Barbarians Rising (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 11, 2016 by  

“Barbarians Rising” is entertaining, action-packed but also quite informative and educational.  One of my favorite History Channel docudrama series that I have watched and I definitely recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Barbarians Rising


DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements)

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Directed by Declan O’Dwyer, Simon George

Written by Elizabeth, Chris Fallon, Simon George, Colin Heber-Percy, Olivier Nilsson-Julien, Declan O’Dwyer, Lindsay Shapero, Lyall Watson

Produced by Lauranne Bourrachot, Katie Holly, Whit Stillman

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Marco Cherqui, Olivier Pere, Raymond van der Kaaij

Executive-Producer: Collin de Rham, Russell Pennoyer, Keith Potter, Kieron J. Walsh, Nigel Williams

Line Producer: Cathleen Dore

Associate Producer: Trevor Brown

Cinematography by Richard Van Oosterhout

Music by Benjamin Esdraffo

Edited by Sophie Corra

Casting by Kerry Barden, Colin Jones, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Anna Rackard

Art Direction by Louise Mathews, Bryan Tormey

Set Decoration by Stuart Crinnion

Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh


Narrated by Michael Ealy

Kirsty Mitchell as Queen Boudica

Ian Beattie as Varus

Steven Berkoff as Augustus

Tom Hopper as Arminius

Fintan McKeown as Igulomerus

Steven Waddington as Fritigern

Julian Kostov as Marcus

Dimo Alexiev as Emsger

Aleksandra Atanasova as Epona

Dimitar Banenkin as Knimund

Ben Batt as Spartacus

Victor Bitiusca as Ilefons

Diana Dimitrova as Aquilina

Nikola Dodov as Sigismer

Leart Dokle as Stilcho

Nicholas Pinnock as Hannibal

Emil Hostina as Attila

Jefferson Hall as Viriathus

Kerry Ingram as Hilde

Action-packed visuals and reenactments bring to life the epic stories of how the brave barbarians waged a 700-year fight for freedom, bringing the mighty Roman Empire to its knees and shaping the world to come.

For those who long for the days when the History Channel showcased docudramas were no doubt entertained when “Barbarians Rising” was aired on television back on June 2016.

Executive produced by Adam Bullmore and produced by Michael Waterhouse, the series is told from the point of view of various rebel leaders, which the Romans have dubbed these rebels as “Barbarians” who would challenge the Roman Empire who would dominate and exact their supremacy across the region.  Exacting genocide to various regions through treachery.

The Romans would rule and take over cities without mercy for 700 years.  And to fight for their people and their land, people led by their great leaders would fight in hopes to reclaim their land.

The four episode series would focus on the following key rebel leaders:

  • Hannibal Barca (portrayed by Nicholas Pinnock) – A Punic military commander from Carthage (which is now known as Tunisia), the once wealthy and powerful country in the Mediterranean and the other power that proved to rival the Romans.  When Rome beat Carthage for the control of Sicily, Rome demilitarized Carthage.  Hannibal’s father raised his son for one purpose, the destruction of Rome.  Hannibal had to unite rivals and create an army which included his country’s signature war elephants from Iberia through the Alps to Italy.  Hannibal’s rival would be the Roman general, Scipio Africanus.
  • Viriathus (portrayed by Jefferson Hall) – A shepherd of Lusitania (which is now known as modern Portugual, Extremadura and a province of Salamanca) who was able to escape when Rome promised peace to the Lusitanians, but instead, thousands were all massacred.  Viriathus would rescue various groups which include the Lusitanian and Vetton tribes, Celtiberian allies and rebel against Rome.  Viriathus rival would be Caius Vetilius, the appointed governor of Hispania Ulterior.
  • Spartacus (portrayed by Benn Batt) – An escaped slave from Thrace (which is now present-day Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and European part of Turkey) and would be trained at a gladiator school and would be used as entertainment for the Romans.  Spartacus and other slaves would try to escape the school and would try to lead the slaves and revolt against the Romans.  His main rival would be General Marcus Crassus, the wealthiest man of Rome, the senator of the Republic and craving power that he aims to crush Spartacus.
  • Arminius – The son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus of Germania (a region west of the Rhine river and south of the Danube river) who was held hostage as a child and raised in Rome.  He would become an officer in the Roman military alongside his brother Flavus.  He would betray the Rome army and would lead a coalition of Germanic tribes together in opposition to the Romans.  His main rival would be his brother Flavus who was loyal and dedicate to the Roman army as an officer.
  • Boudica (portrayed by Kirsty Mitchell) – The Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe.  Her husband Prasutagus ruled the region and was an independent ally of Rome and upon his death, his kingdom would be left to his daughters and Roman emperor.  But when his will was ignored, his kingdom was annexed, Boudica was hanged and flogged and her two daughters were raped by the Romans.  After how the Romans treated her family and people, she would lead the Iceni tribe, the Trinovantes and other tribes in revolt against Rome.
  • Fritigern (portrayed by Steven Waddington) – As Rome would face threat from the Huns, the Goths were in the middle, also in fear of the Huns who threatened Thervingi.  A Thervingian Gothic chieftain, Fritigern and the tribe felt that for their survival, they would make a deal with the Romans.  The Romans allowed the Thervingi to cross the Danube River but instead of giving them protection and peace, the Roman governors of the area, Lupicinus and Maximus showed them no hospitality.  The Romans treated the Thervingi as filth, denied them food and starved them.  And would only help if they gave the Romans money or sold their children as slaves.
  • Alaric (portrayed by Gavin Drea) – The first King of the Visigoths, who led a group of Goths and allied people to help build the credibility of Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius and winning battles.  Rome gave no recognition to Alaric or his army and would become the leader of the Visigoths. Alaric would lead the “Sack of Rome”, the first time Rome would fall to a foreign army.
  • Attila (portrayed by Emil Hostina) – Unlike other leaders who would rampage to take over land and people, Attila was the leader of the Hunnic people (Eurasian nomads which consisted of the Huns, Ostrogoths, Alans and others) who’s main goal to anyone not just the Romans is that they should fear him and the Huns.  The Huns would be responsible for murdering not just Romans but other tribes and people.  And would lead an attack on Italy.  He was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
  • Geiseric (portrayed by Richard Brake) – The King of the Vandals and Andals (also known as Genseric), who established the Vandal Kingdom.  He would be known for the capture and plunder of Rome in 455 by the Vandals (and hence the word, “vandalism” was created).

