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After receiving critical rebuke to my review of Gladiator (Blu-ray) I have added new sections to the beginning which I trust explains why I put so much emphasis on plot in this and many other of my film reviews.
To me, without a good plot no matter how great the stars, acting in general or scenerary is no-one will be interested in watching and certainly won't be interested in buying it. Taking that fact, some of my best loved films have a good plot but at times second rate acting - such as Star Trek or Star Wars which are equally lavished with what can easily be described at times as devoid of any. In this respect, a film review merely adds to what has already been detailed by the plot and adds a personal recommendation......
Gladiator is well acted throughout this film by the whole cast and its locations that are based on the Roman Empire around the year AD 180 are very believable and in context with that period. The way it is portrayed makes the audience part of the atmosphere as if you too are in Ancient Rome and seeing first hand the turmoil beset on the main character Maximus. Throughout, this film is believable and in fact does have some historical relevance as Commodus is indeed murdered (albeit in his bath) but does not kill his father. I have watched this film many times both on tv and DVD / Blu-ray and without a doubt the part that gets me every time is when the film ends and Maximus is carried from the arena by Senator, gladiators and Romans alike. This is truely a great and memorable film that is well worth buying. Gladiator is also Oliver Reed's last film as he dies shortly after the film is made.
I bought the 2 disc Blu-ray special edition a few months ago for £7.50 as part of an order placed with Amazon.
It stars Russell Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Northern regions and loyal subject of the aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius who intends to leave Maximus in temporary charge of Rome (when he dies) with the intent of returning power to the Senate. The Emperor's son Commodus however has other ideas and after murdering his father issues orders to execute Maximus, and his family. Maximus manages to escape but arrives home too late to save his wife and son and he is later found unconscious by passing slave traders who take him to North Africa where he is bought Proximo a former gladiator.
Maximus befriends gladiators Juba and Hagen and they survive tournament after tournament until they make it to the colosseum where they are to part of a series of deadly battles performed for the rather bored Emperor Commodus. Maximus however proves however that history may not be totally accurate as he shows that the other side could just as easily have won them! Hiding his identity from Commodus he believes he is intent to continue his life as a gladiator in the arena.
Commodus however wants to learn more of this new but well respected gladiator and enters the arena and Maximus is forced to remove his helmet. Stunned by what he finds, Commodus wants to order his death but is prevented from doing so from the extent of public support for Maximus. Instead Commodus intends to pit him against the undefeated Tigris aided by a streak (or ambush) of tigers. After fighting off the tigers and Tigris, Commodus fears a rebellion, ordering the imprisonment (and execution) of Senator Grecchas one of many in the Senate opposed to the rule of Commodus.
Maximus' former servant arrives to tell Maximus that his army is poised at the gates of Rome and awaiting his order. However, Commodus learns about the plot and is intent on killing all conspirators including all gladiators that stand in his way. Commodus however has his own plan for removing Maximus once and for all - by defeating him in the arena. To even the odd he mortally stabs Maximus and orders him to be strapped into armour and led out to the waiting hoards. Despite his injury Maximus eventually kills Commodus and gives control back to the Senate as he had promised Marcus Aurelius.
This is a great film full of intrigue and a great deal of sadness. It is also very vaguely based on historical fact although Commodus did not kill his father but was murdered in his bath and not the arena. This is one of my favourite films and compulsive viewing throughout.
The Blu-ray has the following features:
Theatrical Version (with Audio Commentary) - 155 minutes
Extended Version (with introduction by Ridley Scott and Audio Commentary) - 170 minutes
The Scrolls of Knowledge: U-Control
Visions From Elysium: U-Control topic marker
Visions from Elysium topic portal
Strength and Honour: creating the world of Gladiator with over 2 hours of new content
Aurelian Archives: image and design
Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes
Gladiator is rated 15 and released through Universal Pictures. I would highly recommend it as part of your DVD or Blu-ray collection. This film won academy awards in 2000 for best picture and best actor (Russell Crowe).
