DVD Review: Spartacus: War of the Damned

Spartacus1Spartacus: War of the Damned is the third series inspired by the story of the Thracian gladiator Spartacus and his journey from gladiator in the arenas of Italy to the leader of a rebel uprising in the years 73 to 71 BCE.

Produced by Steven S. DeKnight and Robert Tapert, the series has garnered a reputation since it first debuted in January 2010 for its no holds barred telling of the story via its use of often graphic scenes of violence and sex in a bid to present a realistic and stylised version of this historical figure’s life as it might have been.

War of the Damned is the final series and primarily focuses on the events leading up to the final battle between Spartacus’ rebel army and the Roman army lead by Marcus Licinius Crassus. Throughout the season the story shifts between both armies and their leaders allowing the audience to see how each side is preparing for the final battle. This is where one of the key strengths of the show, that of character development, is displayed and as such we are able to not only cheer on the rebels but also develop in some cases a respect for their Roman enemies as we see their human sides too. The series also shows the challenges faced by Spartacus in not only battling his Roman enemies but also the challenges of building and maintaining an army capable of helping him obtain his goal of a slavery free world.

As with the previous two series’ there is still a vast amount of the aforementioned graphic sex and violence here, however at times the violence does appear a lot more fake. This is largely, one imagines, due to the producers attempts to try and better what they have done before and as such the kills, whilst graphic, do look more CGI than in the previous two seasons before it. That said it could also be due to the audience becoming more accustomed to the show’s violence and the techniques used to create it. Either way the effect is still the same and you do often find yourself cringing when you see a soldier cleaved in two by a sword.

Spartacus2One of the other key strengths of the past two seasons has been that of the performances by the cast and this season is no different. Liam McIntyre returns as Spartacus and delivers a brilliant performance in which he manages to show the audience not only the character’s rage against his Roman oppressors but also the strategic, kind and generous side that makes Spartacus not only a capable leader but a friend to those in his inner circle. Newcomer Simon Merrell plays the devious, strategic family man turned Roman general, Crassus, with such aplomb that at times you find yourself torn as to whether you dislike him or not. Thanks to Merrell, you also find yourself believing in Crassus as a credible foe for Spartacus and as such this adds a sense of anticipation to their eventual meeting on the battlefield.

We also see the return of all of the fans favourite rebels from the previous season alongside other newcomers in the roles of the new Roman characters, such as Crassus’ family and the members of the Roman political landscape. Through great performances they all help round out the world enough that it adds a layer of reality and believability to the show’s plots and as such the audience may struggle to believe that certain parts did not happen.

Special mention must go to the ever brilliant Manu Bennett as Crixus, for another well rounded performance that shows the final evolution of the character he has been playing since the show’s debut. Another special mention goes to series newcomer Todd Lasance, whose performance manages to bring to life a devious, cunning and cocky Julius Caesar and in doing so provides the audience with a villain they love to hate.

Cast aside and the production values of the series continue to be as good as the previous two series’. Thanks to a mixture of impressive sets and CGI, you not only get the opinion that the producers wanted to go out with a bang but also that you are looking at a believable depiction of the world at that time.

In conclusion it is safe to say that despite the graphic and sexually explicit content, Spartacus: War of the Damned is a fitting end to a series that has entertained audiences for just over three short years and is a perfect example of a show riding the wave of its own popularity enough to go out on a blood and gore filled strategic and emotional high.

Spartacus War Of The Damned is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from April 29th and can also be bought as part of The Spartacus Collection that features all of the show’s three seasons and the prequel series, Gods Of The Arena on either format on the same day.

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