Sunday, September 8, 2013

Blu-Ray Review: 'Spartacus: War Of The Damned'

The Starz Channel’s “Spartacus” may only have lasted for three seasons and a prequel miniseries, but they sure did manage to cram the show with enough blood, boobs, butts, and slow motion to last you at least one lifetime, maybe more. Now the final season, “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” is out on Blu-ray so that you can relive every last gore soaked frame and exposed nipple. Fans will already know what to expect, there is a certain formula the series follows, one that works very well for their purposes, and they don’t deviate from that here. That isn’t meant to sound derogatory in anyway, the show has always been a gleeful amount of fun, and that definitely continues through until the end.

“War of the Damned” picks up in the wake of the second season, “Vengeance,” and finds Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) leading his band of rebels against the forces of Rome. The bulk of the season centers around the escalating conflict between the escaped gladiators and the armies of Marcus Licinius Crassus (Simon Merrels). But don’t worry, for every epic leap through the air, every severed limb, and every spurting geyser of blood, there is just as much romance, sex, and old time melodrama. It wouldn’t be the “Spartacus” that we’ve grown to know and love without all manner of political intrigue, back door dealings, and, especially, betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. That’s the real fun of this series, always has been, this soap opera dressed to look like a miniature version of “300.”

The cast is full to overflowing with buffed out dudes who, no matter the hardships of an extended siege or prolonged battle, always manage to be clean shaven all over their bodies and maintain their six-pack. But all this beefcake is balanced out by women who are devious, badass, and sultry all at the same time. Be assured that, whatever you’re into, there’s plenty of eye candy to go around. The cast does what is asked of them, which in most cases is either to look sexy, or look fierce. McIntyre is fine as the lead, though it’s still hard for me to think of him as Spartacus after Andy Whitfield, who had to relinquish the role due to a bout with cancer, a fight that he tragically later lost. Whitfield is still the face that comes to mind when you think of the series, and every time I see McIntyre on a box cover or poster it always takes a second to connect the face and the character.

All of the previous seasons of “Spartacus” have come packed to the rafters with a worthy collection of bonus features, and “War of the Damned” is no exception to this rule. There are no less than six featurettes of varying lengths. They cover a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, production on the show, the history the series is based on, and the stylistic visual choices that go into creating each episode. There is also a quick look at the costumes, or lack thereof as the case may be, as well as the driving force behind the series.

There is also ample reason to spring for “Spartacus: War of the Damned” on Blu-ray rather than straight DVD. (And hell, right now with the sale price on Amazon the difference is only three bloody cents.) Not only is the high-def picture sharp and crisp, as well as the eardrum spiking Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, but there are a handful of format exclusive bonus features as well. You also walk away with a handful of extended episodes, as well as a bunch audio commentaries with key members of the cast and crew. All in all, if you’re a fan, it’s not a bad piece to add to your Blu-ray collection.

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