Gladiator (2000)


Today I Saw a Slave Become More Powerful Than the Emperor of Rome.

Today’s contest was admittedly difficult to manage.  I decided that I would pick a movie from the drama genre, but as I’ve mentioned many times, I hate dramas.  How would I be able to pick a movie that depressed me and call it my favorite?  I would have to be deceptive and find a movie that was inarguably a drama, but perhaps with enough elements of a type of movie I do like it will overcome the melancholy.  And that’s when it struck me.  I could think of a movie that was definitely a drama but with plenty enough action in it that I wouldn’t hate watching it.  It’s also one of my favorite movies, so the decision was clear.  I would call Gladiator my favorite drama, written by David H. Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana, and Ralph Moeller.

The great warrior and general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) leads a victory for the Romans over the Germanic tribes.  The dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) makes the decision to make Maximus the leader of Rome so that he can return the power to the people.  When he informs his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), of his decision, Commodus murders him.  Maximus realizes what happened, but is betrayed by General Quintus (Tomas Arana) and sentenced to be executed, as well as his wife (Giannina Facio) and his son (Giorgio Cantarini).  Maximus escapes his execution and rushes back to find his family already dead.  He buries them and is later found unconscious by slavers and sold to Proximo (Oliver Reed), and forced to become a gladiator.  With Commodus reinstating the games in honor of his dead father (even though his father disbanded them), Maximus figures that, if he performs well, he will be able to stand before the new emperor and finally have his vengeance.

This is how I take my drama movies: barely being able to be considered a drama.  It’s great action and a great story, but with a fair share of drama mixed in.  Revenge is an easy but great motivator in movies.  The movie starts itself off pretty strong with the war in the beginning, but then I start getting emotionally invested when Commodus not only kills the likeable emperor, but also tries to kill Maximus and succeeds in killing his family.  I’m instantly on board.  I love Maximus and I hate Commodus.  That keeps me interested past the satisfying, albeit a little depressing, conclusion, and I enjoy the entire ride.  The dialogue in the movie is extremely well-written as well.  Most of it’s very crisp and stinging, including a lot of smarter versions of “fuck you”.  Any time that Commodus is talking with Maximus, every line ends with a version of “fuck your face”.  I was confused by the relationship between Commodus and Lucilla though.  I don’t know if it was more common back then, but Commodus was really aching to jump Lucilla’s bones, regardless of the fact that they were brother and sister.  They never said half-siblings or step-siblings, so I just found it weird.  That part of the movie felt like watching Clueless all over again.  The movie was beautifully filmed though.  It starts off really cold and blue and gritty when they’re in Germania, bright and hot and orange in the middle when he’s first becoming a gladiator, and colorful and bright and beautiful when they’re in the majesty of Rome.  The recreation of Rome was fantastic as well.  The fights are what really interest me about this movie, and they’re all great.  Not a lot of flourish to the fights, but every one of them was exciting and awesome.  Maximus never seemed to be the strongest or the fastest, and was never super human in any way, but he won all of his fights with skill and cunning.  They’re gory and exciting and you’re always rooting for the home team.

The performances are what set this movie apart for me.  Them and the action.  But the performances were really good.  Russell Crowe was great all the way through the movie.  I’d say there was one part that was iffy with me, but it was only partially his fault.  When he was crying over his dead wife and kid he had snot running out of his nose and drool coming out of his mouth.  Then he kissed the feet of his wife and had it sticking to her feet.  They probably should have taken that out with CG or something.  I found it not only distracting, but icky.  Also, in the part where he was kissing the wooden figures that represented his wife and son, he got a little too freaky deaky with the figure representing his wife.  He’d been alone for a while though.  I hated Joaquin Phoenix from the very first time I saw him, but that’s a credit to him because we weren’t supposed to like him at all.  He played the role so utterly despicable in every way, but it wasn’t in a cartoony way.  You could kind of get a handle on his motivations, though it doesn’t justify his actions.  And the entire movie we watch his slow descent into madness and paranoia, and he pulls that off very well.  Connie Nielsen was a good character as well.  I started off not trusting her because she always acted as if something was going on behind the scenes.  As they say in the movie, she would make a great leader if she was a man.  But, by the end of the movie, you side with her as her brother’s craziness starts getting to her as well.  And mother fuckin’ Dumbledore was up in this bitch!  Richard Harris is always great though.

It doesn’t come as any kind of a surprise that Gladiator is an awesome movie.  Yes, it’s a drama, and it’s also a bit mopey at times, but the action and the excitement override that, and the story is something that gets me involved almost immediately.  The action is great, the look is fantastic, and the performances are all top notch.  You don’t always like all of the characters, but they’re very well performed.  If you have managed to not see Gladiator by this point, I hate you.  Fix it or we’ll have troubles.  Gladiator gets “Smile for me now, brother” out of “At my signal, unleash hell!”

Congratulations to Fabio, who guessed my favorite drama correctly, despite his learning disability.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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