Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Blu-ray Review)

If you have not seen a single episode of last year’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand, then you’re in the right place.  Keep your eyes glued to your iPad, iPhone or iMac screen (of course I’m assuming because you are reading about this incredible show here that you are cool and down with the Mac family of products) and get your trigger finger ready to click that “pre-order now” link below.  Yes!  The following television show I’m about to drop in your laps is the sh!t and anyone that thinks or tells you otherwise, although your entitled to your opinion, is just blatantly mistaken about everything in life.   There are no if and or buts’ about it and speaking of fine a$$es…Spartacus: Gods of the Arena people!

The Show  

I hate using this cliche, but I feel I have no choice so if you have been living under a rock these past two years and never heard of the smash hit STARZ series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand (see our full Blu-ray review here), it’s time for you to crawl the f$&k out and heed my words like they are written as law enforcement rules to follow in life or else be punished (multiple lashings).  Got it?   Good!   Now we can finally get started!

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is the thrilling, adrenaline-filled six-part prequel series to the acclaimed STARZ Original, Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  The six-part series premiered January 21, 2011 on STARZ and delivered record ratings for the network.   And with an all-star lineup that I’m about to announce, why shouldn’t it have not?  The series is executive produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Dohen and Steven S. DeKnight.  Returning stars include John Hannah as Batiatus, Peter Mensah as Oenomaus and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia.   New comers to the show include Dustin Clare as Gannicus, Jaime Murray as Gaia and Marisa Ramirez as Melitta.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena follows both Gannicus, the charismatic Celt gladiator, as he aspires to become Champion of Capua (arena-based gladiator games) and the politically ambitious rise of the House of Batiatus.   Of course, as you can imagine, neither one of those aforementioned tasks will be an easy ride.   There will be many bumps, bruises and obstacles between both those paths, don’t you worry.  Quantitatively speaking, Spartacus is just as much about the gladiator games and violence as it is political.   What I mean by that is the way Batiatus strategically calculates his poise to overthrow his father and take control of the House.   He will betray anyone in his way to ensure his gladiators are in the highest demand.  And yes, it helps to have a loyal wife like Lucretia by his side.   Together, the pair will stop at nothing to deceive the masses and ascend to power.  You have to at least admire their passion.  I never said what they are doing is ethical, did I?

I do have something to admit.   Initially, I remained quite skeptical when Spartacus: Gods of the Arena was announced last year.   I understood the reasons for it because of Andy Whitfield’s heroic battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, but I remained very judgmental.  I feared the worst, but by “Jupiter’s c0ck” was I ever wrong.   The six-part series surprised both my wife and I.  It took my living room by storm as it rocked both of our worlds and delivered on all things its predecessor was known for before, nudity, naked women, naked men, nudity (oh sorry…I said this twice), violence, gore, exasperation, political prowls, whimsical comedy and classic one-liners and much, much more!   This is what makes Spartacus the show to beat on premium cable.   To my knowledge, you can’t get this level of viewing satisfaction anywhere else.   And the writing…fricking UNBELIEVABLE!  There’s something in it for the women and definitely something in it for the guys.   It makes the union between men and women harmonious.   It’s a win-win!  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

If the rumor is true, series creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight expanded a single flashback episode for the second season to give birth to this six-part mini-series.   My hat comes off to him.   It’s not only a bold move in television history, but also a highly successful one.  As I exclaimed above, upon watching the first episode of this prequel series, my fears were instantly relinquished.   I longed for the next week’s episode like never before.   Like a crack junkie, I craved my next fix of Spartacus.   It was dope to get introduced to all the gladiators you knew and loved from the first season, like Crixus (Manu Bennett), and experience, first-hand, how Batiatus got so damn politically powerful.  Just like you have Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in the Star Wars saga, you have the “Rise of Batiatus” in the Spartacus saga and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.   That’s why this show gets my highest allowable score of 5.   If I could go higher, I would, but some idiot who runs this site only implemented a scoring scale of 0-5 for ratings 🙂

So let me ask you all this.  Are you ready for lies, deception, sex, nudity, blood, sweat, tears, gore, victories, failures and all the testosterone you never thought could fit into one television show?   If the answer is yes, then I second that with a resounding HELL YEAH!   In my opinion, your time would be wasted if you looked elsewhere for all of this.   Why not just succumb and make STARZ Original series, Spartacus, your homie today?   The following six episodes, “Past Transgressions,” “Missio,” “Paterfamilias,” “Beneath the Mask,” “Reckoning,” and “The Bitter End” will make a believer out of you.   Heck, the opening kill scene of the very first episode made me a believer within minutes.   And I was already a fan of the show.   Think about what it can do for all the Spartacus virgins out there?   My skin tingles in excitement at the thought.  It could change your life!  I want to be responsible for that!

