Spartacus Reviews

  • Jun 12, 2019

    So historical epics aren't really my thing and the only reason that I watched this film was because Stanley Kubrick directed it. Unfortunately the brilliance of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) isn't present in this very generic Ben-Hur (1959) rip-off. I was mostly bored during the three hours and four minutes I spent watching this film and I failed to see what made the film so popular and acclaimed. It's not the fault of the film's lead as Kirk Douglas is fantastic in Paths of Glory (1957) and Champion (1949) but he doesn't hold the attention of a viewer for that long. There were no real spectacles to marvel at unlike in Ben-Hur and the characters felt inert and lacking in personality. If you want to see a great epic watch Gone With the Wind (1939) or Out of Africa (1985) because this isn't worth your time. Thracian warrior Spartacus, Kirk Douglas, is bought by a slaveholder and trained to become a gladiator against his will, during this time he falls in love with Varinia, Jean Simmons. He is eventually freed due to the sacrifice of fellow slave Draba, Woody Strode, as he and the other gladiators lead a revolt against the guards and escape but Varinia is bought by evil dictator Crassus, Laurence Olivier, who vows to destroy Spartacus. Spartacus' success continues as he frees slaves from around the country and builds up his army to fight the Roman Empire while infighting in the Roman court continues. In the end Spartacus and his army are defeated but Varinia and his baby get to see him one last time as he is being crucified. I suppose the part of the film that was meant to appeal to me most was the romance but much like in other epics of this type it felt underdeveloped. When we first see Varinia we understand that she is beautiful and virtuous because she largely doesn't speak, a shorthand in films from this area, but we never really learn anything about her beyond this. Why are she and Spartacus attracted to one another beyond the fact that they are both good looking? This plot element is ostensibly the emotional center of the film as the sight of him dying while his wife and son watch him is clearly meant to wring tears out of us. The dialogue during the scenes where they get to know one another is flat and dull and the two actors are trying too hard to inject some excitement into these scenes. If this were a more modern film I am sure that Varinia would have something more to her character but expecting her to be Jimena from El Cid (1961) was unrealistic. This was also one of the few films where I was desperate for them to get to the fighting instead of spending so much time with the politicians arguing. Their conflicts weren't particularly interesting although I'm not going to complain about the scene set in a spa. If they had delved deeper into the psyche of a young Caesar or made the rivalry between Gracchus and Crassus more intense I would have been more invested but it just felt stale after a while as we kept cutting back to old white men in robes speaking in hushed tones. Even Gladiator (2000) does the political intrigue better than this film and that says something because Gladiator's screenplay is heavily derivative of The Robe (1953) and Cleopatra (1963). Obviously Dalton Trumbo is capable of doing great work as shown by You Belong to Me (1941) and Hawaii (1966) but this screenplay could have used a bit of editing down. This is definitely a dip in Kubrick's filmography as it comes between the brilliance of Paths of Glory and Lolita (1962) which boasts great performances from Shelley Winters and James Mason. He obviously produced some of his best work in the 1960s and 1970s and this film would have been even worse without his talents behind the camera but this isn't one of his classics and I hope that Barry Lyndon (1975) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), equally acclaimed productions, do not disappoint me as this film has.

