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- DVD: Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
- Rating: Unrated
- Starring: John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare
- Written By: Stephen DeKnight
- Directed By: Various
- Distributor: Anchor Bay Home Entertainment, Starz
- Original Year of Release: 2011
- Extras: See Below
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena DVD Review
Spartacus prequel shines
By Tim Janson
September 06, 2011
When lead actor Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, the second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, was put on hold and instead Starz opted to tell a six episode prequel to the events of the first season. It proved to be a great decision as it gave us one more opportunity to see John Hannah and Lucy Lawless in their roles Quintus Lentulus Batiatus and wife Lucretia.
The events in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena take place several years before the first season, prior to Spartacus’ arrival in the gladiatorial house. The city of Capua is growing and the arena used for the fights in the first season is just being completed and it will be christened with the first games in the final episode. Until then, the gladiatorial bouts take place in a small, ramshackle wooden arena. Batiatus has yet to become master of his house as his domineering father Titus still lives.
Gods of the Arena fills in a lot of the back-story of the first season. You will get to see how Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Ashur (Nick Taraby) first came to the house of Batiatus. Also told his how Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) becomes Doctore for the House. Ever ambitious, Quintus is looking to make a name for himself by getting his gladiators into the first games at the new arena. However, doing so isn’t so easy. He has to deal with what amounts to the ancient Roman Mafia in the form of Tullius (Stephen Lovatt), a wealthy and influential rival who controls who gets to participate in the games. Tullius demands that Quintus sell him his house champion Gannicus (Clare) as a sort of entry fee. When Quintus refuses, he’s badly beaten and threatened with exclusion.
Always ambitious, Quintus hatches a plot to eliminate his rival once and for all. However before he can do that he has a major block to hurdle…his father. As long as Titus still lives, Quintus has no authority to make decisions and a power struggle ensues for control of the house. It is here where we see Hannah and Lawless at their scheming, devious best!
As far as prequels go, Spatacus: Gods of the Arena is one of the best. Even though we eventually know the end result, it is still an intoxicating thrill-ride getting there. The amount of story crammed into six episodes is amazing yet you never feel short-changed. All of the blood, gore, and sex of the first season is back and more visceral than ever. Lucky Hannah gets to share a threesome with Lawless and Jaime Murray as Lucretia’s old friend Gaia. In order to raise money and influence, the House of Batiatus opens its doors to Capua’s most important citizens, offering all manner of decadent delights.
Bennett is outstanding as Crixus. He arrives as an unskilled and almost shy slave, a far cry from being the Champion of Capua that we saw in season one. We also see another side of Oenomaus before he becomes the stern gladiatorial trainer. He is a man much in love with his wife Melitta. But it is Dustin Clare who shines the brightest as house champion Gannicus. He plays his role with bravado and cockiness that would make LeBron James seem like a wallflower. He is confident and brash. He relishes is wine and women yet his skill in the arena is unparalleled. Of all the characters introduced in the prequel, his was the most enthralling. The good news is that it appears that Gannicus will return in Spartacus: Vengeance, the second season of the series. While Whitfield’s illness was indeed tragic (he is said to be improving) and has resulted in the role of Spartacus being re-cast, the producers made a magnificent save with Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
Starz Studios: Gods of the Arena (14:36) – A promotional featurette produced by the Starz network.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (2:54) – The show’s propmaster looks at the various weapons used in the series.
Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene (6:00) – A look at the development of the huge arena battle in the final episode.
On the set with Lucy Lawless (6:30) – A day on set with Lucy Lawless as she shows off her trailer, messes with production assistants, goes to makeup, and films the show.
10 Easy steps to dismemberments (2:15) – A short, grisly featurette highlighting some of the more gory kills of the season.
Post Production: The Final Execution (7:18) – A look at the postproduction process of adding visual effects, sound, and music.
Enter the Arena (3:40) – How the production team designed Capua to look earlier, and less refined than in the first season.
Dressed to Kill (6:30) – A look at the many costumes of the show
Convention Panel (6:00) – Panel from ComicCon 2010 featuring series creator Steven S. DeKnight, John Hannah, and Lucy Lawless.
Arena Bloopers (5:14) - Standard gag reel.