Narrated by Michael Ealy (“Seven Pounds”, “Think Like a Man”, “Almost Human”, “Underworld: Awakening”), the docudrama features commentary with modern scholars, historians, military leaders and experts on public policy.


“Barbarians Rising” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic. Closeups shows good detail, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep. The production for this overall series and the cinematography was well done.


“Barbarians Rising” is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio.

The film is primarily dialogue driven, as dialogue is crystal clear. While I would have preferred at 5.1 lossless soundtrack, the audio is crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.


“Barbarians Rising” comes with the trailers.


“Barbarians Rising” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.

I absolutely enjoy History Channel docudramas and its take on history through re-enactments but also allowing history scholars and historians, military experts and leaders in public policy to comment on strategies, the effects on society of the time and more.

“Barbarians Rising” is rather exceptional in the fact it gives us a perspective through the various leader of tribes, called Barbarians by the Romans and also showing viewers of how Romans were barbaric, treacherous and would lead to genocide of other tribes in their quest of domination.

Rome and Carthage were two of the superpowers and in order to destroy Carthage, hundreds of thousands of people were massacred by the Romans.  While”Barbarians Rising” would focus on the Carthage battles through the first episode featuring Hannibal, there are other areas showing how Romans would massacre and mistreat people with the promise of giving them peace but instead, when everyone would gather, have them massacred.

Giving people no choice but to fight for their people and country.  This can be seen in the first episode featuring Viriathus.

For the first episode,”Resistance”, one of the surprising but also heavily debated casting decisions was to portray Hannibal with a Black actor.  In some ways, this is a bold but also good decision as there is one side who felt that Hannibal of Africa was Black. Meanwhile, the casting received resistance because there are those who point out that North Africa did not have Black residents.  But then there are debates that Carthanginians were descended from Phoenician colonists who were Semitic people and because there were many Black people around the region, it is possible that Phoenician colonist intermarried with native African people.  And if you look on line, Erudites have much to say on intermarriage and that there are writings including the Bible that believed Phoenicians and Canaanites were related to people of Africa.  Whether or not Hannibal was Black or not, is is a debate that will continue to go on for many years and decades to come.

For those who have watched films about Spartacus, the second episode titled “Rebellion” shows us a different side of Spartacus that people may not be familiar with.  Especially when it comes to Spartacus’ decision to threaten Rome.  The story of Arminius is also very entertaining and showing how two Germanic brothers, Arminius and Flavus who were sold for gold to the Romans, would have two opposite ideals and would become enemies.  Arminius who would lead his tribe versus the Romans and would fight against his brother, Flavus leading the Romans.

The third episode is possibly my favorite episode of the four, titled “Revenge” would focus on Celtic Queen Boudica and Goth leader Fritigern.  With Boudica’s story, having been betrayed by the Romans and then humiliating her by hanging and flogging her, while raping her young daughters would lead her to a path of exacting revenge upon the Roman empire.  Fritigern and the Goths who made a deal with the Romans, just to have Roman governors not abide to the agreement and make their own choices that led to the suffering of Fritigern and his people, would lead to a major uprising.

The fourth episode would feature Alaric, leader of the Visigoths, the savagery of Attila the Hun and the Vandal King, Geiseric, which would lead to the fall of the Roman Empire.

While the majority of the series does portray history, for story reasons, I’m not sure if the story of Fritigern finding Alaric as a child and helping raise him is factual.  I found nothing about this online nor did I find anything about Alaric exacting revenge on Lupicinus for what he and Maximus did against the Goths.

I also felt that there should have been maybe ten minutes dedicated to let viewers know that the attacks were just one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire, not the sole reason.  Part of the reason why Rome fell was due to the economic troubles.  There was no doubt that Vandal King Geiseric and his people definitely disrupted the Romans but growing such a large empire, led to labor deficits, military overspending, overexpansion.  Also, Emperor Diocletian, because the of the large empire, divided the Rome empire to West and East and both empires did not communicate and were often at each other due to the economic troubles.  And last, the corruption in the government and its instability were big factors in the fall of the Roman Empire.

The rebels (Barbarians) were a huge threat and one part of the fall of the Roman Empire but the empire’s undoing was due to the Roman corruption in their centuries of leadership, its greed and quest for power, their treachery and the lack of monetary resources.

As for “Barbarians Rising”, acting was well-done, as well as the cinematography.  Michael Ealy did a wonderful job of narrating the four-part series and the commentating by scholars, historians, military experts, public policy leaders, etc. were also well incorporated and gave context to strategies succeed and failing.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, but while I was hoping for a 5.1 lossless soundtrack, unfortunately, it’s just a 2.0 stereo soundtrack.  And I wish there were special features included (other than trailers).

Overall, “Barbarians Rising” is entertaining, action-packed but also quite informative and educational.  One of my favorite History Channel docudrama series that I have watched and I definitely recommend it!

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