“Imagine where you will be and it will be so”. That was how Maximus comforted his troops before battle. If you imagine yourself in Rome during the days of the Gladiator then Ridley Scott makes it very easy to do. Russell Crowe plays the role of a lifetime as Maximus. I have often heard film lovers state that they don?t make classics anymore. Whether Gladiator is the exception that proves the rule or proof against the rule is uncertain. What is sure is that Gladiator will become a true classic. What did I do on my summer vacation? Ridley Scott took me to Rome.
Maximus (Russell Crowe) is Rome greatest general and surrogate son to Marcus Aurelius, Caesar of the Roman Empire. Marcus wants Maximus to be his successor and turn Rome over to its people. Commodus, Son of Marcus, has other plans. He murders his father and when Maximus won?t pledge his loyalty orders that he be executed. Maximus escapes.
Nearly dead from the journey Maximus discovers his family slaughtered. He is found and sold into slavery. Former gladiator Proximo (Oliver Reed) trains him to be a gladiator. With the same skills and presence he once used to defend Rome he now wins the hearts of the people of the arena. Maximus uses this to bring him to Rome and a chance to avenge his family with Commodus.
With the help of Lucilla, sister to Commodus, and a former lover, Maximus conspires for the fall of his enemy. Unable to compete with Maximus in the hearts of his people Commodus agrees to fight Maximus in the Coliseum after striking him with a poison dagger. Of course, Maximus has his revenge before joining his family in the afterlife.
Gladiator has both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS track. Both are exemplary. Hans Zimmer?s haunting score has never sounded better, not even on the Soundtrack?s CD release. Just close your eyes and let the vocalizations take you away.
You will find the DTS track is mastered higher and at times brighter. This is particularly true during the opening battle scene. The dialogue is strong and well centered, easy to distinguish even at low levels. The DVD makes excellent use of ambient sounds.
Seldom have I seen a film where color reproduction was as important as it is in Gladiator. Scott relies heavily on subtle color tints (blue in the opening battle) and shadows (Commodus? chambers) to bring out such emotion and tone. A bad transfer, untrue to these artistic flairs could easily ruin this film. I am happy to report that the transfer is as close to flawless as is possible. Gladiator is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ration. This disc effectively shows off the anamorphic widescreen format in all of its glory. I was especially pleased at the blacks and shadow detail.
Gladiator is a 2 disc collection. The first disc contains the film and the obligatory commentary track. This track features Ridley Scott (director), John Mathison (Photography), and Pietro Salia (editor). Unlike most commentary tracks this one is very topic specific and deals mostly with the production rather than what is happening on screen. The film student will appreciate the insights on sets, photography, and other production details.
On disc 2 you will find the best of the features:
My favorite is the deleted scenes. There are 11 in all. Each comes with a text description placing the scene in the proper context of the finished film. For a real treat click on the ?treasure chest? at the end of the list. You will see a 7 ? 8 minute montage of cuts and edits set to the best of Zimmer?s score. This feature is so cool I often use it to demo my theatre to new guests.
There is a behind the scenes featurette that has some good footage and interaction with members of the cast and crew. There is a journal written by the young boy in the film, storyboards and production stills, pieces on the real age of gladiators, and an extensive bio section for cast and crew. Another nice feature is a talk with Hans Zimmer on his wonderful score.
Gladiator works for me on so many levels that it would have been easy for me to be disappointed by the DVD treatment. I was not at all. The film is also notable as the last for veteran actor Oliver Reed. I best remember Reed as the werewolf in Hammer?s ?Curse of The Werewolf?. At one point in the film Maximus states: ?What we do in life echoes in eternity.? If that?s true then Reed is still giving memorable performances somewhere.