“The General who became a slave, the slave who became a Gladiator, the Gladiator who defied an Emperor”. Gladiator is the story of Roman General Maximus (Russell Crowe) who seeks revenge for the murder of the Caesar and of his own family at the order of new Caesar, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).
The story is enthralling, and the battle scenes, epic. The impressive sets and locations are a reminder of the great historical epics of the 1950s and 60s. It is a joy to see real places at a time when CGI is often used instead. Talking of the CGI, it has held up to scrutiny very well and despite being twelve years old at the time I’m writing this, it looks as good as all but the best 2012 has to offer. The wonderful images are joined by a great score by Hans Zimmer.
The main characters are well defined and attention-grabbing. Crowe’s Maximus is a man on a mission who shows little emotion while in battle but a great deal of love and emotion towards those he loves. Crowe is opposite one of the most hateful characters in all of cinema history. To me, Joaquin Phoenix often comes across as unlikeable but he takes this to new heights as the villain of the piece, Caesar Commodus. The supporting cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou and Connie Nielson are all very good but the stand out is Oliver Reed who unfortunately died during filming, making this his last film. His scenes were completed at a cost of $3.2m using motion capture and CGI, money well spent in my view as it is difficult to spot.
The whole film itself seems fairly inexpensive when compared to its contempories. It cost $103m in 2000 whereas Titanic cost $200m three years earlier and
cost $147m five years later. I think you get a lot of film for your buck with Gladiator. (This is especially so when you compare it to Pirates of the Kingdom of Heaven Caribbean 4 which had an estimated budget of $150-250m and is a poor excuse for entertainment).
Occasionally the film gets a bit repetitive. Maximus is forced to fight one opponent after another in the Coliseum and after a while this begins to get tiresome. Each new battle introduces new elements such as chariots or wild animals which help it to keep fresh but you do get the feeling you are just watching the same thing over and over again and waiting for the final battle between the central characters which will obviously be coming. This being said, on the whole Gladiator is a great historical epic which should keep you entertained for over two hours and is better than similar films such as Troy and Alexander in a genre that it helped revive.