    So historical epics aren't really my thing and the only reason that I watched this film was because Stanley Kubrick directed it. Unfortunately the brilliance of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) isn't present in this very generic Ben-Hur (1959) rip-off. I was mostly bored during the three hours and four minutes I spent watching this film and I failed to see what made the film so popular and acclaimed. It's not the fault of the film's lead as Kirk Douglas is fantastic in Paths of Glory (1957) and Champion (1949) but he doesn't hold the attention of a viewer for that long. There were no real spectacles to marvel at unlike in Ben-Hur and the characters felt inert and lacking in personality. If you want to see a great epic watch Gone With the Wind (1939) or Out of Africa (1985) because this isn't worth your time. Thracian warrior Spartacus, Kirk Douglas, is bought by a slaveholder and trained to become a gladiator against his will, during this time he falls in love with Varinia, Jean Simmons. He is eventually freed due to the sacrifice of fellow slave Draba, Woody Strode, as he and the other gladiators lead a revolt against the guards and escape but Varinia is bought by evil dictator Crassus, Laurence Olivier, who vows to destroy Spartacus. Spartacus' success continues as he frees slaves from around the country and builds up his army to fight the Roman Empire while infighting in the Roman court continues. In the end Spartacus and his army are defeated but Varinia and his baby get to see him one last time as he is being crucified. I suppose the part of the film that was meant to appeal to me most was the romance but much like in other epics of this type it felt underdeveloped. When we first see Varinia we understand that she is beautiful and virtuous because she largely doesn't speak, a shorthand in films from this area, but we never really learn anything about her beyond this. Why are she and Spartacus attracted to one another beyond the fact that they are both good looking? This plot element is ostensibly the emotional center of the film as the sight of him dying while his wife and son watch him is clearly meant to wring tears out of us. The dialogue during the scenes where they get to know one another is flat and dull and the two actors are trying too hard to inject some excitement into these scenes. If this were a more modern film I am sure that Varinia would have something more to her character but expecting her to be Jimena from El Cid (1961) was unrealistic. This was also one of the few films where I was desperate for them to get to the fighting instead of spending so much time with the politicians arguing. Their conflicts weren't particularly interesting although I'm not going to complain about the scene set in a spa. If they had delved deeper into the psyche of a young Caesar or made the rivalry between Gracchus and Crassus more intense I would have been more invested but it just felt stale after a while as we kept cutting back to old white men in robes speaking in hushed tones. Even Gladiator (2000) does the political intrigue better than this film and that says something because Gladiator's screenplay is heavily derivative of The Robe (1953) and Cleopatra (1963). Obviously Dalton Trumbo is capable of doing great work as shown by You Belong to Me (1941) and Hawaii (1966) but this screenplay could have used a bit of editing down. This is definitely a dip in Kubrick's filmography as it comes between the brilliance of Paths of Glory and Lolita (1962) which boasts great performances from Shelley Winters and James Mason. He obviously produced some of his best work in the 1960s and 1970s and this film would have been even worse without his talents behind the camera but this isn't one of his classics and I hope that Barry Lyndon (1975) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), equally acclaimed productions, do not disappoint me as this film has.

  • Apr 06, 2019

    Spartacus shows that you don't need buckets of blood to portray good battle scenes

    Spartacus shows that you don't need buckets of blood to portray good battle scenes

  • Apr 01, 2019

    boring old hollywood style epic with that canned elevator music. still it was the best of its kind

    boring old hollywood style epic with that canned elevator music. still it was the best of its kind

  • Mar 07, 2019

    Spartacus: With terrific preformances, epic action, grandiose storytelling and Kubricks masterful touch, Spartacus is as an epic sword and scandal classic masterpiece of epic movies, one thats bold cinematic entertainment.

    Spartacus: With terrific preformances, epic action, grandiose storytelling and Kubricks masterful touch, Spartacus is as an epic sword and scandal classic masterpiece of epic movies, one thats bold cinematic entertainment.

  • Jan 04, 2019

    A masterpiece that has one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. Kids who don't even know who Kirk Douglas is might be able to quote it too. There was also a stage presence by leading men back then that is seldom rivaled today.

    A masterpiece that has one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. Kids who don't even know who Kirk Douglas is might be able to quote it too. There was also a stage presence by leading men back then that is seldom rivaled today.

  • Oct 28, 2018

    Although the film may suffer from comparison with the rest of Kubrick's oeuvre, on its own SPARTACUS stands as one of the great cinematic epics, and among the best of the sword and sandal genre, often more memorable and engrossing than modern semi-digital analogues like GLADIATOR. The excitement of the latter is also its downfall: It is a movie about spectacle, about carnal violence, which it partakes in as much it critiques, the story of a virtuous individual who must regain his rightful position of dignity, the spiritually true heir set against the corruption of the undignified usurper-a classic tale of riches to rags to riches, of the prodigal hero returned to his rightful position of power. On the other hand, the story of SPARTACUS is as much about those he inspires as it is about the man himself, a person born into slavery and who flatly rejects claims of hierarchy and power-when given the opportunity, he denies any royal bloodline and, like Cincinnatus or Washington, refuses authority beyond that which is necessary and thrust upon him, breaking the system of violence and inequity rather than trying to beat by playing the gladiatorial games. The titles illustrate this dichotomy perfectly: GLADIATOR looms large and threateningly, a role for Maximus to step into a fill as the true, Platonic, paradigmatic warrior; SPARTACUS, instead, is not only the name of the historical figure who led a slave revolt, but becomes a signifier for all who join that cause, for all of righteous heart, a name we might even claim as our own: "I am Spartacus." In this way, the epic continues to speak to our times: It is easy to see the scenes of the Senate and recognize the backstabbing, the corruption, the hypocrisy of our own political system; and when Crassus speaks of using his wealth to return Rome to its former glory, it is hard not to recognize the terrible parallel avant la lettre: MRGA might be the new SPQR. In its best moments, SPARTACUS achieves a brilliant synthesis of the ancient and the modern-whether America during the creeping fascism of the Red Scare and the Black List, or during the creepy fascism of the Red Caps against BLM-the epic and the personal (in its love story), the heroic and the tragic. For a story set two millennia ago and made a half-century ago, SPARTACUS still feels fresh and alive even without the benefit of added computer graphics or action choreography, because the film doesn't just put the viewer on the edge of her seat, but asks you to rise up and join the chorus in your own voice: I, too, am Spartacus.

