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Spartacus: War Of The Damned (Blu-ray Review)

spartacus war of the damned thumb whysobluAnother season of Spartacus has been released on Blu-ray and once again Why So Blu is all over it!  Many have come around to appreciating the stylish and blood-soaked action/drama series over the years, as they learned that there was much more to it, beyond the sex and violence, which includes the intriguing story and wonderfully realized characters, but Why So Blu was among those who cherished the series from the beginning.  Now we have the latest season’s release on Blu-ray.  Spartacus: War of the Damned picks up where the last season left off, which will lead to an inevitable end for the series.  Fortunately, this ultimately led to a great build of the season to a fantastic finale, as the show still managed to hold on to its familiar tone, which balances its dynamic and over-the-top action sequences and bloodshed with well-handled characterization and story structure.  It only helps that the Blu-ray format is perfect to show off the fantastic video and audio presentation transferred onto the disc, along with a strong selection of extras.  Spartacus has returned to Blu-ray and it truly brings the war home to its audience in full force.

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Series: 

The first season of this series was subtitled Blood and Sand, which revolved around the character who would adopt the name Spartacus, after being captured, put into slavery, and forced to participate in the gladiator games.  That season ended with a slave revolt, which had Spartacus lead his fellow slaves away from their captors, murdering their owners in the process.  Due to original Spartacus star Andy Whitfield’s illness, at the time, this first season was followed by a prequel season, Gods of the Arena, which was able to delve more into the history of certain characters, while introducing new ones and further expanding the universe of this series.  Spartacus: Vengeance picked up after the first season chronologically, with Spartacus (now played by Liam McIntyre) working on turning his gladiator rebels into an army, picking up more slaves/outcasts/etc. along the way, and looking to severely harm the Roman Republic and take revenge on the man who made him a slave to begin with.

That is a hell of a back story for this final season, dubbed War of the Damned.  This season focuses on Spartacus’ plight to continue his slave rebellion and hopefully topple the Roman Republic.  The goal is certainly a large one, but Spartacus has proven himself in the eyes of a nation and has built up a true army worthy of note, as the Republic scrambles to find a way to stop this rebellion.  As the season moves forward, we watch as Spartacus deals with his army, those closest to him, how he manages his surroundings and supplies against a much grander foe, and other difficulties.  In the meantime, new enemies emerge, which will challenge Spartacus and his army to the extreme.  As this is the final season, War of the Damned will build to an ultimate conclusion that will put Spartacus’ journey to a rest.

All 10 Episodes of this season are included in this Blu-ray set:

1.     “Enemies of Rome”

2.     “Wolves at the Gate”

3.     “Men of Honor”

4.     “Decimation”

5.     “Blood Brothers”

6.     “Spoils of War”

7.     “Mors Indecepta”

8.     “Separate Paths”

9.     “The Dead and the Dying”

10.    “Victory”

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As per usual, I come to this season with an anticipation of the character drama that unfolds.  Liam McIntyre has truly grown into the role of Spartacus.  It was always going to be a tough task to fill the shoes of Andy Whitfield, but this season really allowed McIntyre to embody the character to great effect.  You can see the conflict in his eyes, as Spartacus is forced to make many difficult decisions.  The sense of camaraderie as well as challenge is present as he deals with the other characters.  Performing the action seems more natural for McIntyre this time around as well.  Given that this would be the last season of the series, I was really glad to not think about how Whitfield could have done this better and was instead drawn into the action and drama surrounding Spartacus, based on the actor I was watching.

Along with McIntyre, the whole season is full of characters that play out in their own stories and arcs that are either carried over from previous seasons or new to the audience, but effective nonetheless.  Returning to the season, we have Manu Bennet as Crixus, who has always been a favorite of mine.  He continues serving as second-in-command and works as a compelling character, even after already reaching the full arc of his character in previous seasons.  It is Bennet’s strength as an actor that makes his story work in this season.  Still, as much as I like Bennet, Dustin Clare continues to show that he is destined for more, as his work as Gannicus, is fantastic.  Gannicus is essentially playing the man who never wanted any part of a rebellion, but has it thrust upon him anyway, and Clare is undeniably charismatic throughout the season.  Possibly serving as an unsung presence, Dan Feuerriegel’s work as Agron, one of the only other former gladiators still with Spartacus, is very strong as well.  It helps that his presence over the course of a few seasons supports his growth as a character (and actor), but that aids the series overall as well, when it comes to considering how far it has gone.

