Stars: Goran Visnjic, Sir Alan
Bates, Angus Macfadyen, Rhona Mitra, Ian McNeice, James Frain, Henry Simmons,
Ross Kemp, and Ben Cross
Writer: Robert Schenkkan
Based on the book by: Howard
Director: Robert Dornhelm
Executive Producers: Adam
Shapiro, Robert Schenkkan, and Angela Mancuso
Total Running Time: 171 minutes
Media: USA Network Original
Television Miniseries (NTSC DVD Screener)
Premiere: Part One: Sunday,
April 18, 2004, at 8pm (ET/PT)
Premiere: Part Two: Monday,
April 19, 2004, at 8pm (ET/PT)
Network: USA Network (Check your
local cable/satellite listings for channel)
TV Rating: Not Available At The
Time Of This Review
Reviewer: Mark A. Rivera
The hardest thing to do while watching this 2004 miniseries remake of “Spartacus” is to not compare it to the classic 1960 feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring such heavyweight Hollywood stars as Kirk Douglas, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, and Tony Curtis. So the best thing to keep in mind for those who have seen the original theatrical adaptation is that this is a different dramatization told more the forty years after the original and simply not to expect the exact same thing.
In that respect the new TV miniseries version of “Spartacus” gets away with more scenes of brutality and some very brief though tastefully handled nudity. The scenes where the gladiators witness people being burned alive for the bloodlust of the crowd or a man forced to bare himself in front of several Roman nobles because the female Roman aristocrat is curious about what a circumcised penis looks like actually helps to add to the building tension that leads to the fictitious slave revolt that comes to ahead after Spartacus (Goran Visnjic) witnesses the cruel death of the Nubian gladiator at the feet of the maniacal Crassus (Angus Macfadyen.) Ian McNeice adds fuel to the fire as the slave owner Batiatus, who beats and rapes the soon to be love interest of Spartacus played by Rhona Mitra. These combined atrocities have to take place so that the viewer can then feel the butchery and barbarism that comes with the ever increasing though politically fragmented slave revolt lead by Spartacus to be justified.
The subplot regarding the political manipulations of Agrippa (the late Sir Allan Bates) and Crassus against each other on the floor of the Roman Senate adds to the intrigue as we witness the waning days of the Roman Republic. Though this is a TV miniseries remake, there is enough of a difference in the action to make it worth watching and as far as TV miniseries go, I’d say this is definitely one of the better ones and surprisingly the CGI scenes are kept at a minimum so when you see the Romans fill the screen, you are seeing real men and not computer generated extras.
The soul of the story is kept intact and in some ways there is an added dramatic effect to certain instances that the original film did not have and of course there are differences where it is clear the feature film had a greater emotional impact over he miniseries. These sorts of things happen all the time when it comes to remakes, but it seems like the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place. The miniseries is dedicated to the memories of the late Sir Allan Bates and the late Author Howard Fast, whose book provided the inspiration for the 1960 feature film and this 2004 remake. The TV miniseries version was shot and should be presented in a letterboxed (1.78:1) aspect ratio when it airs in mid April. Overall, “Spartacus” on its own merits is a good USA original miniseries worth checking out when it debuts with the first part airing on Sunday, April 18, 2004, at 8pm (ET/PT) and the conclusion airing on Monday, April 19, 2004, at 8pm (ET/PT). Please check your local cable and satellite listings for additional information and encore telecasts.
2004 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.
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