    Although the film may suffer from comparison with the rest of Kubrick's oeuvre, on its own SPARTACUS stands as one of the great cinematic epics, and among the best of the sword and sandal genre, often more memorable and engrossing than modern semi-digital analogues like GLADIATOR. The excitement of the latter is also its downfall: It is a movie about spectacle, about carnal violence, which it partakes in as much it critiques, the story of a virtuous individual who must regain his rightful position of dignity, the spiritually true heir set against the corruption of the undignified usurper-a classic tale of riches to rags to riches, of the prodigal hero returned to his rightful position of power. On the other hand, the story of SPARTACUS is as much about those he inspires as it is about the man himself, a person born into slavery and who flatly rejects claims of hierarchy and power-when given the opportunity, he denies any royal bloodline and, like Cincinnatus or Washington, refuses authority beyond that which is necessary and thrust upon him, breaking the system of violence and inequity rather than trying to beat by playing the gladiatorial games. The titles illustrate this dichotomy perfectly: GLADIATOR looms large and threateningly, a role for Maximus to step into a fill as the true, Platonic, paradigmatic warrior; SPARTACUS, instead, is not only the name of the historical figure who led a slave revolt, but becomes a signifier for all who join that cause, for all of righteous heart, a name we might even claim as our own: "I am Spartacus." In this way, the epic continues to speak to our times: It is easy to see the scenes of the Senate and recognize the backstabbing, the corruption, the hypocrisy of our own political system; and when Crassus speaks of using his wealth to return Rome to its former glory, it is hard not to recognize the terrible parallel avant la lettre: MRGA might be the new SPQR. In its best moments, SPARTACUS achieves a brilliant synthesis of the ancient and the modern-whether America during the creeping fascism of the Red Scare and the Black List, or during the creepy fascism of the Red Caps against BLM-the epic and the personal (in its love story), the heroic and the tragic. For a story set two millennia ago and made a half-century ago, SPARTACUS still feels fresh and alive even without the benefit of added computer graphics or action choreography, because the film doesn't just put the viewer on the edge of her seat, but asks you to rise up and join the chorus in your own voice: I, too, am Spartacus.

  • Sep 16, 2018

    Un drama muy bien logrado y con una excelente dirección de Stanley Kubrick

    Un drama muy bien logrado y con una excelente dirección de Stanley Kubrick

  • Aug 19, 2018

    Not exactly a Kubrick's film, but still an enjoyable experience.

    Not exactly a Kubrick's film, but still an enjoyable experience.

  • Aug 04, 2018

    While gaining no points for HISTORICAL accuracy, Kubrick delivers a VIBRANT SPECTACLE with mans eternal quest for freedom at its center. Helped by an amazing cast, with Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton deserving special mention, showing (yet again) that CGI runs second to giving great actors space to perform in.

    While gaining no points for HISTORICAL accuracy, Kubrick delivers a VIBRANT SPECTACLE with mans eternal quest for freedom at its center. Helped by an amazing cast, with Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton deserving special mention, showing (yet again) that CGI runs second to giving great actors space to perform in.

  • Jun 18, 2018

    I simply don't understand the appeal of this film. Epics were a dime a dozen during this era and, for the most part, I can respect what was accomplished, although hearing and watching Shakespearean actors portray foreign roles is immensely annoying. However, "Spartacus" is in a class by itself. Kirk Douglas is too American, too old and too wrong for this part in every way. Sir Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov save it from being a complete disaster, but attributing this snoozefest to Stanley Kubrick is just a shame. The gladiator training scenes were boring and poorly choreographed. The big battle scene is too long and anti-climactic. Compared to "Ben-Hur," released the year prior, "Spartacus" is a bore. I never care about Spartacus' hatred toward slavery. I never quite see the transformation from slave to revolutionary. It just happens. As a result, character development is mixed and, in some cases, completely lost.

    I simply don't understand the appeal of this film. Epics were a dime a dozen during this era and, for the most part, I can respect what was accomplished, although hearing and watching Shakespearean actors portray foreign roles is immensely annoying. However, "Spartacus" is in a class by itself. Kirk Douglas is too American, too old and too wrong for this part in every way. Sir Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov save it from being a complete disaster, but attributing this snoozefest to Stanley Kubrick is just a shame. The gladiator training scenes were boring and poorly choreographed. The big battle scene is too long and anti-climactic. Compared to "Ben-Hur," released the year prior, "Spartacus" is a bore. I never care about Spartacus' hatred toward slavery. I never quite see the transformation from slave to revolutionary. It just happens. As a result, character development is mixed and, in some cases, completely lost.