You don't need to be a scholar to know that Starz' "Spartacus" series takes its liberties with historical facts. It also doesn't have a lot in common with Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus." The hit series has far more in common with Zack Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel, "300." "Spartacus" utilizes the same green screen techniques to create an ultra-stylized version of Ancient Rome. It also features plenty of slow motion sequences and a copious amount of CG blood. Throats are slashed open, skulls are bashed in, and limbs are sliced off. Sex is also a huge part of "Spartacus" as the series creators push the boundaries of what is allowable on cable television.
The series debuted in 2010 and followed the exploits of a warrior named Spartacus (originally played by Andy Whitfield), who was betrayed by an ambitious Roman officer, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker). Spartacus is separated from his beloved wife and forced to become a gladiator under the Machiavellian auspices of Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah). Joined by fellow gladiators like Crixus (Manu Bannett) and former trainer Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), Spartacus leads a revolt against those that enslaved him.
Tragedy struck off-screen when series lead Andy Whitfield succumbed to Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2011. Before Whitfield's death, he gave producers his blessing to re-cast the role of Spartacus with Liam McIntyre. The second season of "Spartacus," subtitled "Vengeance," deals with the aftermath of the bloody rebellion. Spartacus and his followers march through the Roman countryside freeing other slaves and bolstering their numbers. Meanwhile, Glaber is sent by the Senate to the ruins of the gladiatorial school where he is shocked to find a lone survivor, Batiatus's wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). Lucretia is left in fragile mental state, but that doesn't mean she hasn't stopped scheming behind the scenes. She secretly works against Glaber by exploiting his pregnant wife Illythia (Viva Bianca), who desires for more power and attention. Meanwhile, Spartacus's forces are joined by Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a great and arrogant champion of the arena, who was first introduced in the prequel series, "Gods of the Arena."
Anchor Bay has released "Spartacus: Vengeance" in a 3-disc set. The episodes included are:
- "Fugitivus" – Spartacus is determined to gain revenge against Glaber, who has been tasked by the Senate to quell the slave rebellion.
- "A Place in This World" – Lucretia is thought of as an oracle blessed by the gods as Spartacus leads his army in their search for Naevia.
- "The Greater Good" – Spartacus frees the slaves forced to work in the mines while Oenomaus is tortured for information about his allies.
- "Empty Hands" – The rebels are hit hard as Glaber ambushes them following their rescue mission at the mines
- "Libertus" – The slaves find sanctuary with an elderly hermit named Lucius Caelius as Spartacus plans an assault on the gladiatorial arena.
- "Chosen Path" – Spartacus tries to enlist Gannicus in their cause while Glaber attempts to ally himself with the vainglorious leader of a powerful militia.
- "Sacrementum" – Spartacus frees a group of Germanic slaves, but finds his leadership tested by one of the men he saved.
- "Balance" – Gannicus has captured Illithyia in the hopes that they can ransom her for much-needed arms and supplies.
- "Monsters" – Glaber leads an all out assault on the rebellion as Illithyia schemes against Lucretia.
- "Wrath of the Gods" – Spartacus plans as next move as the remaining survivors seek refuge on Mt. Vesuvius.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is stunning with bold colors and tiny details such as glistening sweat, rough stubble, and the blood and dirt caked on bodies coming out nicely.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound is a delight for the ears with the rumbling of combat shaking from the speakers.
Disc 1 includes the following commentary tracks: "Fugitivus" with Series creator Steven S. DeKnight, Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Liam McIntyre; "A Place in the World with Steven S. DeKnight, Lucy Lawless, Laim McIntyre, and Peter Mensah; "The Greater Good" with Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Lucy Lawless, and Craig Parker; and "Empty Hands" with Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Director Mark Beesley, VFX Art Director Peter Baustaedter, and Viva Bianca.
Disc 2 includes the following commentary tracks: "Libertus" with Director Rick Jacobson and Liam McIntyre, "Chosen Path" with Steven S. DeKnight, Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless and Nick Tarabay; and "Sacrementum" with Rob Tapert, Director Jesse Warn and Dustin Clare.
Disc 3 includes a commentary track with Steven S. DeKnight, Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless and Liam McIntyre on "Wrath of the Gods." You'll also get the following bonus features:
Starz Studios – Spartacus: Vengeance (11:57) is a quick EPK-style preview for the second season.
The Making of Spartacus: Vengeance (5:32) focuses on the digital effects, production design, and costumes for the new season.
Behind the Camera: Directing the Rebellion (4:32) focuses on director Michael Hurst as he blocks and shoots several major sequences.
On Set with Liam McIntyre (6:36) looks at the training and preparation taken on by the actor.
Burning Down the House: The VFX of Episode 205 (12:28) is a brief commentary track with visual effects supervisor Charlie McClellan as he discusses the arena siege.
The Legend of Spartacus (11:09) attempts to separate fact from fiction as historians discuss what little they know about the real Spartacus.
Famous Last Words (6:38) are quick interviews with some of the cast members as they discuss their final moments on the show.
Rounding out the extras are a blooper reel and a 30 second teaser for the next season, "Spartacus: War of the Damned."
"Spartacus: Vengeance" marks another great season by mixing soap opera storylines of betrayal and lust with buckets of blood. There's plenty of sex and carnage for everyone.