Gladiator is the kind of film that critics love to hate. There is nothing great about this film. The writing isn't brilliant, the directing isn't groundbreaking. This is just a big sweeping movie that has one intrinsic value - it's damn entertaining.
Maximus is a General of the northern Roman army. His job is to hack Germanians to pieces in an effort to expand the immense Roman empire, all for the glory of Rome. Marcus Aurelius is the Caesar of Rome, and he is about to make life for Maximus very difficult. Instead of choosing his son as his successor as tradition dictates, he wants Maximus to take over when he dies. If you know anything about Roman politics, this is a sure death sentence for poor Maximus, who doesn't even want the job. He just wants to go home to his wife and kid, run his farm, and play in the dirt. Commodeus, Marcus Aurelius' son, isn't going to stand for having this dirty General run Rome, so he plots to change everything while simultaneously doing his best to bone his own sister. The rest of the movie is about how this fine upstanding General becomes a gladiatorial slave and takes revenge on the new Caesar of Rome all from within the sands of the great arena, the Coliseum.
Ridley Scott directs this movie with style. The battle scenes are well done, crisply edited and well choreographed. The special effects are a little too clean. The Coliseum looks hyper-real, which is an unfortunate side effect of artistic perfectionism at work. This movie doesn't have much dialogue, but Scott does a good job of digging into the characters of this story using timed close-ups and veiled emotion to their advantage. Much was made of the violence in this movie, but I can think of at least 10 other recently released movies that were gorier than this one.
The DVD version of this movie comes with a full second CD. Here you can view deleted scenes from the film (a couple of which I think should have stayed in), a documentary about Gladiators, extra commentary, and a long segment about the music for the movie. This extra footage is what DVD is all about. Some of the deleted scenes show more of Maximus' character than can be seen in the released movie, and these are the scenes that I feel shouldn't have been cut. As the movie currently stands, Maximus is the strong silent type with hidden emotions. Some of the cut footage shows him in much more depth. This could have turned a good entertaining film into a film the critics would have been happier about.
If you liked Gladiator, the DVD version of this movie is well worth the cash. If you haven't seen Gladiator, get thee to your local movie rental store and rent it. If you aren't Roger Ebert, and just a regular movie lover, this movie is for you.
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