Spartacus: Vengeance

Spartacus: Vengeance
Spartacus: Vengeance isn't a subtle show. From the spurting blood to the frequent nudity and sex (both of which are often shown in slow motion for maximum impact), it bludgeons viewers until they're completely desensitized to it all and then pulls them in with a pretty decent story, where the focus is on intrigue and backstabbing. Although not labelled such, Vengeance is the second season of Spartacus, but there is one very obvious difference since the show first appeared back in 2010. The original Spartacus (actor Andy Whitfield) unfortunately succumbed to the cancer that had already delayed the filming of the second season and was replaced with Liam McIntyre. And while McIntyre is more than competent, something is definitely lacking from the soul of Vengeance. Luckily, Lucy Lawless picks up much of that slack as Lucretia; she's a bit of a scene stealer, thanks to her over-the-top theatrics, and there's no doubt that she has many of the best lines. The remainder of those lines belong to Viva Bianca as Ilithyia, who's more determined than ever to defeat Spartacus by any means necessary. And if the women are all about the talking, the men are all about the fighting. Spartacus has always been about the combat and the level of violence has been cranked up even higher for this season. It is completely unflinching, even becoming hard to watch, at times. But then again, fighting with swords isn't about finesse, so the gore and brute strength make a certain amount of sense, even if the litres of computer-generated blood don't. So, come for the sex and violence, but stay for the entertaining yarn the show is underneath, with its mix of I, Claudius, Gladiator and Caligula. There's no denying that Spartacus: Vengeance looks good — every droplet of blood is beautifully defined and the numerous close-ups seem designed for Blu-Ray. In fact, occasionally everything is almost too sharp, with insanely high contrast, taking away from any realism that might actually be there. The extra material isn't as substantial as it initially seems. There is a decent list of featurettes, although they clock in at less than an hour and none of them go into any depth. The commentary tracks are more interesting, especially because they touch upon the loss of Whitfield and how difficult it was for McIntyre to take over. There's also a very brief trailer for the third and final season, which starts next year. It looks like they aren't going to mess very much with what has turned out to be a successful formula. (Anchor Bay)
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