WolfmanOz at the Movies #90


Strength and honour.

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (released in 2000) is not a perfect film, I would think that the hardiest of fans, of which I’m firmly one, know this deep down. Yet just like Commodus in the film is keen to point out that he himself has other virtues that are worthy, so does Gladiator the film. Enough in fact to make it an everlasting favourite of genre fans and worthy of the Academy Award acknowledgements it received (including Best Picture).

In narrative terms the plot and story arc is simplicity supreme, something Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have never shied away from as the makers of Gladiator were not standing up bold as brass to proclaim they were unique with their movie, what they did do was reinvigorate a stagnant genre of film for a new generational audience. And it bloody worked. The influence and interest in all things Roman or historically swashbuckling of film that followed post the success of the movie is there for all to see.

Crowe portrays Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus becomes a gladiator and rises through the ranks of the arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

Gladiator can make the emotionally committed feel with Crowe’s Maximus being the man men want to be and the man women want to be with. As he runs through the gamut of life’s pains and emotionally fortified trials and tribulations, we are with him every step of the way, urging him towards his day of revenge splattered destiny; with Crowe superb in every pained frame, deservedly winning the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Backing Crowe up is Joaquin Phoenix giving Commodus a preening villainy and Connie Nielsen graceful as his sister Lucilla. Oliver Reed, who departing this mortal coil during filming but leaving behind a spicy performance as Proximo the gladiator task master. Richard Harris tugging the heart strings as Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Derek Jacobi classy as Senator Gracchus, while Djimon Hounsou gives Juba, Maximus right hand man and confidante, a level of character gravitas that’s inspiring.

I must also comment on the incredible soundtrack in which the sublime music of Hans Zimmer coupled with the enchanting voice of Lisa Gerrard elevates the score to the same glorious standard as the film.

Gladiator, unlike many other epics, shows a very realistic image of the Roman Empire and makes a perfect use of this on screen. In this case, the movie which discusses a very distant period in time (2nd century A.D.) occurs to be clearly interpreted and understood by the 21 century-audience. Director Ridley Scott knew exactly his viewers’ expectations. Such a movie is more a spectacle and entertainment than pure history. Therefore, even if there are historic figures in the film, we cannot treat it as history and look for historical accuracy or inaccuracy. It is much more since it generally shows Rome, its power, its emperors, its majesty, its people, its games, and finally . . . its gladiators.

The dialogue is literate and poetic, resplendent with iconic speeches. Action is never far away, but never at the expense of wrought human characterisations. The flaming arrows and blood letting of the Germania conflict kicks things off with pulse raising clarity, and Ridley Scott and his team never sag from this standard. The gladiator arena fights are edge of the seat inducing, the recreation for the Battle of Carthage a stunning piece of action sequence construction. And then the finale, the culmination of two men’s destinies, no soft soaping from Scott and Crowe, it lands in the heart with a resounding thunderclap. A great swords and sandals movie that tipped its helmet to past masters whilst simultaneously bringing the genre alive again.

Enjoy.

This will be my last post for 2023 but I’ll be returning with more film and movie posts to engage Cats for 2024.




15 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #90”

  1. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    Truly a great movie and deserved its awards.

    Another Peter Weir directed, Crowe starring movie that deserved awards but missed out, because it was the Lord of the Rings trilogy’s turn, was Master and Commander, the far side of the world.

    Awesome conversion of the Aubrey-Maturin novels, set in the napoleonic wars, and a great soundtrack organised by Iva Davies of Icehouse fame.

  2. duncanm Avatar
    duncanm

    here here!

    .. and I agree wholeheartedly with Entropy, Master and Commander was another tour-de-force.

  3. Rufus T Firefly Avatar
    Rufus T Firefly

    Watched it again yesterday afternoon!
    Enjoyed it again as well.

  4. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Agree re Master And Commander – an excellent adventure film.

    20-25 years ago Russell Crowe was appearing in some of the best films of the time.

  5. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    The special effects for the time were very good…but qualified. The system of darkening the scene to apply the special effects so the differences are not so obvious. In some scenes this is very distracting. e.g. the Return of Commodus to Rome.

    However the scenes inside the Colosseum were breathtaking when first released and the battle in Germania…’at my signal, unleash hell!’. Awesome.

    Agree Wolfman, A Gladiator is first rate movie. Its an easy go to movie over Christmas…much preferable to Love Actually.

    Thank you Wolfman for your posts over 2023. They have been – as said by the One, Neo – most excellent dude!.

  6. thefrollickingmole Avatar
    thefrollickingmole

    Good flick, and it was rather novel I thought to have his little home shrine to his family act as a way of putting the family back ” together” at the end

  7. Vicki Avatar
    Vicki

    Richard Landes, in Can “The Whole World” Be Wrong? (2022), warns that the convergence of Western postmodern (woke) millennialists with Islamic pre-modern Caliphators is a marriage made in hell. To conflate apocalyptic Global Jihad with the bending of history towards justice is a madness all of its own. If we continue down this track, the West—not just Israel—will be in even deeper peril. That may be the ultimate meaning of October 7.

    This is the conclusion by a very good article by Daryl McCann on the significance of the October 7 attack in the latest edition of Quadrant.

  8. The Bungonia Bee Avatar
    The Bungonia Bee

    Bigger than Ben Hur.

  9. Alamak! Avatar

    Well-written into, thanks to Wolfman.

    The opening scene still blows me away every time. Its so well done on how the soldiers feel and what will prepare them for possible injury or death.

    Watching the movie made me go back to Marcus Aurelius again, as I imagined him to ba an alternate version of Maximus who lived longer and was able to write his thoughts.

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

  10. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    Nothing is bigger than Ben Hur.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    I told my mum and my stepfather, who was a screenwriter with some well-known credits, that they must go and see this movie. They, being history readers were sceptical. They thanked me afterwards…

    A marvelous movie that plays a little loose with the record, but captures the essence so wonderfully. I love the scene about the giraffes.

    Several Cats have cited Master and Commander, so I will mention King Arthur from 2004 with Clive Owen as the titular character. A Sarmatian cavalry captain stuck in the backlots of the Empire, a place we now know as Britain.

  12. The Bungonia Bee Avatar
    The Bungonia Bee

    My “bigger than Ben Hur” quip was tongue in cheek!
    Any film which relegates Jesus to a cameo role is huge indeed.

  13. Old School Conservative Avatar
    Old School Conservative

    Any movie which places into common usage a lengthy piece of text is deserving of fame.
    My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
    Brilliant, spine chilling, awesome. But it must be spoken with a Russel Crowe resonance.

  14. GreyRanga Avatar
    GreyRanga

    Wolfman, I remember seeing Rusty in Death in Brunswick but can find no credit for him being in it. He must have been 16-18 thereabouts.

  15. Lee Avatar
    Lee

    Funny how Gladiator is clearly a ripoff of the superior (but admittedly hyperbolically mistitled) The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), but never seems to be acknowledged as such.
    It even has all the same key characters:

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058085/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_1_tt_4_nm_3_q_fall%2520of%2520the%2520roman

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