"Empire!" Or "I was a Teenaged Caesar"

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Joseph DeMartino, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I'm surprised there have been no threads about this much-hyped mini-series. Maybe everyone had the same reaction to the sheer awfulness of it and decided it wasn't worth writing about. But I thought I should post this warning as a public service, in case anybody missed it and is thinking of watching the later chapters. Empire is a big steaming pile, part Rome: 90210, part cheeseball Gladiator rip-off and clearly concocted by people who learned their history watching Mr. Peabody and Sherman on their juants in the Way-Back machine. (Come to think of it, Mr. Peabody did a better job of getting his facts straight. I apologize.)

    Anybody who really wants to learn something about how the Roman Republic became an Empire, and only then acquired an Emperor, but who prefers the drama of fiction to the quieter pleasures of history, should read Colleen McCullough's impeccably researched Masters of Rome novels. But stay away from Empire. As drama it is silly and overwrought. As history - well I my jaw kept dropping at the obvious and pointless errors from the opening frame. I think this film piled more idiotic historical inaccuracies into the first 30 minutes than most Hollywood "histories" do in two hours or more. Apart from a handful of too-prominent-to-get wrong figures they didn't even get the names right, nor the relationships (Octavian was Caesar's grand-nephew, his niece's boy, not his nephew), nor the character's ages.

    (Cicero is presented as a elderly fellow who even calls himself an "old man" in his one brief exchance with Caesar. Cicero was born in 106 B.C., Caesar in either 102 or 100.)

    The names of the supporting characters are clearly made up and don't even sound like Roman names of the period. I forget what they call Caesar's sister, her made to be Octavian's mother, but it certainly isn't her actual name which was Julia - just like all the other women of the gens Julia, the clan to which Gaius Julius Caesar belonged.

    Chatting up a Vestal Virgin, as Octavius is seen doing, would be to risk getting yourself and her killed. And Octavius certainly would have known this as his Uncle Gaius was Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of Rome, and as such lived in one half of a state-owned temple/house. The other half was the headquarters of the Vestal Virgins, and they were under the care and protection of the Pontifex Maximus.

    Granted this is historical drama, not a doumentary, but surely some resemblance to actual historical events and people is to be expected. Especially when the real events are as dramatic as they are. Even setting aside the wholly-invented and truly pointless gladiator plot, they manage to completely restage Caesar's death, replacing the real warnings that history tell us he got with an invented psychic Vestal and placing Octavius at Caesar's house on the fatal morning. Then take the assassination itself, one of the best documented events in all of ancient history, and totally alter the location, the sequence of events and even the time of death (leaving Caesar conveniently alive to speak some invented last words to the guardian gladiator who never existed.)

    For anyone who knows anything at all about Caesar this is like watching an Abe Lincoln biopic in which the President strolls down to the theater lobby for some popcorn where Booth shoots him, or a version of JFK where the motorcade passes unharmed through downtown Dallas and Kennedy gives his speech at the Dallas trademart before being shot on his way back to Love Field. Your first reaction would be "WTF?" and your second would be "Why bother changing that detail? What was gained?"

    Not only that, but with the death of Caesar the only half-way interesting character in the movie was gone. Octavius is being played by a bland pretty boy as - well, as a bland pretty boy, which by all accounts he most emphatically was not. (Although he certainly had none of the charisma of his famous great uncle he had a certain charm and was damned smart and totally ruthless when necessary. The TV version is none of these things.)

    Let me just finish by saying that I won't bother watching the second hour before cleasing my TiVo of this abomination. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  2. Justin Bauer

    Justin Bauer Supporting Actor

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    Those are some harsh words.

    I actually thought it had some great elements production-wise...but I was also upset with alot of the aspects of the story. I will probably watch the rest of the series since their is not much else going on now...but this will be fart in the wind when "Rome" debuts.



    I could not agree with you more. Her books are AMAZING. I am finishing up the series for the first time right now with less than 100 pages to go in The October Horse.

    I hoped that HBO would have picked up the rights to the books and create a 6 season series with each season focusing on one book each. Hopefully "Rome" will bring some that realism.
     
  3. Sebastien S

    Sebastien S Second Unit

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    Guess I'm in the minority here but I really liked it and can't wait to see the other episodes.

    The show did not remind me of 90210 (or that type of show) in any way...


    BTW: This show looks great in HD!
     
