Sparkytusk Unchained!

It looks like Sam Raimi et al. are going to do for Roman history what they did for world mythology. (I was going to write “Greek mythology” but Xena & Herc. roamed around a lot in later seasons–and for that matter, she passed directly from the Trojan War to the First Triumvirate early in her career, so they’ve had a few stabs at Roman history already.)

I guess I should be panicking, but I actually thought Xena was kind of amusing. (Raimi’s Herc not so much: the main character was taken too seriously.) So the new Spartacus might be worth checking out–probably more fun than the USA version of a few years ago which was (like lots of USA’s classical offerings from that period) earnest, dull and inept.

The one bad sign is some generational hubris. They say they’re going to “have a little more depth to it than the 1960s film.” More depth than the film that brought us the “Love Theme from Spartacus”? Doubtful.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sparkytusk Unchained!

  1. renesears says:

    Xena is a guilty pleasure of mine. Part of the charm is how much fun the actors appeared to be having, even (or perhaps especially) during the cheesy parts.

    • JE says:

      Absolutely. Sorbo and the guy who played Iolaus seemed to take themselves a tad too seriously (or maybe that’s just how they were written), but the rest of the players in both shows seemed to relish going over the top. The guy who played Ares was quite good, for instance.

  2. al_zorra says:

    I love Xena though it wasn’t in the least accurate to anything. But as it was equally inaccurate in every area it somehow worked. Sometimes it was so funny I laughed all the way through too, which is always good.

    I take it from the description there on yahoo that slavery isn’t an issue in this Spartacus universe? I still haven’t seen 300, and I probably never will. That stuff is historically wrong and not fun either.

    Love, C.

    • JE says:

      I think they’d have to tackle slavery as an issue in Spartacus’ story; accuracy probably won’t be a big concern, though.

      I liked lots of stuff in 300–maybe it’s a Y chromosome thing–but it was certainly no more accurate than the average Xena episode (and a lot less witty).

  3. davidcapeguy says:

    Until I read your posting, I’d forgotten that there was a 2004 TV-remake of Spartacus. I remember watching it, but all traces of the show have been erased from my memory, which may perhaps be a telling critique.

    You’re right about their having to tackle slavery in any Spartacus story — removing it would be like remaking “The Babe Ruth Story” without baseball.

    I liked Hercules and Xena only mildly; I suspect that I approached them both on a “Baywatch” level. 300 I liked considerably more, despite its historical inaccuracies. But I also liked “The 300 Spartans” with Richard Egan, which was made near the actual battlesite in the early 60s.

    Raimi is so talented, however, that I wish he’d do something other than a remake.

    • JE says:

      USA went through this brief run of classical miniseries–a Troy one, and a Julius Caesar, the Spartacus, and something on Boudicca. There may have been others. None of them really worked for me (and, as my Xena references attest, I have very low standards).

      300 bugged me sometimes, but on balance I liked it (as a recreation of a myth, rather than as a retelling of history). If the Spartacus miniseries is that good, I’ll be pleased. But I still want to watch a movie where I get to root for the Romans.

      • davidcapeguy says:

        The story of the Romans battling Hannibal, fighting on after the disaster at Cannae, and ultimately triumphing could make a good mini-series. And given the Carthaginians’ religious habit of sacrificing babies, it wouldn’t make it too hard to root for the underdog Romans.

        Among my favorite “Romans in Cinema” moments is the 1934 Cleopatra with Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra and Warren William as Julius Caesar; I like it better than the Liz Taylor version. I also like Claude Rains as Caesar in the 1946 Bernard Shaw “Caesar and Cleopatra,” though on the whole it’s not a great film. But overall, for me the best Roman movie is still “Julius Caesar” with Brando and James Mason. I agree with you, however, in that I’d like to see a good new movie where I can root for Caesar.

        Oh, yeah…”The Fall of the Roman Empire,” especially in its early parts, is quite good. Alec Guiness as Marcus Aurelius is inspired casting. And anything with Sophia Loren has got a lot going for it…

        • JE says:

          “Fall…” does fall off toward the middle/end, but it indeed opens well. Could not possibly agree more about Sophia Loren. Christopher Plummer has some good scenery-chewing moments as Commodus, too. I know what you mean about Rains as Caesar; it’s a very memorable turn, but I can’t remember anything else about the movie.

          I still haven’t seen the Brando and Mason “JC”. The earlier Mason & Gielgud version has its points, and Heston does a terrific job as Marc Antony in the 1970s version of “JC”. The trouble is, I’m not that crazy about the play itself, though there are some great scenes, obviously. I think the scriptwriter had some big successes with his other work.

          A pro-Roman movie (or series) about the 2nd Punic War would be great… but people always seem to think of the Carthaginians as the good guys, for some reason.

Comments are closed.