Spartacus (2004)

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Released 11-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 166:36
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (82:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Dornhelm
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Goran Visnjic
Alan Bates
Angus MacFadyen
Rhona Mitra
Ian McNeice
James Frain
Henry Simmons
Ross Kemp
Ben Cross
Paul Kynman
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Benedikt Brydern
Randy Miller
Peter Tomashek


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In 1960 Director Stanley Kubrick presented the epic feature film Spartacus. Based on the Howard Fast novel of the same name, the story chronicles the life of a Thracian slave who rises from obscurity to lead a rebellion against the might of Rome. Spartacus won four Oscar awards and starred Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), Laurence Olivier (Marcus Crassus) and Peter Ustinov (Batiatus).

    As is the way with great Hollywood movies, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to remake Spartacus for a modern audience. All too often these remakes fall well short of the mark, so how does Director Robert Dornhelm fare?

    The 2004 version of Spartacus is a made-for-television mini-series that was originally intended for viewing over two nights, though it is presented here on the one disc as a feature film. It is interesting to note that despite being a mini-series this version is actually shorter than the original 1960 movie.

    Enslaved by the Romans and forced to work the gold mines of Egypt, Spartacus (Goran Visnjic) is destined to live a life of hardship. His resentment of Roman cruelty and oppression lead him to intervene in the beating of a young slave at the hands of a Roman guard. Spartacus narrowly avoids crucifixion when he is purchased by Batiatus (Ian McNeice), a gladiator trainer from Capua.

    Spartacus is trained in the art of gladiatorial combat before taking to the arena for several bouts. It is during this period that Varinia (Rhona Mitra) is offered to Spartacus as an inducement to perform well in the arena. He refuses to take advantage of her and the predictable love plot unfolds.

    The defiance shown by fellow gladiator Draba (Henry Simmons) provides the catalyst for Spartacus to lead the gladiators in a revolt against their captors. Once free they flee to nearby Mt. Vesuvius where they are joined by thousands of provincial slaves.

    To this backdrop we have Marcus Crassus (Angus MacFadyen) and Antonius Agrippa (Alan Bates) struggling for control of the Senate. Their infighting is to blame for Rome's inadequate response, which allows the slaves to gain an upper hand on the battlefield.

    A mini-series is typically viewed as the poor cousin to big budget feature films and Spartacus is no exception. Whilst some of the actors do a fine job (Angus MacFadyen and Alan Bates come to mind) many struggle to play a convincing role. Director Robert Dornhelm has done a good job given the limited budget at his disposal, but you have to question why there was a need to remake Spartacus in the first place.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this made-for-television mini-series is so good that you have to question why so many big budget productions are treated so poorly.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is always clear though at times the long distance shots appear a little soft, such as Capua at 30:11 and the billowing smoke at 71:25. This could be an attempt to mask the low budget sets and CGI sequences. Blacks are inky black though this is at the expense of the shadow detail. There is no low level noise.

    Soft greens and browns are extensively used for the rural and forest scenes whilst off-whites and greys predominate the large cities. I felt that the colouration used in this film was appropriate for the period being depicted. For example, the togas worn by the senate members are off-white rather than the vibrant bright whites we are traditionally exposed to.

    There are no MPEG artefacts or film-to-video artefacts to be seen anywhere. I did notice the occasional film artefact flash by but you have to be looking to see them.

    The only subtitle stream available is English for the Hearing Impaired. It is well placed and easy to read, accurately reflecting the spoken word and providing cues for the hearing impaired.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 82:22. The layer change occurs between scenes and is not noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The quality of the audio transfer is generally very good though greater use could have been made of the surrounds.

    There is only the one audio track on this DVD and that is the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout the film. The audio sync appeared to be off just a touch - this wasn’t always apparent but could be seen if looked for. There is good separation across the front sound stage.

    The musical score by Randy Miller is a solid performance.

    The surround channels are used extensively to portray the clash of steel on steel during the action sequences. They produce a subtle ambience throughout the film, though they could have been a little louder.

    The subwoofer is used to good effect during the combat sequences without ever becoming intrusive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on this DVD.

Menu

    The menu is not animated and contains no audio, though it is 16x9 enhanced. It depicts characters from the movie and provides the following options; Play, Scenes (of which there are 40 chapters) and Subtitles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 disc is a Double Sided Dual Layer DVD. Side A contains Part 1 of the feature whilst Side B contains Part 2 of the feature and the deleted scenes. Unless your native tongue is French or Spanish I would recommend the Region 4 version - that way there is no need to flip the disc over part way through the movie.

Summary

    If you have not seen the original version of Spartacus then this movie is well worth a look. The video and audio transfers are very good and the story is well told. On the down side, Spartacus was created for a television audience and it shows - at times the acting is strained and the sets were not built to the same standard and scale as those used in Gladiator.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Aaron Devereaux (read my bio)
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using Component output
DisplayInFocus Screenplay 7200 with ScreenTechnics 100" (16x9) screen. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationDenon AVC -A11SR
SpeakersJamo D6PEX wall mounted Speakers and Powered Sub (7.1)

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