It’s All About Russell Crowe, Man
I got so carried away with the ridiculousness of Gladiator winning the Academy Award that I forgot how good it really is. Is it the best film of that year? Certainly not, but it’s winning the award last year is not so absurd as say, Forrest Gump winning over Pulp Fiction. Anyway, it’s silly to hold the Academy’s foolishness against the films they misjudge.
Gladiator is a very good adventure film. It has a variety of very good fight/combat scenes, a decent revenge thread and a great Alpha Male star in Russell Crowe. What Ridley Scott brings to a film like this is both the ability to present an entertaining spectacle and the ability and willingness to make a film that is well crafted dramatically and logically. Consider the character of Cometus, who in most films would have been one dimensional, cackling maniac. Here he is a sympathetic, but still evil character–fully drawn, although the film beats on his need for love a bit too strongly. One need only compare this film to one from Simon West or Roland Emerich to understand how lucky we are to have Scott making watchable blockbusters.
Still, there is nothing in Gladiator that pushes it into the realm of true excellence. The “bread and circus” theme, for example, is pertinent to contemporary life, but that is a point that has been made before. Also, I think the film could have been paired down a bit more. Maybe it’s because I’m a member of generation ADD, but unless a film is exceptional, I prefer a running time of two hours or less.
The extra features on this disc are excellent. The commentary from Scott and some of his collaborators is good, providing an interesting perspective on the story, the characters, the effects, the historical accuracy of the film and the historical accuracy of historians. Still, Scott seems more involved in his Hannibal commentary. The highlight is on disc two: the hour-long documentary on real gladiators, which presents significantly more information than, say, a typical TLC feature. It’s something I can imagine watching more than once.
- Film Overall 7.5
- Direction 7.5
- Acting 8.5
- Story 7
- DVD extras 9
- Rewatchability 7