On the side of the Romans, we are dealing with an entirely new cast of characters.  Chief among them is Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells), the rich Roman general, with enough skill as a fighter and cunning as a leader to be a true threat to Spartacus and his rebels.  Christian Antidormi plays the son of Crassus, Tiberius, who brings new definitions to the concept of sniveling, but fits well into the series, as he is another complex villain, designed to be hated.  Todd Lasance comes into the series as the Julius Caesar, who served as one of the skilled, high-ranking officers in Crassus’ army.  How involved Caesar was in the true story of Spartacus is up for debate, but Lasance certainly makes an impression as this version of the character, as far as over-the-top sex and action mixed with character drama in a television series is concerned.  While there are many other characters, I will lastly point out Anna Hutchison as Laeta, a Roman citizen who is taken captive by Spartacus’ army and has an interesting story play out around her character.

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Regarding the show’s direction this season, it was certainly interesting to see how Spartacus would function in new locations.  While we certainly see a few strongholds form in multiple episodes, I really enjoyed watching the show really explore a lot of different territories throughout the season, rather than use the same two sets.  It of course helps that the show’s signature style is still very much intact.  While the practical production and costume design is commendable, the show of course strives to be, for lack of a better word, as awesome as possible.  The dynamic action sequences are here in full, with plenty of slo-mo bloodshed, graphic dismemberment, and all the other stuff the kids love about this show, not to mention the plentiful sexy scenes as well.  This season may have some of the most inventive action sequences yet, which comes from series creator Steven S. DeKnight and his team being comfortable enough with the approach, yet still happy to push the limits of this series.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that the series does come to a close, as it reaches its final episode of the season.  With that said, I am not being hyperbolic at all when I saw that Spartacus may have one of the best series finale episodes ever.  This comes from a lot of places, but the main thing to keep in mind is that it can be difficult to tie up so many plot threads, have a fitting sign off for each character, and be satisfying for many.  I defy anyone to say that War of the Damned did not find a way to really satisfy Spartacus fans on practically every level.  Given the actual history of the character, I was really intrigued by what was going to happen, how certain things would happen, and whether or not DeKnight would change history to make things work out in a certain way.  Without spoiling anything, I can certainly say that the way the action and the drama collide in the final episode in an effort to reach an ultimate conclusion is nothing short of fantastic.

Spartacus is a great series.  It is hard to out and out convince people from the get go, as it goes from a very silly first few episodes in Blood and Sand, before the series really gets going, but the show evolved in all the right ways and became something far greater than simply a show about ridiculous action and sex scenes.  War of the Damned is a great way for the series to send itself off.  It is incredibly well acted, written to be compelling in all the right ways, very satisfying from an epic action standpoint, and closed off in a way that is just about perfect.  It is great to see where this series has gone, I hope the best for many talented people involved in it, and will be happy to stand tall with Spartacus any day.

Video: 

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The visual style of Spartacus has always been a main draw of the series and a great reason to view the show in HD.  Blu-ray is the perfect way to view the series.  Every episode is presented with a fantastic 1080p transfer.  This transfer definitely helps show off all of the visual diversity going on in this series, such as the presence of heavy earth tones, with Spartacus and his men out in the land and forest, or the more colorful times spent with the Romans and their lavish surroundings and costumes.  Of course the heavy use of the color red, when it comes to the stylized blood being thrown around, makes its presence quite clear as well, but fortunately the Blu-ray is set to handle these aspects and deliver a gorgeous picture overall.  Everything looks really good, with the details, textures, and backgrounds all registering great on screen and matching the epic quality of the series as a whole.

Audio: 

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Just as the visual element of the show lends itself well to Blu-ray, the use of sound in Spartacus is the perfect reason to experience the show in this format as well.  Presented with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround track, Spartacus sounds great on every episode.  Combining the towering dialogue with the large amounts of action sound effects, this is a great show to listen to already, only to be aided further by the guitar riff-heavy soundtrack and operatic musical score.  The various episodes all have their own great assets as well, whether it is the thunderous sounds taking place on the battlefield or the quieter sequences taking place within the walls.  The sound, fury, and music of this series has been wonderfully crafted and greatly mixed and transferred for the sake of this Blu-ray set.

Extras: 

Spartacus: 3

The Spartacus set is divided onto three discs, with the first two having only the first eight episodes, while the last disc contains the final two episodes and a collection of special features (all presented in HD).  Every episode features extended cuts and optional commentaries, which are Blu-ray exclusives.  I should also note that the packaging is quite nice, with a colorful book format that is compact, but assembled well.

