I am required to kill so I kill. That is enough.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * * ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )
Gladiator forces me into a difficult position. Five star ratings really should be kept for movies that have nothing but redeeming qualities and offer a benchmark for movies of their genre. Many times they even redefine or step outside of known genres. Gladiator fits into a genre and truly acts as a new definitive example of historical epic / action movies. It blows away Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, The Messenger, and many that fit into this class. The action is unbelievable, with the first twenty minutes rivalling any war ever done in any movie including the previous benchmark, Saving Private Ryan. The introduction alone, along with the excellent theme music done by George Clooney.
Ok, so now on to the bad. The creepy pervert of a Roman dictator is so hard to stomach that you really just don't want anything to do with him. His calculating sister is far from the intricate planner that you might find in Elizabeth, which would have been a lot better, and instead does a lot of content-free talking and kissing. Her son is also quite the annoyance. And what is with the infidelity of our heroes. Both Braveheart and Gladiator have one fatal flaw in their main characters. Their loved ones are killed by baddies, they pledge themselves to destroy the baddies and then they go and nail other women. What sense does that make? What happened to loyalty? I guess they have to have something to get women in the seats, but comeon, it just makes them look bad and ends up defeating the purpose. This one isn't as bad as Braveheart, he only kisses the woman, but still.
Luckily the director, Ridley Scott (Alien), must have known how painful these scenes were, because he strategically placed his best action sequences right after a particularly painful scene of much subtle sexual tension between the Caesar and his sister. And the action does it's job. There are a lot of different ways to do action, and Ridley Scott picked the chaos style. By using odd framerates, hacking out particular frames, and using a lot of unknown sourced blood gouts, there is a constant feeling of the chaos of the battle. Just enough of the detail is given to you to show how much ass Maximus can kick, which is quite a lot. One of the things I hated about movies like Braveheart and Elizabeth, even though they are wonderful movies, is the fact that they are "based on a true story" as if it gives them some kind of license. Gladiator has none of that. It is very very loosely based on a period of time. A lot of the facts were mixed up and many names including our hero never existed. I actually prefer this. It is historically significant, but has the freedom to do what it wants without having to lie about it. Historical fiction really is the way to go.
The DVD is a monument to this great movie. It includes two DVDs worth of material including a 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture, a Dolby Digital 5.1 AND DTS EX 6.1 soundtrack on the same disk. There is a commentary track with Ridley Scott and a slew of featurettes on the second disk that are apparently quite good, though I have not had the time to watch them.
Gladiator is an absolutely excellent movie, and even though it has it's faults, I cannot give it less than five stars. This is definitely in the top ten DVDs of all time, if you don't buy this one outright, there is something wrong with you.