3.31- SPARTACUS mini-series

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SPARTACUS mini-series review

By David Blackwell

4 hours (1.78:1 widescreen)

Airs on April 18 and 19 at 8 pm ET/PT

USA Network


Goran Visnjic (Spartacus), Rhona Mitra (Varinia), Angus MacFayden (Crassus), Alan Bates (Agrippa), Ben Cross (Glabrus), and Henry Simmons (Draba)

Screenplay by Robert Shaken (based on the novel by Howard Fast), directed by Robert Dornhelm

Exec. Producers- Adam Shapiro, Robert Schenkkan, Angela Mancuso, Producer- Ted Kurdyla, Music- Randy Miller, Director of Photography- Kees Van Oostrum, A.S.C.

PLOT: The movie starts out with Varinia being taken prisoner by the Romans as they loot, burn, murder, and rape in a village in Gaul. Spartacus is saved from being crucified at a mine to become a gladiator. He fights like a machine and doesn't treat Varinia like the other people do.  He is kind to her.  They form a bond, and everything changes for Spartacus when he loses a fight against an African named Draba in a private fight for some Romans. Draba decides to attack the audience and is killed before he can kill anyone. Spartacus is confused and asks Varinia why the Draba spared him. Varinia says that rather than live as a beast, Draba chose to die as a man.

After an African slave is killed in the front of the slaves as punishment, Spartacus and the other slaves revolt. Other slaves join Spartacus as he tries to get them beyond the reach of the Romans. Rome sends soldiers to kill Spartacus as two political rivals use the slave rebellion to their own advantage.

REVIEW: I liked this mini-series. It is one of the best mini-series ever produced for USA Network. Great acting from every actor involved in this production. The direction is quite good despite one battle scene could have benefited from a few more shots for better flow of the start of that scene.

The production has outdone itself with VFX that will be good (even the temp VFX on the Screener DVD doesnt look half bad). Goran Visnjic looks more like I would imagine Spartacus to look like because Kirk Douglas looked too old as Spartacus when Stanley Kubrick directed the classic movie. The mini-series doesnt disappoint and thankfully we are spared the "I'm Spartacus! No, I'm Spartacus!" scene.

The mini-series draws parallels to Braveheart. William Wallace wanted freedom for Scotland where Spartacus wanted freedom for the slaves that were with him. The ones who ruled see the slaves a threat to be destroyed in the same way the British saw the rebellious Scots as a threat to be squashed. The temp music on the Screener DVD even uses some music from Braveheart. It will be interesting to hear the final score for the mini-series and see how it puts across the mood and emotions in SPARTACUS.

The set design and costumes are good. SPARATACUS is a big production with the scope and emotion of BRAVEHEART. I have to say the mini-series is at least as good as the Stanley Kubrick movie starring Kirk Douglas. This is definitely a mini-series that wont disappoint.

SCREENER DVD REVIEW: The quality of the video is great on this Screen DVD that came with the Press kit. No visible artifacts. The flesh tones and colors are right. The picture is sharp and vivid. The DVD is a step up in quality from the TOUCHING EVIL pilot Screener DVD (which wasnt bad, but the SPARTACUS one is better).

The mini-series is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with good sound for a Screener DVD. The music and dialogue are at the right levels.

PRESS KIT REVIEW: The press Kit is rather nicely designed. A leather strap is tied around the press kit folder. The press Kit has the DVD in a pouch on the front of the folder. 20 pages of information on the film and bios of the cast & crew is included inside of the kit. There is also eight pages of images from the mini-series in a sepia tone.   It is a very nice put together press kit from USA Network.

This review is (c)4-16-2004 David Blackwell and no permission is given to reprint this review anywhere. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com

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No slaves or Romans were hurt during the writing of this review. All slaves were given their freedom.