Released 2000 (USA)
American & British, in English (There are some very minor non-translated other languages & I’m not even sure what they were except for Latin. However, they were unimportant to the story.)
Director – Ridley Scott
Stars – Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen and many more you’ll recognize
When Roman general Maximus (Crowe) is betrayed by the scheming son (Commodus, played by Phoenix) of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), his family is killed and he ends up being sold into slavery, where he becomes a gladiator. Nielsen co-stars as Lucilla, Commodus’s sister.
Copious amounts of graphic violence.
Too slow, too long, too dull. The early part of the film, in particular, dragged for me. I kept thinking: “Commodus wants his father to name him emperor. His father wants to give the power to Maximus because he’s sane, ignoring the fact that his son is a scheming a-hole who won’t take that lying down. Move the plot forward already! Sheesh!”
It really bugged me that they kept mentioning how much Maximus loved his wife and son. I would have found their deaths tragic no matter what. I didn’t need them to stress the fact a billion times. I felt like the movie thought I was dumb.
A lot of the sets and make-up felt very heavy-handed in terms of imagery. Take, for example, the market of hanging meat that they walked through on the way to their first tournament, which dripped blood all over them. I actually side-eyed that. Seriously? Why not just randomly have somebody dump buckets of blood on them; it would be just about as subtle. Or take Commodus’s personal rooms, which were all dark and gothic (nothing like Roman style, as far as I know), like I couldn’t already tell he was a bad guy without his “evil-looking” room. I also hated Commodus’s make-up. It made him look sickly when in real life he was known for his strong physique (or so the internet tells me).
The music. It’s Hans Zimmer, so that’s unsurprising.
The fight scenes are pretty cool, if a little over-the-top at times. There was actually a scene where a chariot ran into a wall and for a split second I thought it was going to explode into flames, lol.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was well directed at all. All of it felt so ham-handed, like Scott doesn’t know how to do subtle. I was bored and/or irritated more than I felt entertained or thrilled. It reminded me a lot of Braveheart – similar story, about a man who’s lost everything going after the person who took it from him; even the endings are similar (both men succeed and fail at the same time) – except it doesn’t have any humor. It’s really dreary. I’m baffled as to why people like it so much. If I had to take a guess, I’d say they’re so dazzled by the fight scenes that they ignore the rest.
Mindless, fun (in theory) early summer blockbuster? Sure. Best Picture? No way. I give the movie 2.5 stars.