  4. danak

    danak Second Unit

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    For those who are interested, Empire will be out on DVD soon according to The Digital Bits

    Dana in MD
     
  5. aaron campbell

    aaron campbell Second Unit

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    I couldn't make it to the first commercial break. That gladiator scene alone was so cheesy,it was comical.
     
  6. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Then you missed the "grain-high point of view, See, I saw Gladiator, too" walk through the wheat field that came later. (Note to producers: Never quote from the much better movie that you're ripping off. It just reminds the audience that there are better ways to spend two hours of their lives.)

    And, as we all know, gladiators of the time always fought with two swords like characters out of a samuari film. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Je
     
  7. Greg Morse

    Greg Morse Stunt Coordinator

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    I've never read any of her books. How do they compare to Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God? I'm a big fan of those two books and always on the lookout for a good read.
     
  8. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I read I, Claudius so long aog I think it might have been Claudius's manuscript copy. [​IMG] I really couldn't make a direct comparison. But McCullough (who also wrote The Thorn Birds and a number of other novels I haven't read) is a terrific writer who draws vivid characters and takes her history very seriously indeed. Most of the books have an introduction and/or an author's note at the end in addition to an extensive glossary of Latin terms, character names and explanations of the unwritten Roman constitution and traditions. Within the glossary itself McCullough often sets out her reasons for preferring one version of an event over another, or provides supporting evidence from ancient sources for a scene, or a bit of dialogue or an approach to a subject. (Her portrait of Spartacus and his rebellion strikes me as far more probable than most popular accounts and certainly moreso than Kubrick's film - although as a film I think Spartacus works quite well.)

    All I can say is that I bought the first one shortly after it was released in hardcover, hated the wait until the next volume arrived (usually a couple of years) and was sad that she ended the story at the point where she did - not because it was an inappropriate point, but because I could have happily read another dozen volumes in the series. (Although at the rate she was turning them out, I'm not sure either of us would have lived long enough to see that many. [​IMG])

    The books begin with The First Man in Rome around 100 B.C. (or B.C.E. if you prefer) and the rise of Gaius Marius. (Uncle, by marriage, to Gaius Julius Caesar the Dictator.) McCullough's stated purpose was to trace the downward trajectory of the Roman Republic, so she ends the narrative when the last of the great Republicans leave the stage, rather than with the rise of the Imperium and the dawn of the Principate. She ends with The October Horse and the aftermath of the battle of Phillipi. So the books form a kind of extended prequel to the Graves novels, with a gap of 30-some years in between. Perhaps another gifted writer will fill in the gap someday, and tell the story of the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus to the throne of Augustus.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  9. Justin Bauer

    Justin Bauer Supporting Actor

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    As a Follow up^^ They are brilliant. The only sad thing is that the series actually had to end. She ended the series one book short because she claimed she was burned out from the subject (which is understandable) so there is a tiny gap between her last book and I, Claudius time-wise. I do believe that she originally intended the series to cover that last 30 years or so(she stated that she owed us TWO more Rome books at the end of "MORGAN'S RUN and that she was beginning to be burnt out). Sadly, I have read that Ms. McCullough's health has declined and she is now blind in one eye. I think her failing health and a desire to give us an end to her series just in case, prompted her to end it where she did.

    I was hoping that she would change her mind one day and give us a 7th book.

    If anyone wants a Hardback, never read copy of THE OCTOBER HORSE for free, let me know. I thought was scammed on Ebay with one, so I bought one at Barnes and Noble for $7 bargain a year ago, only to have my ebay one show up 4 months after I paid.


    Got a link? I could not find anything at The Digital Bits.
     
  10. Greg Morse

    Greg Morse Stunt Coordinator

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    Sounds great. I'll have to start on the McCullough books as soon as I finish the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey/Maturin series. I just wish a writer would come along and write a series of books about the Nervan-Antonine dynasty. I always found that period much more interesting than the Republic and Julio-Claudians everyone seems to like. Oh well, at least Gladiator was set in that time frame.
     
  11. danak

    danak Second Unit

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    Previously from me:

    I swore I saw it there just before I posted about it here, but I can't seem to find it on the site now. Sorry

    Dana in MD
     
  12. danak

    danak Second Unit

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    DVD Update: Here we go, I actually saw it on the tvshowsondvd.com site; the link is
    Empire on DVD

    Sorry about that.

    Dana in MD
     

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