So I’m going to go against better judgment to assume most people are here reading this today to find out more about the Blu-ray presentation.   Rest assured, you won’t be disappointed.  Trust me.   Have I ever led you astray?   The compelling six-part series comes gorgeously assembled in deluxe packaging, much like its predecessor did.   Again…trust me.   STARZ and Anchor Bay Entertainment cut no corners with this lavish, breathtaking Blu-ray 2-disc set.   This Blu-ray package is sure to have fans of the show cheering, while capturing the attention of all the show’s virgins too.   But enough proverbial hype and campaigning from me, let’s dissect, in grave detail, all the Blu-ray vitals this set has to offer everyone.   GLADIATORS!


Alright, now we’re down to my favorite part, the nitty gritty business of how does this Blu-ray package really look and sound.  Well thankfully, we’re in good hands with Anchor Bay’s bang-up 16:9 widescreen presentation that will fill up every loving inch of your HDTV and the blood drenching, I mean that in a good way, AVC MPEG-4 video codec that captures every bead of sweat, blood, sex, victory and despair.   What’s a bead of sex, victory and despair?   How the hell should I know?   I just made them up, but damn do those terms sound good in this context.  I know what you are probably already wondering…why not a perfect score here?   Am I a mind reader or what?   Here’s the deal.  There is a lot CG employed in Spartacus.  Hell, I’m willing to wager that over 3/4 of the sets are not even real.  Therefore, it’s really hard to give a perfect score when backgrounds look a bit washed out.   BUT…there’s a silver lining in all of this.   Because of these CG created and rendered backgrounds, I have never seen a television show on Blu-ray pop with more three-dimensional qualities than this 2-disc set I’m reviewing here.   The characters onscreen, and every lovely inch of the female subjects, are brought to life in eye-popping, and sometimes jaw-dropping, clarity and 3-D.  DeKnight once said here to us that Spartacus was meant for the Blu-ray format, well I truly believe that Spartacus was also meant for 3-D too.   And that’s coming from a reviewer that regularly dismisses 3-D…so take that for what it’s worth.

Let’s dispense with the squabbling above.  I would like to just utilize one more brief paragraph to talk about all the good things here.  However, instead of a paragraph, let’s try something more untraditional here.  I’m momentarily bored with the paragraph structure. How about a what’s good checklist?

  • True to life colors in sun drenched environments….CHECK!
  • Inky blacks and unobtrusive grain….CHECK!
  • Natural flesh tones (because we see a lot of it)…CHECK!
  • Every freckle, mole and pore present…CHECK!
  • Sharpness, true-to-life contrast and special effects…CHECK!
  • Rock chiseled abs and pectoral muscles…CHECK!
  • Blood splatter, blood spraying and blood dripping…CHECK!
  • No artifacts, blemishes or white speckles…CHECK!


When you have memorable quotes like “words fall from your mouth like sh!t from a$$,” you have to ensure you have one hell of a supporting audio track to accompany and fall back upon.   Thankfully, Anchor Bay once again holds up their end of the bargain here with an in-your-face Dolby TrueHD 5.1 visceral surround track that furiously and faithfully recreates and encompasses everything that is Spartacus.   EVERY “Jupiter’s c0ck” joke is enact!   Thank the Lord!  There’s driving music in the fight scenes, ambient sound effects all around you (chants from the uproarious crowd behind you) and most importantly for the hearing impaired, clear and intelligible dialogue.   Like the video above, I have only little minor things to nitpick about.   For some reason, I just have this overwhelming feeling that I would have liked to see this audio track a tad more robust and thick like the 800 lb. Gorilla drink available at your nearest Robeks.   I think this could have been dynamically more in terms of King Kong-like ferocity, but let’s face the simple facts, it sounds pretty damn good for a television show.  So we’ll leave it at that.  While I think the subwoofer channel could be just a tad bit stronger, I firmly stand behind my following disclaimer when I say that every heart pounding beat of the battle, every blood squirt and every swish/clang of the sword puts you right smack dab in the middle of the action and honestly, that’s all one could truly hope for in the at home viewing arena.   This is the closest many may get to become a gladiator in real life, so savor every minute of it!

Special Features  

I usually don’t get excited about the Special Features department unless I’m really into the film, show or what be it.   So needless to say, going into this department, I was stoked at the opportunity to dissect all of the below bonus features found on this two-disc set.  I’m going to shut up now and let the extras do all the talking.   Enjoy!

The following bonus features can be found on both the Blu-ray and DVD editions.

