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Rome: The Complete Series

Score: 93%
Rating: TV-MA
Publisher: HBO Home Entertainment
Region: A
Media: Blu-ray/5
Running Time: 22 Hrs.
Genre: Historical/Drama/TV Series
Audio: English, German DTS-HD Master
           Audio 5.1, Spanish, French,
           Castilian, Polish Voiceover DTS
           Digital Surround 2.0,

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish,
           French, German, Castilian,
           Polish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish,
           Norwegian, Swedish, Greek,
           Hebrew, Portuguese, Romanian,
           Turkish


Features:

  • Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew
  • Featurettes:
    • When in Rome
    • A Tale of Two Romes
    • The Rise of Octavian: Rome's First Emperor
    • Shot x Shot:
      • Caesar's Triumph
      • Gladiator
    • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes:
      • Friends, Romans, Countrymen
      • The Rise of Rome
      • The Making of Rome, Season II
      • Anthony & Cleopatra
  • All Roads Lead to Rome
  • Bloodlines

Rome: The Complete Series was a joint HBO and BBC production, (which probably explains why everyone has a British accent) that starts off with the rise of Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), his inevitable death on the Senate room floor and then the power struggle that leads to his heir, Gaius Octavian (Max Pirkis and Simon Woods), becoming the first Roman Emperor. What is interesting is that this tale isn't really told from the perspective of the people history will remember. Instead, the show's creators plucked two names from Caesar's military journals, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), and followed their lives as these major events occur. Don't get me wrong, characters like Caesar, Octavian, Mark Antony (James Purefoy), Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham), Brutus (Tobias Menzies) and Cleopatra (Lyndsey Marshal) are all main characters, but their tale is told around these two military men who end up deeply entangled in the political affairs of their betters.

The series starts off with Vorenus and his subordinate, Pullo, among Caesar's brutal 13th legion which has just finished its submission of Gaul after eight years of battle. Back in Rome, Caesar's Co-Council, Pompey Magnus fears that his partner's growing popularity means that he will be deposed and Caesar will take over the Republic and Senate. Of course, his fears are quickly realized and a civil war breaks out between Caesar's men and Pompey's with all of Rome ... heck all of Italy, caught in the middle. The first season of Rome is all about Caesar taking down Pompey and becoming the supposed tyrant the Senators feared he would. During this time though, we get introduced to quite a few other major characters. These other characters include Caesar's mistress, Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) and her son Brutus, Atia (Polly Walker), who is Caesar's niece, and her two children, Octavian and Octavia (Kerry Condon). Besides the events that lead to Octavian becoming Caesar's heir, another major plot involving these characters is the bitter and deadly rivalry between Atia and Servilia, which starts off as only minor biting words, but quickly escalates when Brutus gets involved in Caesar's assassination.

During this first season, both Lucius and Titus have to deal with peace time. For Lucius, that means returning to his family to find his two little girls have started growing up and his eldest daughter apparently has a child. What he doesn't realize is that this last tidbit of data is a lie and Lucius' wife thought he was dead for a year and the baby is actually hers. During Season One, Lucius slowly rises in power as he proves to be a great asset for Julius. First he becomes a proctor, but it isn't long before he becomes a full senator. Unfortunately, this all comes crumbling down when Caesar's enemies fulfill their plot in a very epic season finale with a lot of blood and death in it. As for Pullo, Titus starts off as a man of few morals and a lust for blood. When he returns to Rome though, he starts to discover hidden levels of integrity, and everything from his growing friendship with Lucius to his teaching of Octavian makes him a much more three-dimensional and likable character.

The second half of Rome: The Complete Series is all about filling the power vacuum left by Caesar's death. At first, the conflict seems to be purely two-sided with Brutus and the other conspirators on one side and Octavian and Mark Antony on the other. That changes when it becomes apparent that Mark Antony has no intentions of letting the young Octavian take the center chair in the Senate House and their forces get split up. What's worse is that our main characters, Lucius and Titus, also split up since Titus has become a close friend of Octavian, and Lucius still sees Mark Antony as his commanding officer. While the pair stay friends and never really fight each other, they still find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and both Mark Antony and Octavian regularly wonder how the pair's allegiances will play out.

While only two seasons long, Rome is an epic series that covers a lot of history. Although there are quite a few liberties taken with the details, especially where Lucius and Titus are involved, as well as character ages and when events happened, much like The Tudors, this can easily be forgiven since it is so enjoyable. I will warn readers though, this is an HBO premium channel series. There is a lot of nudity in it, so it isn't for the kiddies by any means. There is also a good bit of blood. Unfortunately the Blu-ray high definition nature of this release means that a lot of the fake CG blood looks really fake and CG, but that is really the only drawback to this high definition release since everything else looks and sounds great.

Rome: The Complete Series also comes with quite a few special features. Besides the nice tome-like box the discs come in, there is a mass of special features that not only talk about the show itself, but the actual historical events and people of the time. Another feature, called "All Roads Lead to Rome" is a pop-up trivia track about many aspects of the city and times. Quite frankly, with the visual quality and the ability to have both seasons of Rome in one boxed set, the Blu-ray version is more than worth its price, and the added benefit of these featurettes just sweeten the pot. If you haven't already picked up this series on DVD and you have even the slightest interest in this era, then Rome: The Complete Series is a must buy.



-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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