Roman Empire: Reign of Blood is an interesting Netflix documentary about Commodus, the Roman Emperor who ruled the Roman territory from 180 to 192 AD and became famous more due to his desire of glory and fame than for his political activity. I really liked the structure of this documentary, because it mixed a fictional reconstruction with interviews of expert historians, united by Sean Bean’s voice, that has the duty of explaining this complex history. Despite my appreciation, I have to recall some of the flaws of this Netflix (still great) product.
The fictional part is characterized by an enormous repetition of sets, both interior and outside, and of pictures not clearly identified, making Reign of Blood looking like a low-budget production. It’s overall sets and clothes problem, as the performance of the actors is more than good, succeeding in capturing the spectator attention (feature that reconstructions used in documentaries not always have). Aaron Jakubenko, who plays Commodus, manages to stage plausibly the Emperor’s paranoia and creates a really interesting character. I can’t say if the historical reconstruction is truly accurate – even though it made me realize how many historical changes are in Ridley Scott’s The Gladiator – but Roman Empire: Reign of Blood made me want to know more about Commodus and his possible responsibilities in the fall of the Roman Empire, after giving me a quite wide understanding of the period.
I really hope to see more and more Ancient and Modern History documentaries made by Netflix mixing TV-series and “classical” documentary, hoping that this system could improve and increase the ways of divulging History.