LLLLLadies and Gentlemen!!!!
In the red corner, weighing a combined one million pounds, the Roman
Legions!!!! And in the blue corner, weighing approximately a combined
670,000 pounds, the Germanic Hordes!! And now, LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!
And so begins the Hack 'em/Slash 'em epic, Gladiator.
Gladiator tells the story of Maximus (wasn't that a joke name in one of the
Monty Python movies?), a reluctant Roman general who, through the evil
corruption of the evil Emperor, is sent to be reluctantly executed.
Naturally he manages to reluctantly survive the execution and so returns home
to find his wife and child slaughtered. Then he's reluctantly captured by
slavers. Finally, he becomes a reluctant gladiator, reluctantly killing
others in the ring for the pleasure of the audience. Meanwhile, he
reluctantly dreams of avenging himself against the not so reluctantly evil
This is a good movie. It could have been a great movie, but it was about 45
minutes too long. For some unknown reason, the director inserted sections of
dialogue and character development in between periods of bloody mayhem. WHAT
WAS HE THINKING??? This is a SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER, the first of the new
millennium! We don't want to watch some chick weep over her tragic fate, we
wanna see people lop off heads!
In the end, the main problem with this movie is that the lopping-off-of-heads
factor (LOOHF) is too low. Sure there are a ton of fights, I counted 7 main
battle sequences, but the movie's 2 1/2 hours long!!! That works out to one
good battle sequence every 21 minutes, and that ain't cutting it. For a
movie to really grip me, it has to a have a LOOHF of at least 1 every 13
minutes. So this movie needs more fights, or less random plot stuff.
Not that this is a total loss. The fights are brutal. People are sliced and
diced to the extreme, and the survivors have some seriously evil wounds. You
got your spears, your swords, your chariots, your flails, your flaming arrows
and your man-eating tigers. And from an educational standpoint, all the
kiddies in the audience agreed that being a slave forced to fight to the
death would suck, unless you really kicked some serious ass and were able to
save Rome - then it would be pretty cool.
Near as I can tell, gladiator fights were Rome's version of Professional
Wrestling. You got your good guys and bad guys, and they're all treated like
rock stars, and eventually they fight. Of course, Professional Wrestling is
just a bunch of pansy-assed wussies when compared to the gladiators. If The
Rock has a bad night, he might misplace a fake boot to the head and look a
little silly. If Maximus has a bad night, he's fertilizer.
But Mr. Critic, you say. This is an epic! More than a repeating series of
battles, it tells an epic tale of good and evil. Yeha, yeah, yeah, whatever.
It's grand. It's sweeping. Maximus the Gladiator Man (a character they
call 'The Spaniard' who is played by Australian Russell Crowe with a mediocre
British accent) is a tragic figure. He cries. Sissy. Then he kills.
Studly. Then he cries again. Sissy. There's a woman in the mix, she's
pretty tragic. There's the tragic death of the Kindly old Emperor. There's
the tragic tale of the former gladiator who loves the lure of the crowd. And
there's the tragic tale of all the other gladiators who don't kick quite as
much ass as Maximus the Mighty Ass-Kicker, and so are doomed to die, more
often than not by having their heads lopped off in battle, which is tragic.
This movie stands tall above all the other Roman gladiator movies coming out
these days because of the star. Russell Crowe is a big, bad stud. He
broods. He grunts. He grimaces. Basically, it's his world - we just live
in it. If he wants to swing his sword through the air, you get out of the
way or discover a drastic way to lose weight, one arm at a time. He fit
really well into this time period, and I'm thinking he should continue to
make movies in this genre and become the next Charlton Heston.
When everything is added up, Gladiator ends up with 3 3/4 Babylons. The
bloodfest is worth that much easily, but it could have been so much more.
Russell Crowe=Charlton Heston? Oh, that's right. The SMC is the guy who
said "Kevin Costner should stick to post-apocalyptical epics." in an earlier
(pre-me as his editor) review. Actually, forget the Gladiator review. I've
got bigger things on which to concentrate - "apocalyptical" isn't even in my
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed,
Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris and The Grand Splendor of Rome.