Oscar Movie Month "Gladiator" Review


Oscar Movie Month "Gladiator" Review

-- Rating: R (For intense and graphic combat)
Length: 155 minutes
Release Date: May 5, 2000
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama

The epic historical drama movie "Gladiator" revolves around a Roman general seeking for revenge after a corrupt son of the emperor betrays him and murders his family. The story was written by David Franzoni, who also shares the screenplay credits with John Logan and William Nicholson. The movie was directed by Ridley Scott.

"Gladiator" is set in Rome in AD 180. The Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) defeats the Germanic tribes at Vindobona and wins the favor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Aurelius, who is elderly and dying, schemes to pass over his heir apparent Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and hand over power to Meridius, with the hope that one day the Roman Senate will be in control of the empire again. This arouses the son's jealousy, and he promptly murders his father.

When Meridius learns of the truth, he is betrayed and marked for death by one of his friends, General Quintus (Tomas Arana). Though he escapes, his family does not, and he is carted by slave traders who find him unconscious at his family's graves to a Roman city in North Africa, Zucchabar. It is in this city that he is sold and forced to fight as a gladiator. Meridius rises through the ranks of gladiators and begins to plot the downfall of Commodus.

One of the best things about this movie is the devotion of the actors, led by Crowe, who are totally committed to their parts in the story. Maybe it is a fact that a steel-clanging epic of this kind had not been made for nearly two decades after the release of the popular "Conan the Barbarian."

There is a great use of imagery in "Gladiator," which is evident right from the first battle depicted in the movie. During this battle, which pits Meridius against the fierce and proud Germania troops, arrows fly through the sky very much like the tracer shells in a World War II film would. Another example is that of ashes drifting from the sky after this battle, which resemble floating snowflakes.

There have been industry rumors that Mel Gibson was originally chosen to play Meridius before the role was passed to Crowe. It must be agreed that Gibson naturally cuts a fine figure as a noble Roman. The makers of "Gladiator" succeeded in turning Crowe into a Roman-including Caesar's trademark haircut. Other similarities between the two actors include the serious baritone voices and so much energy.

"Gladiator" is filled with lots of cool battle scenes that many people love. In fact, the hugely entertaining hand-to-hand combats depicted in this movie are not easy to make, and not many movies have them. This film is entertaining from the beginning to the end, but that is not to say that it is perfect. For example, the quiet parts of the movie seem not to have been well planned because they seem only to fill the spaces before the actions scenes begin.

"Gladiator" boasts of incredible digital effects, thousands of cast members, and a gripping tale. This combination is good enough for any movie, but one gets the feeling that it is the movie's director, Scott, who made it what it is. After making movies in different genres, such as "Thelma & Louise" and "Blade Runner," Scott decided to move to a different genre with "Gladiator." People should not be deluded into thinking that historical dramas are meant to be true reflections of history, because they are not. Despite this, however, this movie will continue to withstand the test of time. In fact, Scott seems to have made a wise decision by sticking to mythic storytelling instead of attempting a duel with historical truths. He follows the story of the general-turned-gladiator who moves from heroism and slavery to being a revolutionary.

The movie's feminine interest is mere token. In fact, Meridius' wife and even the princess to whom he is attracted, Commodus' sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), are both stereotypes. Some people may take this to mean that the movie cannot be enjoyed by many women, but that is not the case at all. It is just that there are more important things to be dealt with in the movie, including such things as the rivalry between the neurotic, coward prince and the heroic Meridius.

In the end, "Gladiator" comes out as a grand opera that is somewhat pompous but nevertheless entertaining. The dynamism of the action scenes and the energy of the central character contribute in making this one of the best movies released at the begging of the millennium.

Rating: 4 out of 5