This is the first part of a trilogy of 90-minute episodes. A made-for-TV miniseries - history Hollywood style (well, Hallmark Channel style, anyhow). And directed by action-movie pro Greg Yitaine , it is obvious you shouldn't expect a deep and insightful drama.
Julius Caesar (Colm Feore - Chronicles of Riddick ) is apparently a communist. To protect himself while he redistributes wealth he hires a gladiator as bodyguard. Yes, this is basically a rip-off of Gladiator. The Gladiator is named Tyrannus (as in oppressive leader), and wears armour suitable for the Trojan wars. The fighting rules are non-existent, too - no thumbs up (or down), just the endless slaughter of ultra-expensive Gladiators. Tyrannus will be awarded his freedom - but don't worry, he's killed more people than Typhoid but is a good person at heart.
What happens to Caesar on the Ides of March? Hmm. Let's see if we can recall. That particular scene is intercut with Tyrannus slaughtering multiple opponents, so we can have a feel-good reaction.
And afterwards - Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) is Rome's only hope, apparently. Since Mark Anthony is denied the Shakespearean speach so eloquently performed by Brando, we can assume he doesn't have the passion with Cleopatra that Richard Burton enjoyed. Oddly, the fellow playing Octavian resembles Mark the Groosalug, who got the role in Xena: Warrior Princess .
Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) manages to get away and tries to regroup his forces.
Meanwhile, Octo's girlfriend Emily Blunt (the Vestal Virgin ... well, the Vestal) distributes copies of Caesar's Will all over the city. This is disturbing on so many levels, it isn't worth going into it. The difference between this and Xena: Warrior Princess ? Xena didn't pretend to be anything other than fun.
Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) and Tyrannus try to team up with General Magonius (Denis Haysbert, AKA Doc Theo from Now and Again ), but get caught and imprisoned in a Gladiator School named Arkham Combat Dungeons! This isn't a historically accurate depiction, as in Gladiator , but the fevered imaginings of a deranged mind. Seriously, the writers display less knowledge of ancient Rome than the average 8-year-old!
Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) hides out at the villa of Marc Antony (Vincent Regan - Lockdown ). They indulge in a PG-rated orgy. This draws a direct comparison with the HBO/BBC show Rome , which covers the same historical events but does so in a mature way. This Hallmark-type version is tasteful, which means toned-down and boringly unrealistic.
Octavian's allies die in mysterious animal attacks. It seems someone has hired the ultimate assassin - a Bestiarii, a gladiator who has a menagerie of trained killer animals. Like Beastmaster .
This episode is pretty much filler. Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) gets nursed back to health, and has a heart-felt scene with the Vestal Emily Blunt before she becomes a damsel in distress to give him personal motivation to do heroic deeds in the final episode. As if reclaiming his uncle's throne, taking revenge on Anthony and Brutus, and becoming ruler of the known world is not motivation enough.
Meanwhile, Tyrannus finds his son is better off without him. In a setup that does not have a climax, he makes himself a gladiator again.
Marc Antony (Vincent Regan - Lockdown ) takes the throne in Rome, and has his rivals assassinated. Strangely, Brutus (James Frain - Invasion ) goes completely unpunished for his role in Caesar's murder, and even retains his role as Chief Priest!
Augustus Caesar AKA Octavian (Santiago Cabrera – The Musketeers ) and his best buddy, Agrippa, pay a visit to Cicero's villa. Octavian wants to recruit the Lost Legion - what is left of the Third Legion, a gang of deserters who have been camping in the nearby woods for twelve years.
Marc Antony (Vincent Regan - Lockdown ) has 9th Legion - the IX Hispana, who disappear from historical records around 123AD (150 years later). He also discovers Tyrannus is a Gladiator again, a man without cause or hope. Anthony, forgiving gent that he is, offers the poor fellow a commission in his Legion. Will Tyrannus do what is best for Rome?
Yes, our two heroes meet in battle on opposite sides. How will this end? Well, has anything unpredictable happened so far? Anything original and un-cliched?
The two armies meet in battle. Octavian gets completely trounced in a fair fight, but naturally the Hollywood cliches give him an unfair advantage. Anthony's overconfidence extends to monologuing the kid, while Octavian has both blind luck and a treacherous friend to rely on.