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.


None. None in the deleted scenes, either.
Scoopy's Top Ten signs you were fooled by a cheap rip-off of that Russell Crowe Gladiator movie

10. Roman taverns have neon "Pabst Blue Ribbon" signs

9. Exotic Roman Zoo is three Black Labs and some stock footage from a dance number in "Cats"

8. Russell Crowe role played by Tori Spelling

7. People in togas listening to Otis Day and the Knights

6. Winning gladiators and their parents rewarded by Six Flags

5. Roman banquet has a drive-up window

4. Caesar assassinated from fourth floor of book depository

3. Roman helmets bear the insignia of the Seattle Seahawks

2. Gladiatorial combat school run by Vince McMahon

and the #1 sign that the movie is a cheap rip-off:

1. The top "net-and-trident" men: The Two Coreys


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.

As he 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.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • The DVD is also quite excellent. It's a two disc set, and the second disc includes about a dozen deleted scenes (with or without commentary), a long documentary on actual gladitorial combat, a documentary on the making of the film, one on the music, and the usual junk.

  • The main disc has a letterboxed 2.35:1 transfer, and full-length commentary from director Ridley Scott.

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:

De Imperitoribus Romanis

The Throne of the Caesars

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: about three stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Apollo scores it 75/100, Maltin 3/4.

Ebert took a good dump on it, and all of his points are excellent. It ain't the brainiest movie in the world, but I ignored all that because I never laughed out loud when it was being serious, and I never caught myself reaching for the FF - and the film therefore met my two absolute criteria.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Quite good, 80% positive overall. The top critics weren't as impressed, only 56% positive. Most of the top guys felt as I did - it was a lightweight summer blockbuster, excellent for its genre, but not able to rise above its genre.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.3, which is in the top 100 of all time. The people loved it, even if the critics were lukewarm.
  • With their dollars ... the people loved it here as well. It is the 28th highest grossing film in international history, taking in $186 million in the USA, and $254 million elsewhere. Made for $103 million dollars.

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