| It was a time of heavy
political unrest. The warrior ruler of a far-flung empire, who took the
leadership from an old warrior and literal father figure, personally oversaw
military campaigns in Europe but was more content being the idol of his
subjects. Sexual tensions pervaded the halls of power, homosexuals were in the
Senate,* and the Great Leader forced himself on unwilling women who could not
defend themselves. The people, being distracted by a variety of games, were
beginning to believe their government could and would give them everything.
about politics today.
Gladiator takes place in
11th century Rome, just after the death of Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome.
Much of the story is rooted in history, but the details have been molded into a
compelling, fast paced panorama of bloody battles and dark intrigues.
who helmed such masterpieces as Bladerunner and Alien, has reached the height
of his career powers in this exquisitely photographed and polished slice of
Roman Meal bread.
takes us into a living Rome, with incredible 3D animated shots of the coliseum
filled with people - banners streaming, all new and vibrant, with details such
as the sliding sun roof on the coliseum, statues and people hanging out in
windows looking just like people do when they are looking out
takes control of Gladiator with a powerful portrayal of a good man in a bad
situation, but Joaquin Phoenix steals this show with his complex and humorless
portrayal of Commodus.
The son of the
Emperor, Commodus falsely ascends to the throne, crudely eliminating those who
will not immediately align themselves with his reign. Lacking bravery, honesty
and many other virtues of great men, he nonetheless has those qualities
associated with cruel bureaucrats and dictators - perseverance, cunning and
dedication to cause.
from that to mean Commodus is a slouch. In a brief scene at the beginning,
Commodus, who has belatedly joined his father at the front in Germany, takes
exercise with a sword against six or seven soldiers, demonstrating prowess and
the potential to be a real adversary. He is no creampuff, but he is deranged.
And it is not
just that the fledgling Emperor is ruthless and conniving, it is that as a man
he is desperately trying to get people to love him. He just does not know how
to get the acceptance he wants - from his father whom he adores, from his
sister, from Maximus. His frustration at Maximus grabbing the glory is funny,
painful, and full of dire consequences.
|Moments to watch for
versus men in coliseum. Why not lions? Tigers are more cunning, and much more
colorful. That's why.
2. Teardrop mask gladiator fighting
3. ColiseumColiseum re-creation.
4. Ending shot of Rome and its seven hills
5. Battle scenes in Germany against the
6. Commodus battling Maximus.
7. The battle of the Barbarians against the
Chariots of Carthage.
8. Commodus' triumphant return to Rome with
all of the paid spectators (like those paid to attend the N.Y. democratic
9. Maximus' escape from the death squad at
the beginning of the film.
10. Total lack of mention of Christianity or
persecution thereof. (Unless I missed it twice.)
11. Powerful score, which was also used for
the great escape theme of the TV trailer for Chicken Run, no kidding, cut 10,
4:00 on the CD, also a Dreamworks film.
12. Joaquin's intensity, Crowe's
straighforwardness, Harris' weariness, and Reed's former glory.
| Emperor Commodus starts giving
the people games and bread to celebrate his ascendancy, but it is not enough.
In the brilliant machinations of the script, Maximus, whom Commodus converted
into a gladiator by way of trying to kill him, takes the love of the people
away from him. This maddens the cowardly Commodus, and further attempts
backfire - with astonishing results.
It is the
eternal struggle between those that have and those that want. And how doing the
right thing still reigns supreme.
is the second gem, as an aging gladiator running a small town arena. He takes
Maximus under his shield - so long as he kills on command - and provides
Maximus the opportunity to steal Commodus' thunder. Reed died before this film
was released but he is a shoo-in for a supporting actor nomination.
The third gem in this crown is Richard
Harris as Marcus Aurelius. At this point in his life, he is of such stature
that he commands whatever he wants by standing still. Tired, bent and broken,
you believe this is an old man on his way out - but still possessed of strength
and determination. The last of the great empire builders, he neglected his
family, and it costs Rome dearly.
In a grand gesture of cinematic
foreshadowing, Maximus promises to be the best gladiator ever - in fact he will
"show them something they've never seen before
" It is one of
those moment where you know without a doubt he will, and it is worth the
And Ridley shows us something we have rarely
seen before - a nearly perfect film fit for all ages and interests with
arresting visuals, haunting and driving music and sound effects, fantastic
battle scenes, tortured psyches, unjust power - a grand tapestry of hideous
desires and callousness - interwoven with the finest, slimmest thread of
decency and hope.
And most vexing of all, it is about how one
man with nothing at all but his name can take the heart of the people from
someone who has it all.
*not that there is anything wrong with