Thursday, August 24, 2006
HBO's ROME IS...
If the promise of copious amounts of blood and sex alone don't grab you, then just read on for the more subtle finery of the series.
I don't have HBO so I have only seen the first five episodes on the just-released DVD collection, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better television series ever (although at HeroesCon Warren Ellis sung the praises of another HBO series, Deadwood)). The sets and wardrobe in Rome are as sumptuous as a feature film, and quite frankly this series obliterates the formulaic mediocrity that was Gladiator.
The acting from Caesar, to Atia, Brutus to Mark Antony, Pompey to young Octavian, and certainly Pullo and Vorenus, is uniformly excellent. Never for a moment do you see the craft, you merely see Romans in all their glory, machinations, and brutality.
The interpersonal intrigue and social maneuvering is every bit as fascinating and involved as that in Valmont (or Dangerous Liasons if you prefer).
Scenes like when Titus Pullo explains to his friend Vorenus (a lifelong soldier not given to Pullo's womanizing ways) that if he can just find his wife's special "button" that she will open to him like a flower. But also nothing works so well as to present a woman with the "still warm heart of an enemy." That he says makes them as "wet as October."
Or when Pullo and Vorenus discuss the stars in the sky: Vorenus explains that the stars are holes in the celestial body, and that they are much larger than they appear--large enough for a man to crawl through--but they look small because they are in fact "hundreds of miles" above the earth. Pullo, in total seriousness, says that it may be possible to reach them...perhaps if one were to ride a large bird. It's a great exchange in that it demonstrates the limited science of the times and the even more limited understanding that soldiers, as opposed to scientists, would have of the universe.
And everyone is flawed, and no one clean in ROME: Passive slaves get whipped simply to exorcise their master's daily frustrations. Innocent people are crucified (even by loyal, dedicated, Verenus) as a means to glean information for Caesar. And animals are cruelly sacrificed to myriad gods for even the most capricious of reasons.
Simply put if you haven't already seen ROME, then by all means buy or rent the DVD's. It's too good to be missed.
Addendum: The second season is filming now but sadly it's scheduled to be the last (so we'll never get to Caligula!?) The first season reportedly cost around $100 million for the 12-episodes (and you can see it on the screen), and for some bizarre reason the show's ratings didn't approach those of The Sopranos or some of HBO's past hits. Perhaps because it wasn't given anything approaching the promotion or publicity, because this show is every ounce as good as The Sopranos. In fact, fuck The Sopranos! I'd rather see Caesar and the original Italian mafia than those fat, fucks from New Jersey.