In many films that I've seen before, I've seen the classic old story about a guy taking revenge against another because the other did him a grave wrongdoing, just read Shakespeare. I've also seen the story of a man seeking justice against another person who's corrupt. I've also seen some flicks that combine both, but not like this one. Gladiator slashes and soars into greatness thanks to the creative artwork, great performances, and the mesmerizing direction of Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise). Gladiator delivered last year, and I believe it deserves all the praises it got, not because its violent and entertaining, but it blends well the elements of justice and vengeance, into a solid force that drives the film all the way to the end.Two-Time Oscar nominee Russell Crowe (The Insider, L.A. Confidential) stars as General Maximus, a tough, but worn-out Spaniard Roman soldier stationed with his army in Germania, and has only one wish: Win this fight and go home, to his family, but fate had other plans. Overseeing the battle is the ailing Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris, another two-time Oscar nominee), who is also tired of war, and also tired of another war, the one with corruption. The fight scenes give a close resemblance to the ones seen in Braveheart, and will echo all through the movie as we go on. The battle is won and Rome is victorious. Marcus Aurelius' sons Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix in a great performance) and Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) arrive at the front, sent by the emperor, so they can receive their command of their father in what it is to be Rome's future. Marcus Aurelius sends for Maximus and through the talks of politics and the background of each other’s, The Emperor asks Maximus to succeed him as the new emperor. Maximus is shocked by this and tells him that he'll think about it. Later the Emperor sends for Commodus, and he tells him he won't be emperor. Why? Like Marcus Aurelius told Maximus, he is corrupt and will just bring more trash to Rome. But then the twist comes, and with a broken heart, and for ambition, Commodus kills his father. Maximus is awakened and is told taken to the Royal tent, where he sees the Emperor dead. Commodus realizing that Maximus has killed the Emperor orders his Praetorians execute him. But he escapes, and rides towards his house only to find it all destroyed and his family dead by Commodus’ orders. He buries them, and falls unconscious of his surroundings due to his pain. In that time he's picked up by slave traders who sell him to a gladiator owner, Proximo (the late Oliver Reed), and through this he becomes a gladiator, and would use that as a force to go to Rome, where Commodus is organizing games in honor of his father, and seek his vengeance.
"Strength and Honor... A Brief, And Somewhat Lengthy Take On Gladiator"
In the opening scenes there is an interesting touch in the production design, as we see the sun glaze upon the wheat fields, and Maximus scraping his hands across the fields, then the light broods into a dark and moody scene, where the battlefield is, and Maximus watching a bird fly away. This is very interesting because it shows you how peaceful the world can be at first, with nothing to fear, the light shinning at us all, then turns into darkness, a dreary world where killing, hatred, and corruption rule. The bird flying away represents a symbol of the light, reflecting on the horizon of the tunnel of darkness, and in a way it also tells us that us humans are like the people that are inside the tunnel, running towards the light. There are many flashback shots through the film similar to these, which depict the question "what would've happened if?" Which I think is another cool touch, and soon on the end to the wife and kid, who is running to see his dad, which is the peace finally achieved. The last one adheres with the part of vengeance in the film, but Maximus challenges Commodus also for Marcus Aurelius, whom Maximus loved. So this film depicts justice as a two-blade sword, one to bring Commodus' corruptive ways down and to take revenge over his family. Now that’s interesting, because the film shows revenge and justice together, all for a cause, when they are nearly two separate things. Other films try this blend, but in the end, you'll see that the movie was either portraying one more than the other, but not Gladiator. Vengeance and justice are blend well, and live up towards the end. Maximus fights in the end not only for the slain of his family but for the slain of his emperor, and wins for both in the end. Now that’s the key to the script, which was written by David Franzoni (Amistad), and thanks to that key, the movie is entertaining.
A few flaws were shown, mostly in the special effects, due to the fact that the aerial shots of Rome and its Coliseum look more like the images you would see on a video game. And when Maximus is fighting this other gladiator on some parts the tigers don't seem real. But the rest of the film, thanks to the editing, moves along in a smooth way. Director Ridley Scott has guts to do a gritty film like this one, and does a very good job depicting the fighting scenes and also in the dramatic parts, though the editing must have been a pain in the ass, though, since all the graphic violence my have gotten this film an NC-17 rating. But the editors did a great job in balancing the violence and the key drama moments of the movie.
Throughout the film, as mentioned before, there are many ferocious fight scenes that as many other people have pointed out, that is a rip-off to Braveheart. Others say that is just an extended exercise over another film Spartacus. It is not, and you have to be a total idiot to think like that. What this film gives is a hat tip towards the other two films, which means it pays respects or tribute to other great films. In this case Braveheart and Spartacus. I mean it would be a fucking rip-off if the stories and formula that Braveheart and Spartacus depict were shown untouched and equal in Gladiator. Of course this is not. And it would be stupid too because the movie would be one-sided and unoriginal. What Gladiator does, is tip his hat with the fight scenes but takes the formula of the two previous movies into a different level, it becomes and entirely different movie, and it has to be that way because if it wasn't, again, the film would suffer due to lack of originality. And that is the last thing the filmmakers would like to do.In the end this movie is certainly one of the best films that shined more during the usual shitty summer season, and a heavy contender at the Academy, the Golden Globes and BAFTA. And I think it deserves it, because it’s a well-made movie, of course with a few flaws, but with great performances and strong directing. In the end this film will endure the tests of time and join the other classics as a classic of its own right. If not, well then he whose about to die salute you!!!
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1780&reviewer=235
originally posted: 02/28/01 11:10:19