Damn you, “300.” Because of the Zack Snyder-directed movie’s way-cool look, everyone wants to pile on the gravy train and ape its distinctive graphic-novel style — from Animal Planet’s “Dark Days in Monkey City” to History’s new series, “Battles BC.” Ultimately, it’s just another computer-animated twist on injecting sizzle into boring old history, but the “Battles” premise does make for a fairly absorbing concept, even if the historians lending their expertise look silly juxtaposed with exaggerated blood splatters and comicbook lettering. All told, there are worse ways, I suppose, to help the massacres go down.
The eight-episode run begins with “Hannibal: The Annihilator,” chronicling the Carthaginian leader’s bloody campaign against the Romans, killing thousands as he outwitted rival generals at every turn and in several instances overcame vastly superior numbers. (The press notes, by the way, acknowledge the program’s obvious debt to “300,” for whatever that’s worth.)
The producers (whose credits, by the way, include a 2007 documentary titled “Last Stand of the 300”) use every trick imaginable to help visualize these massive encounters, from computer-game layouts of the battlefield — providing a good grasp of Hannibal’s military strategies — to animated elephants. Rest assured, though, they also find time to zero in on the sword-wielding exploits of Hannibal himself, played by the heavily muscled Alexander Castro, a former “American Gladiator” who looks as much like a Calvin Klein model as an ancient warrior-king.
But hey, why split hairs, especially when there are so many heads to split open? Fortunately, the “BC” label somehow makes the creative license taken in crafting the dramatic imagery more palatable — bringing a new flair to what’s become the pretty standard practice of elaborately reenacting history for these pre-video affairs. Subsequent installments focus on Caesar, Alexander, Joshua (subtitled “Epic Slaughter,” so that’s got to be good) and “David: Giant Slayer.”
Nobody will confuse “Battles BC” with history in its purest form, but in terms of outfitting such material to survive primetime’s ongoing battle for younger demographics, it’s certainly tailor-made for the Philistines among us.