Features Include:

Disc One:

Audio Commentaries for –

“Enemies of Rome” with Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Director Mark Beesley, and Producer Chloe Smith

“Wolves at the Gate” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Manu Bennett, Liam McIntyre, and Simon Merrells

“Men of Honor” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Dustin Clare, Anna Hutchinson, and Todd Lasance

“Decimation” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight, Producer Rick Jacobson, and Actors Christian Antidormi and Simon Merrells

Disc Two:

Audio Commentaries for –

“Blood Brothers” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight, Director TJ Scott, and Actors Manu Bennett and Dan Feuerriegel

“Spoils of War” with Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Director Mark Beesley, and Visual Effects Art Director Peter Baustaedter

“Mors Indecepta” with Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Director Jesse Warn, and Executive Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie McClellan

“Separate Paths” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight, Producer Rick Jacobson, and Actors Manu Bennett and Liam Mcintyre

Disc Three:

Audio Commentaries for –

“The Dead and the Dying” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight and Actors Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Anna Hutchinson, and Todd Lasance

“Victory” with Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Stephen S. DeKnight, Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Director Rick Jacobson, and Actor Liam McIntyre

Spartacus:  The Legend Retold – A look back at each season of Spartacus, with the various cast members involved

The Price of Being A Gladiator – A look at the prep work for the actors

A Bloody Farewell – The cast and crew talk about saying goodbye to the series

The Spoils of War Revealed: Visual Effects – A look at the visual effects of the series

Adorning the Damned – A look at the costume design for the series

The Mind Behind Spartacus – Series creator Stephen S. DeKnight provides some of his own insight on the series

Summary:

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Once again, Spartacus has not failed to impress.  War of the Damned was a great final season to a show that is far more than just sex and violence.  This final season has done a great job to pay off these characters who have been developed over the course of four seasons, while also delivering on the new characters, and simply working as an exciting piece of entertainment, fitting right around the edges of a very stylized take on the a true story.  Also once again, this Blu-ray set proves to be the most amazing way to watch this series (short of some kind of theatrical release).  The show looks and sounds great, with the edition of extended episodes and audio commentaries.  I wish the featurettes were more substantial, but that is a minor quibble for a Blu-ray set this solid.  Spartacus: War of the Damned was a great final send off for a show with a lot of well-deserved fan love.

Order Your Copy Here:

And all the other seasons can be ordered here:

   
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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

3 Responses to “Spartacus: War Of The Damned (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I actually agree with EVERYTHING you have said up above with the exception of one thing that would have prevented me from awarding the third season a perfect 5. THE ENDING 🙁 But let’s talk about the positives first.

    I was not a fan of the second season at all despite holding both season one and the prequel season as some of the finest programming ever to grace the television airwaves. Liam did not cut it for me.

    Enter the third season…Liam knocked it out of the ballpark. He finally felt to me as if he was comfortable in the role and you know what? He was Spartacus! I did not forget about Andy, but Liam embodied the role and made it his own this season.

    The rest of the cast…what can I say…D-Y-N-A-M-I-T-E!!! I was on the edge of my seat the entire third season and knocked it out in mere days. I did not want to take a break. The production value and action sequences that go into every hour long show rivals most top movie productions in my opinion. I believe Aaron described the ending to me as epic, but suffice to say…I’ll say this whole season was EPIC.

    And now the ending. Okay. No spoilers here. Have to say A, I was so…arghh…can’t talk about it here can I? I don’t agree with you on the epic standpoint of it and I think we kind of already hashed out our differences already offline. I wanted more. I felt I deserved more. After all that went down onscreen…dammit the history books!

    However undecided I am about the ending there’s nothing like that credits money shot at the end with Andy proclaiming…I am Spartacus! Goosebumps ensue!

    As usual, I’m glad Aaron was able to live up once again to the level of detail we furnish in our Spartacus coverage here. Comic-Con really felt empty without the show there. I guess we come full circle, huh Aaron? We met at Spartacus: Gods of the Arena panel at Comic-Con years ago. I reviewed the first two seasons and you reviewed the next two. Our Spartacus journey is complete and nonetheless if there’s no takeaway from this I will always be grateful for Spartacus as it brought you here to WSB. Thank you Starz.

    and…

    Thank you Aaron!

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    I would like to think that some day you’ll revisit this series, as I have, and find how well rounded this whole show managed to be and why decisions regarding how the ending occurred were wholly fitting and epically satisfying. But still, thank you. I did my best to give the series its due with these Blu-ray reviews.

  3. Brian White

    Did I tell you how much I missed Katrina Law (Mira)?

    One of my favorite Comic-Con moments ever was doing this! http://whysoblu.com/comic-con-2011-spartacus-vengeance-roundtable-interviews/