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DVD Review: Rome - The Complete First Season

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If you haven't noticed, HBO is currently rebroadcasting season one of "Rome" and while it is worth it to watch the episodes on TV you will miss quite a lot. HBO and the BBC teamed up to bring this John Milius/Bruno Heller creation to the screen. Filmed in 35mm it is the most completely detailed and character driven effort to recreate imperial Rome since the abstract, studio-bound 1970s effort, "I Claudius", based on the widely respected and famous translator of ancient Roman texts, Robert Graves.

Everything in "Rome" is real, or at least as real as it can be: the armor is handmade out of leather and metal; the "soldiers" went through several weeks of boot camp living as centurions in tents, in the mud, next to a lake, with no hot water, in winter; the horse saddles have no stirrups since they weren't invented yet; the Forum set is a full six acres, largest set in the world, and the extras are all Romans; the graffiti on the walls is recreated from period graffiti found in Rome and Pompeii; etc. The detail is incredibly breathtaking and the attention and care paid by the set and costume designers is more than obvious.

The dialogue is formal but not annoyingly classicalized, and the characterizations are well crafted - senators and soldiers are humanized and interact as close to real people as I have seen in any production on ancient Rome. Cato, Cicero, Brutus, Pompey, and Mark Anthony interact with each other, they don't orate at each other.

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The two "everyman" characters, centurions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, are based on historical figures that Julius Caesar himself wrote about in the history of his campaigns in Gaul. Lucius Vorenus is played by Kevin McKidd, the only actor American audiences will probably recognize, from his role as Tommy, the junkie who dies of AIDS in "Trainspotting." Since not much more is known about these two soldiers other than Caesar’s entries, a lot of necessary and well-done liberties are taken to make their storyline flesh out "Rome." Their characters are dynamic and interesting and I genuinely want to know what is going to happen with them in season two.