Wanted to totally kick some ass after seeing this.
Tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor, Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) instead finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping execution, Maximus becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring.
Gladiator is that film that basically revived the swords and sandals epics, that come around every once and awhile, and with good reason too, because this film kicks ass.
Director Ridley Scott got inspiration for this film from a beautiful painting, and I have to say he does an amazing job with making a film, just from looking at a painting. The one thing that Scott does best is make this film visually stunning, while not forgetting to show some awesome action. The costumes, arms and armor look plausible, down to their tiny details. The battles are brutal and breathtaking. The city of Rome itself feels alive – dirty, chaotic, gaudy, beautiful, massive, sweltering. Scott is most known for paying too much attention to detail, but here it works, as he totally brings you into ancient Rome.
However, Scott totally takes over this film when the action comes on because he films it with just the right amount of shakiness to have us see everything that’s going on, and create a great tension within every action scene. This film is filled with blood and gore, but there’s nothing like watching swords, arrows, and chariots flying all around a Colosseum. You feel like your in the arena while all this action is going on because you can hear the cheers and chants from the crowd, and the constant clanging of weapons hitting together, and it all just feels so awesome.
People who watch this will love the action scenes, mostly guys, but if you’re looking for some story here, this has that too which separates from it other films of this nature. The good thing here about this story is that the screenplay isn’t all that bad. The story is rich in detail because the themes of revenge and corruptness within politics still ring true today, and do well with this story. The things these characters say aren’t campy or ironic, it all feels realistic and done very well.
My main problem with this film is a little nit-picky, but being very interested in history as I’am, I noticed plenty of historical inaccuracies that kind of bothered me. I understand Scott did this to create a more dramatic effect when the final clashes came around, but I couldn’t help but notice that people die here so much earlier then they actually did in real life. But I can’t give too much away, and I know I’m nit-picky this just kind of bothered me.
Russell Crowe is exactly what a bad-ass should look and act like. His role as Maximus is one of his best and probably most iconic because he does such a great job of combining that total bad-ass look that would make any of those American Gladiators crap their pants, but still has the dramatic skills to pull off the more heart-rendering scenes. Crowe won an Oscar for this, and even though he should have won it for something else, I was glad that he got something for this great performance. because we really do get behind Maximus the whole time. Let’s not also forget to mention Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, who is absolutely perfect as this vindictive and evil little son-of-a-bitch. There are scenes where Commodus character starts to dive into some strange material, but Phoenix keeps it very believable as he shows that he has the range to play some terribly evil characters, even if we have seen this role done time-and-time again. Connie Nielsen is also very good as Lucilla who is torn between doing the right thing, and doing what she can to not get caught by her asshole brother. Djimon Hounsou is here as Juba, and is the man here as well, and Derek Jacobi is good as well. But the real performances here to watch are the ones given by Richard Harris and Oliver Reed who give worthy swan songs, and make us realize just how great they really were.
Consensus: Gladiator may not be as perfect as some may claim, but Ridley Scott’s inspired direction keeps this well-acted, beautifully shot, and tremendously entertaining epic, on its toes by never once diving into cheesy or lame territory.