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Date: 05 Jun 2000
Gladiator I saw this at the Coliseum (mega-theatre in Mississauga, Ontario) on the evening of Saturday June 3rd. I had read some disparaging things from Roger Ebert about this movie, so I went in with a skeptical eye, ready to pick off inconsistencies like King Kong Bundy at a public school dodge ball game.
I was very pleasantly surprised. This movie, aside from some slight flaws, was FANTASTIC. Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, White Squall etc.) directs this masterpiece of the cinema with unique (and sometimes confusing) fight/action sequences. Russell Crowe (The Insider, L.A. Confidential) has made the leap, as all expected, into super-stardom with this performance. In Gladiator, victorious general Maximus Decimus Meridias has been named keeper of Rome and its empire by dying emperor Marcus Aurelius, so that rule might pass from the Caesars back to the people and Senate. Marcus'neglected and power-hungry son, Commodus, has other ideas, however. Escaping an ordered execution, Maximus hurries back to his home in Spain, too late to save his wife and son from the same order. Taken into slavery and trained as a gladiator by Proximo, Maximus lives only that he might someday take his revenge and fulfill the dying wish of his emperor. The time soon comes when Proximo's troupe is called to Rome to participate in a marathon of gladiator games held at the behest of the new emperor,Commodus. Once in Rome, Maximus wastes no time in making his presence know, and is soon involved in a plot to overthrow the emperor with his former-love Lucilla sister after whom he lusts, and also the widowed mother of Lucius, heir to the empire after his uncle-- and democratic-minded senator, Gracchus. I had just purchased "Spartacus" ( 1960, Kubrick, Kirk Douglas etc. ) on DVD over a week ago and this was a perfect opportunity to compare the two similar concept films. The winner <drum roll>… Gladiator was hands down better in every are except depth of acting. Now, that may be because of the increased capabilities in all aspects of film in the past 40 years from Cinematography to the craft of Thespians, but remember, I watched a flawless quality DVD, perhaps even better visually than movie-goers saw in 1960. How is it possible to better the likes of Kubrick, Douglas, Olivier,Laughton and Ustinov? in an obvious attempt at Box-office-smashdom directed by Ridley Scott ? I wish I could a succinct answer to that. I only know that I was more riveted/entertained/focused while watching Gladiator than I was with Spartacus (and I gave Spartacus 4 ˝ out of 5!). I like to think I am a movie buff/snob, but a movie like this brings you back down to earth.
Gladiator is not without flaws… the final scene is improbable and unnecessary, the bit part actors are mediocre, and there are more, but it is quite easy to forgive and forget with all that is exploding before your eyes.
4 ˝ stars out of 5