Spartacus Prequel Blu-ray Bound for September

The Spartacus prequel, Gods of the Arena, continues 9.30pm Sundays on Sky TV’s The Box but fans will have to wait until September to see it in HD.

That’s the tentative release date for the Blu-ray of the six-part mini-series that was shot to bridge seasons one and two while season one’s Spartacus, Andy Whitfield, was undergoing treatment for cancer.

A US date for the Blu-ray has still to be disclosed; the UK release is pencilled in for October 3.

In an interview in the April issue of Onfilm magazine, Spartacus producer Rob Tapert says Gods of the Arena was better received than the original.

“Critics and fans thought on every single level, from the writing to the production values, it was a solid notch higher than season one.”

The New York Times called it “even more fantastically soapy” and “visually elevated by an apocalyptic video-game look in which the orgiastic sex and violence are presented with a studied, syncopated choreography”.

But London’s Guardian awarded it the most praise. “It should be terrible,” critic Lucy Mangan acknowledges. “But, you know, sometimes things just work.

“Sometimes, if you throw enough CGI violence (nobody gets decapitated in this series with anything fewer than two swords in a scissoring motion and it is surely only a matter of time before ‘Arterial spray and blood gout specialist’ starts appearing in the credits), troilism, blackmail, diaphanous chiffon-draped lesbian action and lines like ‘Words fall from your mouth as shit from ass!’ around, it coheres into an unstoppably entertaining mass. Who knew?”

And one of the paper’s bloggers, James Donaghy, dubbed it “the big dumb show that’s smarter than you think”.

Meanwhile, season two, which is shooting in Auckland with a new Spartacus, Liam McIntyre, will have two fewer episodes than season one’s 12 because of budgetary issues.

But Tapert says the visual effects will be more ambitious. “We’re pushing the boundaries. We’re now out of the ludus and on the road in a different environment.

Rob Tapert

“When Spartacus started, the show was often referred to as [another] 300. The truth of the matter is we only had those action moments of 300 in the arena and the rest of it was Prison Break in a ludus.

“There was a lot of Upstairs Downstairs intrigue, and it wasn’t really our characters in digital environments and wandering around the countryside and battling other military forces.

“Now we enter into digital graphic world of 300 and Saving Private Ryan and these sorts of battle pictures while still maintaining the aspects of the show that were in Batiatus’ villa, so we still have women in beautiful gowns and handsome men scantily clad.”

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