Sky / Vertigo / Amazon / etc's attempt to jump on the Game of Thrones bandwagon gets a DVD and Blu-ray release from Sony. But does it ride that bandwagon with pride or slip, fall off and land squarely on its embarrassed bottom?
It's 43 AD in a fantasy version of Britain where the sun shines quite a lot, the water is clear, and it's warm enough to wander around wearing very little, especially if you're an attractive female character (score several points on the exploitation-cum-GoT-ometer for that at least.)
The Romans are coming! Or at least David Morrisey and his averagely good legion is. I'm guessing this because their standards have LEG-AVG written in gold on them. Is Britain not worthy of the best? It would seem not.
As usual, every British community within spitting distance of each other is fighting. The two main contingents are the Blues led by Zoe Wanamaker going full Vivenne Westwood, and the not-Blues led by Ian McDiarmuid who has instead opted for a ginger theme to his tribe, specifically his two children played by Kelly Reilly with her frequent Derek Zoolander Blue Steel expression, and Julian Rhind-Tutt. His wife is played by Liana Cornell who seems to be channelling late 1970s Joan Collins and for that I take my hat off to her.
The fate of the British tribes seems to be decided by Skeletor (MacKenzie Crook) who lives at Castle Grayskull with a bunch of similarly cadaverous weirdos. He's the one who dictates who lives, who dies, who gets flayed alive and who has to eat what look like mint imperials before being slaughtered at Stonehenge, etc etc.
As historical dramas go, BRITANNIA is about as accurate as HAWK THE SLAYER, and less accurate than CARRY ON CLEO or Hammer's THE VIKING QUEEN. That's hardly the point, though. What we have here is a riotous attempt at doing epic fantasy using the Roman settlement of Britain as an excuse for it all. There's a hefty dose of supernatural weirdness, the locations are beautiful, the photography is gorgeous, all the parts are played with admirable gusto and some of the shots and set-ups are breathtaking.
So I find myself unable to be hard on BRITANNIA in any way at all. It's well-made, engrossing, has the courage of its daft convictions and as a result ends up being tremendous fun. It's like watching a bunch of 21st century actors with more enthusiasm than sense engaging in some sort of misguided drug-fuelled live action role play. I kept expecting someone to run onto a main road or for a helicopter to fly over. I do hope there's a second series. And if there is, I really hope they choose Spinal Tap's 'Stonehenge' for the theme tune this time.
Sony's disc release contains all nine episodes of the first season of BRITANNIA, plus two featurettes - 'Rome's Pagan Nightmare' and 'Bloody Birth of Britain'.
The delirious daftness that is BRITANNIA is getting a DVD & Blu-ray release from Sony on Monday 26th March 2018