Full cast details are as follows:
Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius: A morally upstanding Hispano-Roman general in Germania, forced into becoming a slave who seeks revenge against Commodus.
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus: The twisted son of Marcus Aurelius
Connie Nielsen as Lucilla: Maximus's former lover and the older child of Marcus Aurelius
Djimon Hounsou as Juba: A Numidia tribesman who was taken from his home and family by slave traders
Oliver Reed as Antonius Proximo: An old, gruff gladiator trainer who buys Maximus in North Africa
Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus: One of the senators who opposes Commodus' rule.
Ralf Möller as Hagen: A Germanic warrior and Proximo's chief gladiator who later befriends Maximus and Juba during their battles in Rome.
Spencer Treat Clark as Lucius Verus: The young son of Lucilla.
Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius: An emperor of Rome who appoints Maximus, whom he loves as a son, with the ultimate aim of returning Rome to a republican form of government.
Tommy Flanagan as Cicero: Maximus' loyal servant
Tomas Arana as General Quintus: Another Roman general and former friend to Maximus.
John Shrapnel as Gaius: Another senator who is in close correspondence to Gracchus.
David Schofield as Senator Falco: A Patrician, a senator opposed to Gracchus. He helps Commodus to consolidate his power.
Sven-Ole Thorsen as Tigris of Gaul: An undefeated gladiator who is called out of retirement to duel with Maximus.
David Hemmings as Cassius: Colosseum and arena announcer.
Giannina Facio as Maximus' wife
Giorgio Cantarini as Maximus' son
This is a film I have seen many times and still enjoy immensely. It is also the only film that I have had on DVD and replaced this with the Blu Ray version and the added picture quality is amazing.
Although based broadly on true events it is widely regarding as being wide of the mark but it still makes to be a compelling story of one man standing up against the Emperor and fighting for the love of his murdered family. This film shows the fall story of the fall in a hero of Rome (by the hands of the Emperor), to a slave returning to Rome as a Gladiator and once again having Rome in his hands. Through in the sick twists of the Emperor and his plots and schemes it really does give a good picture of how life was in the Roman era.
This is really a must have item, I can't recommend this highly enough. Viewing pleasure increases with every time you watch it. Also a must have on Blu Ray, if you don't have a Blu Ray and are thinking about one, get one just for this film :-)
When this Blu-Ray edition was first issued during the summer of 2009, there was much diappointment amongst many fans of this film as regarding the film transfer to Blu-Ray. The definition was not deemed to be much greater than the original DVD release prior to this one. However, I am pleased to report that this has now been retified and many fans have been able to exchange Disc One for an updated and much improved disc which has been provided by Universal Pictures based in London.
The High Definition transfer is greatly improved with much enhanced detail especially during the battle scenes early in the film which were filmed at Farnham, Surrey. Moreover, the soundtrack is wide, expansive, with clear dialogue, a boon if you possess a Home Cinema System based on a 7:1 format. The plot is too well known for me to repeat here, but it remains compulsive even after numerous viewings. The characters come to life, many of them did exist at the time, although it is historically inaccurate. However, that does not matter since it is a human story of a man who defied an empire and an emporer after becoming a slave, then a gladiator. It certaily goes down as a great achievement in the history of film making and this Blu-Ray updated version does it justice. All the more reason to invest in Blu-Ray and a Home Cinema outfit.
Disc One contains two versions of the film, the Theatrical Version and the Extended Version which contains about 15 minutes of extra footage.
Disc Two contains all the extras, numerous documentaries, deleted scenes, abandoned sequences, and interviews with many of the crew who worked on the film. Also there are many location shots such as Malta and Morocco, and secrets of how Rome was digitised for the modern screen. Film technology has come a long way since the days of Quo Vadis and Ben-Hur.
A fantastic buy.