soldiers in battle strikes me as never been likely to have avoided expletives, but I do have a problem with not quite everyone needing to affect British accents, because it's all in Europe, doncha know.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, and it's not a miniseries...Starz ordered a second season upon seeing the first episodes. It's open-ended for now...

Bill Crider said...

I have to admit I got a laugh out of the line about the thighs. Too bad I missed all the nudity. I hear orgies are in the future, but I probably won't see them.

Todd Mason said...

Yup. There was already a half-hearted (among other organs) orgyish scene in the pilot, where Spartacus and his wife get to see how each other are enslaved...she's one of several women who are detailed to loll about in shallow pools with rose petals, I guess, floating in them...the women in question are naked in one take, in wet and diaphanous gowns in the next, or at least quite frequently. The kind of continuity error that will be scrutinized quite closely by non-nitpickers as well, I suspect.

Almost as risible as the thigh-warming comment is one of the Thracians being core-shakenly disgusted at the displays of lesbianism-lite going on around them...he having just come from those blood-spurting fields...but that was just Good Fun, right?

Bill Crider said...

CGI gore is always good fun. Those rose petals, or whatever, were all over the place in that sappy farewell scene.

Anonymous said...

all the expense and effort to present an authentic appearance and some idiot(s) have got to spoil the overproduction with stop and jump motion action and buckets of phony cgi blood, ep 1- hero pitchforks crawling legless bad guy towards camera in front of him and fake splash of blood frames mr hero as if coming from behind him and not from the victim,

poorly done, too bad coulda been pretty good

Bill Crider said...

Agreed.