  • STARZ Studios: GODS OF THE ARENA (HD, 14:35) – I would classify this pretty much as a PSA for the prequel series.  It’s basic, but nevertheless, good stuff!  There’s some nice music accompanying the video tracks too.  It covers everything from the show’s 300-like digital effects to the reasons why the prequel series was launched.
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction (HD, 2:53) – I liked this one as a filmmaker because it talks about the props and rubber weapons utilized in Spartacus.   They also provide some interesting and trivial facts about the weapons seen in the show.
  • Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene (HD, 5:58) – I think anyone can read this title and know what this is about, but more importantly this special feature takes you behind the scenes to witness firsthand the brutal training that each actor goes through in learning their moves and that dreaded boot camp.
  • On Set With Lucy Lawless (HD, 6:29) – This is basically what the title implies.  In six minutes, you too can feel like you are on the set of Spartacus, as we see a day in the making of the show through Lucy’s eyes and the actors that work alongside her.   Lucy is quite the prankster.
  • 10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment (HD, 2:14) – This quick visceral music video gives fans 10 fun filled death facts to live by.   Most interesting to me is the stat that stated the human head stays conscious for 15-20 seconds after decapitation.   Sick, but grand stuff here!
  • Post Production: The Final Execution (HD, 7:17) – This was probably my favorite segment here.  I loved seeing how the sights and sounds came to be that are employed religiously to make the show authentic as possible.   All filmmakers MUST watch this one!
  • Enter the Arena: Production Design (HD, 3:39) – This feature deals with the architecture and construction of the sets and arenas as well as the extras that fill them.
  • Dressed to Kill (HD, 6:28) – Here we have a pretty hilarious look at the various costumes the characters wear on the show.  I did not think I would be interested in this bonus feature, but I was proven wrong.   Wardrobe is important, yo!
  • Convention Panel (HD, – 5:57) – This exclusive footage was taken from the 2010 Comic-Con panel.   I was there!   For more details on what you missed, check out my recap here.
  • Arena Bloopers (HD, 5:13) – There’s nothing special here, but in my opinion, it’s always a blast to see your favorites blunder their performances.

Bonus features exclusive to the Blu-ray edition include the following.

  • 3D “Ring of Fire” Battle Sequence – Although I don’t have the proper equipment to view this in my home media office, I have something even better.  Memories!  Yep, you heard me right.  I said memories.   I personally got to view this sequence three times in spectacular 3-D Blu-ray HD controlled environment at the STARZ booth this past July at San Diego Comic-Con.  And let me be the first to tell you, the fire effects look amazing.  If you have a 3-D capable playback system, make sure to at least check this Hercules-sized battle sequence out once again here.  I don’t believe you will be disappointed.  Just an FYI…if your playback system is not 3-D capable, you cannot view this.
  • Extended Episodes – I have taken the liberty to list below which episodes are extended, what discs they are housed on and each one’s runtime.   No thanks are necessary.  It’s my job to report the facts.

1. “Past Transgressions” (Extended, 52:48) – Disc 1

2. “Missio” (54:09) – Disc 1

3. “Paterfamilias” (Extended, 58:45) – Disc 1

4. “Beneath the Mask” (Extended, 52:48) – Disc 1

5. “Reckoning” (Extended, 57:07) – Disc 2

6. “The Bitter End” (Extended, 1:08:07) – Disc 2

  • Audio Commentaries – These audio commentaries can be found on all six heart pounding episodes and include Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and actors John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Dustin Clare, Jaime Murray, Peter Mensah and more!  On paper, that lineup alone has me begging for a listen.  Wow!

Final Thoughts  

The truth of the matter is that if glorified and gratuitous violence, over-the-top sexual innuendo and one-liners, insanely brilliant writing, clever acts of deception and inhibitive, raw, steamy hot sex action aren’t your cup of proverbial coffee, then by all means Spartacus: Gods of the Arena may not be for you.   But come on!   What adult doesn’t like all of that?!   No one I know.   So here’s the deal.   Whether you rent this or buy this Blu-ray 2-disc set, I implore necessity that you should do yourself a favor and check this six-part prequel series out.   You owe it to me for writing this lengthy review all weekend long, don’t you?   Ha ha.   Let me go a step further, out of my way and save you the hassle.   Most people have an Amazon account, right?   All you have to do is click the pre-order link below and after a few more clicks Spartacus: Gods of the Arena will be on your doorstep waiting for you Tuesday, September 13th when you get home from work, school or wherever you may be.   I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t envision a better circumstance to come home to.   Hey…I’m just saying!





Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

8 Responses to “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Great review, Brian!

  2. Tina

    Okay I watched half an episode once and had to turn it off to cool down! These people are amazing hot and I don’t know this guys name but he is beautiful. I know now I must spend the money on this series!

  3. Brian White



    They wouldn’t put ugly people on this show 🙂 And of course by that I mean people ugly on the inside 🙂

  4. Gregg

    Tina, that was me. Thank you.

  5. Brian White

    Ha! No it wasn’t!

    She has to be talking about my boy Dustin over here: http://whysoblu.com/comic-con-2011-spartacus-vengeance-roundtable-interviews/

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yeah, I’ll be owning this.

    Man, that 3D scene at Comic Con was awesome.

  7. Christopher

    I can’t wait to get this!

  8. Tina

    Gregg, I think I need to see you again, cause somehow I don’t remember you looking like this. Of course, you didn’t have your shirt off.