When Gladiator was released (and eventually won the Best Picture Oscar), everyone I knew wanted to watch it. They heard it was epic and grand, something expected of a historical film like this. I would have probably liked it as much if I had seen it during that time. This was not the case.

Gladiator is a simple hero versus villain story, a story of revenge while winning people’s sympathy, the story of an underdog (to use the term loosely). Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a war general who has led the army into victory, winning the favor of the old emperor. However Commodus would not accept his father's decision and eventually set out to eliminate Maximus. He survives the attack, however events have led him indifferent to life, and he finds himself as a gladiator. An opportunity for revenge arises when he and his group of gladiators headed to Rome to participate in the game. 

Crowe was fantastic in the role; he embodied the complexities of the character assigned to him. His performance was the only one noteworthy throughout the film. His character displayed the qualities of a textbook hero, and kept up the character without succumbing to any temptation that would tarnish his character. Even his story is textbook; adding that he and Lucilla had a fondness for each other just adds reason to his heroic qualities. 

Joaquin Phoenix, however, was laughable. His character was deemed to be ruthless, but he spends so much time second-guessing himself that the ruthlessness of the character doesn’t come to fruit. It didn’t even look like he was trying. 

The film has a lot of events going on for it, and while the parts were briefly touched, it wasn’t developed enough for the characters to earn the audience’s sympathy to their pleas. There’s Maximus’ friendship with Juba and his ‘mentor’ Proximo; the outcome of their characters would have had more of an impact if their strong relationship with Maximus was established. Then there were the gladiator scenes. I didn’t find them to be as thrilling as I would like to believe. I think that movies like this (especially those already brimming with historical inaccuracies) should make these scenes gripping, the kind that has you on the edge of your seat and cheering for the main character even if you already know the outcome. It’s being able to elicit a variety of emotions can a movie like this transcend off screen, to be memorable. Even the main event of the movie was anti-climactic; that says plenty to a picture like this. It seems like a huge production, and if done right, could have used the set’s full potential as it seems to be a fantastic one.

If I had watched this then, I would have really enjoyed it; probably have lapped everything in and declared this as one of the best epics I have ever seen. However, I’m left unsatisfied and disappointed with this. 

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
Director: Ridley Scott
Year: 2000

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