My Favorite Movies #31 – Gladiator

GladiatorGladiator

2000

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.

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