Spartacus, the action-packed Oscar-winning film by Stanley Kubrick and a true Hollywood classic, remains ever captivating. It’s hard to imagine a sword-wielding hero grander than Kirk Douglas depicting Spartacus in the towering arenas of Ancient Rome.
To the Death
The four-time Academy Award winning movie hooks the viewer to their screens as it depicts the story of a rebellious Thracian slave who was purchased by Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov) to train in his gladiatorial school in Capua, 73 BC. Here, the gladiators are fiercely and brutally trained to fight for the entertainment and glory of Rome, more often than not to the death. The earlier scenes telling of life in the school are thrillingly savage as Marcellus (Charles McGraw), puts the gladiators through brutal tasks in order to prepare them for the harsh realities soon to face them.
For the entertainment of the cruel senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier), the gladiators are to fight to the death in the Colosseum. Spartacus, however, has plans of his own. His love for the slave girl Varinia (Jean Simmons), paired with his disgust at the slave trade, ignite a passion in him for freedom.
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A Symbol of Resistance
The Third Servile War, which this movie is based around has been greatly simplified, though the politics involved gives a reasonably accurate impression of the time. Leading his fellow gladiators, Spartacus plots an escape in the name of freedom. While the majority of the escaped rebels take to looting around the town, he has grander plans and longs to “free every slave in every town and village!" putting an end to slavery once and for all. As word spreads of the rebels, more and more runaways join their cause and the once 78 gladiators become a large fighting force not to be meddled with. The pursuing battles contain outstanding graphics (for the time it was produced, that is) and bloody battle scenes. In defeat, the captured slaves bravely protect their leaders’ identity, as each and every one of them shout “I’m Spartacus” as the Roman Emperor demands to know of their leader.
The courage of the rebellion army in protecting their leader, as well as Spartacus' love for Varinia are purely fictitious and historically far from the truth. As a matter of fact, Spartacus was killed in the battle surrounded by the overpowering Roman forces as his comrades cowardly fled the scene.
The Hollywood approach to Spartacus may not be factually accurate, but it is undoubtedly an epic and timeless classic, providing plenty of excitement and nail-biting moments for viewers to get lost in.