Gladiator (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|The storyline is simple. When
Marcus Aurelius died, he ordered the restoration of the
republic. His son, who would have otherwise been his
heir, didn't think that was a real good plan, so he
oversaw the removal of all the obstacles to his own
ascension to the throne.
One of the obstacles he removed was Maximus (Russell Crowe), the greatest general, and a loyal Roman who intended to respect the last wishes of Aurelius, whom he viewed as a father surrogate. The new emperor, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), had Maximus and all his family killed.
Through a series of improbable circumstances, Maximus escaped his execution, and was eventually sold anonymously into slavery, where he became a gladiator in the provinces and gradually worked his way up until he became King of the Gladiators.
|That lined him up for an eventual showdown with Commodus. As it happens, Commodus himself entered the arena to do combat with Maximus. I think this happened because Joaquin Phoenix was filled with self-doubt and an identity crisis when informed by the other actors that he is not Rufus Sewell, but a completely separate person with straighter hair.||
Top Ten signs you were fooled by a cheap rip-off of that Russell Crowe
I thought I would skip a review of the movie and write about some different topics. It's a good enough mainstream movie, with enough plot to keep you involved for almost all of the two and a half hours, plenty of expensive scenery, and the best gladiatorial combat I've ever seen, fights that get you involved as much as in the first Rocky movie. The opening battle scenes are about the best battle scenes ever filmed, at least as good as the opening of Saving Private Ryan, making both the chaotic nature of the hand combat and the structured overall strategy crystal clear. About a zillion other guys have reviewed the film, so there's plenty of info for you to seek at Rotten Tomatoes.
One topic that was interesting to me - was the film based on real events, or located in a real time and place?
No to the first, yes to the second.
There was actually an Emperor Commodus, and he was pretty much just as odd as the movie portrays him. Odder. In the movie, he trained in combat, but only stepped in the ring to fight Maximus, and then only after pre-wounding him. The real Commodus fought regularly, and was never defeated. He bested all the top gladiators and slew all the most dangerous beasts. Anyway, it has always been an interesting speculation for historians to muse on why such a great man as Marcus Aurelius left his beloved empire in the hands of his dipstick son. There is nothing in history to support the movie's explanation, but of course, there's nothing to rule it out. Marcus could have intended to restore the Republic, and Commodus could have covered it all up. If he covered it up successfully, we wouldn't know, would we?
Commodus was 19 when his father died, and he was the bearer of a heavy burden. The Roman people expected him to be as great as dad. Well, he turned out to be the usual self-inflated wacko in the true Caligula/Nero mode. The senate hated him, but he stayed in the graces of the people with his generous distributions and his antics in the arena.
got older, he became ever more convinced of his own
superior nature. He declared himself a descendant of
Hercules and the new founder of Rome. He renamed all the
months after himself (using names and titles), and
renamed lot of other things as well (he renamed the
Senate "Commodus' Lucky Senate"). By the end,
he had declared himself to be the wellspring of all
religious and cultural life ... you know, the whole
crazed emperor thing.
He was finally assassinated on the last day of 192, and his death set off three years of civil war and power struggles.
Perhaps the coolest thing about Commodus is that he did, in fact, look like Joaquin Phoenix, although I think maybe he looked more like Rufus Sewell. Assuming they are two different guys.
Or maybe he looks more like a young Oliver Reed.
|Oliver Reed was in this
picture, by the way, along with Richard Harris, in a tip
of the cap to their generation, the golden age of
Rhetorical British Overacting. Unfortunately, while
Harris' character died only in the film, Reed died for real
during the filming, and filmdom lost one of its most
colorful and daring character actors. Like Glenda
Jackson, Reed was never afraid to take any chance on
film, and he paved the way for the greater freedom to
come in later days.
As for Harris, interestingly enough, he rode a horse called Man.
Or maybe I dreamed that.
Here are some additional references on Commodus:
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