Somewhere I am sure there is one of those internet lists of the “Top (insert random numerical value) movies that every guy should watch.” Actually, I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds of those lists. I am curious how many of those lists would have today’s movie on it, plus how high would this movie rank on those lists. I know that most of my friends love this movie and would probably rate it very highly on such a list. As for myself, well you will soon find out as I review today’s movie, Gladiator (2000).
The plot: After defeating the Germanic tribes and ending a long war, Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius is asked by Emperor Marcus Aurelius to succeed him as Emperor, in spite of the fact that the Emperor had a son, Commodus. Marcus tries to explain to Commodus his reasoning for this, but Commodus replies that Marcus never valued his son and then kills the emperor in order to gain power for himself. When Maximus is summoned to the emperor’s quarters and finds Commodus there, he believes that the emperor was murdered but before he can do anything, he is arrested and ordered to be executed. Maximus manages to kill his executioners and rides back to his home but finds his wife and child had been killed and their bodies crucified. After burying his family, Maximus collapses in despair and winds up being captured by a slave caravan and sold to a man named Proximo, who trains Maximus to be a gladiator. After winning several matches, Proximo’s team of gladiators are invited to play in the Colosseum in Rome, as part of Commodus’ celebration for his late father. After winning their first match in the Colosseum, Maximus reveals his identity to Commodus and says that he will have his revenge. Commodus tries to have Maximus killed during the games but fails, causing the crowds to show more support for Maximus. Commodus’ sister, Lucilla, and Senator Gracchus try to help Maximus escape in the hopes the he would overthrow Commodus, but Commodus forces Lucilla to tell him the plans and captures Maximus. Commodus decides to kill Maximus in the Colosseum in order to gain the crowds favor but even though he wounded Maximus before the match started, Commodus is unable to kill Maximus and is instead slain by Maximus. Before he dies, Maximus orders his gladiator comrades to be freed and that Rome should be turned back into a republic, which was the final wishes of Marcus Aurelius.
Gladiator was met with fairly positive reviews, earning a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While several critics praised the opening battle and Russell Crowe’s performance, several critics claimed that the film was boring and badly shot. Gladiator was definitely a box office success, earning over $457 million worldwide. It also won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Visual Effects.
I like this movie, but I am not going to say it was one of the greatest movies of all time. I thought the opening battle scene was one of the most intense battles this side of Saving Private Ryan. Russell Crowe was good but Joaquin Phoenix definitely surpassed him as far as the strength of their performance goes. The visual effects, and costumes were great and definitely deserved the awards they won. My problem really was in the plot, as it seemed they got the story moving at a really fast pace in the beginning, but then kind of trickled along towards the end. If the movie had started off slower and then got more fast paced as it reached the climax, I think it would have been a much better movie.
In any case, this is one of those movies that I think everyone should watch at least once, and then make up their own opinions as to how great it is.
Rating: 4 out of 5