Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
by Kyle Barrowman
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on September 13th
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The Starz original miniseries, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, will be arriving on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, with all of its over-the-top sex and even more over-the-top violence included and rendered in exquisitely high quality. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena was originally created as a prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which aired on Starz the previous year starring Andy Whitfield as Spartacus. In March of 2010, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, delaying production of a second season. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena was then conceived of as a way to continue exploring the story while also giving Whitfield time to recover for a projected 2011 return to filming. Sadly, a year and a half after the initial diagnosis, Whitfield died yesterday, which will force Starz to move ahead with production of a second season with Australian actor Liam McIntyre in the role of Spartacus.
The greatest feature of this series is undoubtedly the changed dynamic of the gladiator school. In Kubrick’s film, it is very much a slave labor camp, with the gladiators treated terribly and forced to become better killers for the sake of good entertainment. In Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, on the other hand, it is more like a training camp, with camaraderie between the gladiators, respect between Batiatus and the gladiators, and an ambition in the premiere gladiators to win glory in the arena and be the best they can be. It is more of a sporting environment than pure slave labor, with the inevitable revolt caused by Batiatus’ corruption as opposed to something intrinsically wrong with the system.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is the worst of both worlds, unfortunately resulting in a series that is nothing more than wasted potential.
Kyle Barrowman is the Senior Editor of Film Monthly. He is studying film theory and criticism in Chicago.
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