Directed by Ridley Scott
Quick synopsis… Tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor, Roman general Maximus instead finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son. Escaping execution, Maximus becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring.
- How epic is this picture?
- Right away we start off with Rome’s armies about to head into battle.
- Right away, we are shown what kind of man Maximus Decimus Meridius is.
- He’s a general… a natural leader… a skilled warrior.
- He also has a moral code, which we’ll see more of later.
- This is arguably Russell Crowe’s best role to date.
- Once the opening battle is over and the various peoples of Germania have been slaughtered, we are introduced to the film’s true antagonist, Commodus.
- This is arguably Joaquin Phoenix’s best role, aside from Joker.
- You know what… I make those claims about these actors, but I haven’t seen everything that either of them have done and I’m sure I’ve even forgotten about some of the things I’ve actually seen.
- I just make those kinds of claims because I freakin’ love this movie. Okay? Can we move on now?
- Anyway, Commodus comes off like he wishes he was Jamie Lannister.
- I’m sure if Game of Thrones had been the pop culture juggernaut 20 years ago that it’s been during the last decade, those comparisons would have been made.
- As it is, Commodus really only checks off one of three Jamie Lannister traits…
- Kills the man who currently sits on the throne – CHECK
- Totally into his sister in the grossest way possible but she doesn’t reciprocate because eww – X
- Thinks he’s wicked good with a sword because his trained bodyguards choreograph a decent looking training montage for him – X
- We’ll come back to him.
- The ruling Caesar at this time is Marcus Aurelius, played by the late Richard Harris.
- You may also know him as the perfect embodiment of Dumbledore from the first two Harry Potter films.
- Caesar shows blatant favoritism to Maximus over his own son, Commodus, sowing the seeds of envy for the would-be heir to the throne.
- The emperor knows he is nearing the end of his life and is concerned over whose hands the Roman Empire will be left in when he is gone.
- His eldest child, Lucilla, is female and, therefore, cannot be Marcus’ successor.
- Though, in his words, “If only you had been born a man, what a Caesar you would have made!”
- Commodus, in Caesar’s words, is “not a moral man,” and is unfit to rule the empire.
- So Marcus wishes to appoint Maximus as his successor to the throne for the sole purpose of giving Rome back to the people, making it a republic once more.
- Maximus, on the other hand, just wants to go home to be with his wife and son and to harvest his crops.
- As wise as Marcus Aurelius appears to be in this film, he makes the fatal mistake of making his wishes known to each man alone.
- Maximus responds with a grudging willingness to go along with what Caesar wants, though he really doesn’t want the burden.
- Commodus responds by suffocating and murdering his father.
- No witnesses.
- So when Maximus refuses to bend the knee to Commodus, the assumed newly crowned Caesar, he is quickly sentenced to death.
- But he’s a lot better than the soldiers tasked with executing him and he escapes.
- And because Commodus is evil, he orders Maximus’ family killed as well.
- So when a beaten and broken Maximus returns to his home in Spain, he finds their dead bodies.
- Maximus wanders aimlessly until he is found, near death, by slavers who sell him to Prospero, a man who trains gladiators for the arena.
- The general becomes the most popular gladiator among Prospero’s fighters and eventually they are invited to Rome to compete in the Colosseum.
- This is because Commodus has restarted the barbaric games that his father had previously outlawed.
- It isn’t long before Maximus reveals himself to the young emperor and swears vengeance.
- Crowe has so many great lines in this movie.
- I mean, he’s the general, so of course he has a lot of great pep rally statements…
- “What we do in life echoes in eternity!”
- “At my signal, unleash hell.”
- “Are you not entertained?!”
- If you haven’t managed to catch this one in the last 20 years, find it somewhere and watch it.
- It is well worth the two and a half hour run time.
Next week we’re going to go on an adventure with Nicholas Cage that’ll kick off with him stealing the Declaration of Independence.