Santiago Cabrera as Octavius
Vincent Regan as Marc Anthony
Emily Blunt as Camane
James Frain as Brutus
Jonathan Cake as Tyrannus
Christopher Egan as Agrippa
Michael Maloney as Cassius
Fiona Shaw as Fulvia
Colm Feore as Caesar
Michael Byrne as Cicero
Orla Brady as Atia
Trudie Styler as Servilia
Graham McTavish as General Rapax
Dennis Haysbert as Magonius
Amanda Root as Noella
Rebuilding an Empire: “Making of” featurette
Empire: Before & After – Creating the look of Ancient Rome
Unrated, unaired scenes
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 257 Minutes
This mini-series originally aired on ABC in 2005. The following text is from the DVD cover:
“The epic event of the year comes to DVD in the mini-series Empire. Complete with unrated and extended scenes, Empire is presented for the first time as a seamless feature. The Roman Empire is plunged into chaos when Julius Caesar is assassinated and his power is passed on to his 18-year-old nephew Octavius. With his guardian, former gladiator Tyrannus, Octavius is forced into exile to escape those who wish to sever Caesar’s bloodline permanently. Under Tyrannus’ tutelage, Octavius prepares to face off against the treacherous Marc Antony and fulfill his destiny as the leader of Rome.
Empire boasts “powerful acting,” says the Wall Street Journal, with a hot young cast that includes James Frain (24), Colm Feore, Jonathan Cake, Santiago Cabrera, and Emily Blunt. Filmed entirely in scenic Italy, Empire tells the thrilling story of a hero’s rise amidst the greed, intrigue, and lust of Ancient Rome.”
Empire is rated TV-14.
Empire is essentially “Gladiator Lite”. Both films feature a corrupt Roman government. Both feature a heroic gladiator character. Both feature efforts to put a legitimate, good ruler on the throne. Both feature elaborate costumes and grand settings. Unfortunately, that’s where the comparisons end. Empire’s story is quite boring. The film takes a very long time to get rolling. The opening half hour features various Roman politicians maneuvering to kill Julius Caesar. While it’s clever to make the opening act parallel Shakespeare’s play, it’s not a good hook for viewers since the payoff takes so long to come about. It’s about as interesting as the political scenes in the Star Wars prequels. While the boredom is occasionally broken up by some action or fight scenes, everything else is so dry and slow that it doesn’t even out. The final result is something you don’t necessarily want to spend 257 minutes of your life watching.
The cast is decent, but nobody really stands out. About the only one you could consider is Jonathan Cake as Tyrannus, the gladiator. He’s tough and macho looking. He also handles the action well. Other than him, though, everyone else fades into the elaborate backgrounds. I will say that for a TV mini series, Empire looks great. The computer enhanced backgrounds help give the film an epic scale. But it’s still not enough to engage me.
There are two bonus features included on the DVD. One entitled “Empire: Before & After” shows off the computer effects used in the film. What they were able to accomplish was impressive. The other featurette, “Rebuilding an Empire”, is your typical “making of” documentary. They do detail shooting in Rome on location, so that’s a cool aspect of the production. It also features you standard interviews with the cast and crew.
I’d only recommend this DVD to people who enjoyed the mini series when it first aired and those that are really into Roman history. This mini-series butchers the true historical facts of the events, but history buffs may enjoy it anyway.