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Click above to purchase "Gladiator" at amazon.com

 

Gladiator
Signature Selection

review by Zach B.

Rated R

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 155 minutes

Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Deke Jacobi, Dijmon Hounsou and Richard Harris

Screenplay by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson
Story by David Franzoni

Directed by Ridley Scott

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Commentary with Director Ridley Scott, Director Of Photography John Mathiezon and Editor Pielro Scalia, Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary by Scott, The Making Of Gladiator Featurette, Gladiator Games: Roman Blood Sport documentary, Hans Zimmer: Composing Gladiator featurette, My Gladiator Journal by Spencer Treat Clark, Original Storyboards, Stills Gallery, Trailers, TV Sports, Cast and Crew Bios, Production Notes

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS ES, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters), Two-Disc Set

Making tons of money as the first "big" summer movie of the year 2000, and expected to scoop up many, major awards, "Gladiator" finally hits home on DVD in a very quick time, and has already made DVD history by having the most copies shipped, edging out The Matrix slightly. This DVD is going to be a giant seller, and once again, Dreamworks has released an outstanding package.

The film opens with a fantastic war sequence, led by the general Maximus (Russell Crowe, with a performance that ranks right up there with "The Insider"). It is action packed, bloody and just plain enjoyable. His victory in the battle is surely appreciated by the emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Marcus wants Maximus to be his successor when he dies, to restore Rome, and not having be it corrupt. This surely angers his son, Commodus (a mad and psychotic Phoenix, who is great), so he kills his dad and orders for Maximus to be killed. But Maximus escapes, and his family is then burnt to a crisp. Having nothing, Maximus is pretty much a goner, but nothing is over yet, when he is reduced to slave status and trained by Proximo in fighting tournaments, where he becomes really popular, and a true gladiator. Most of the film encounters Maximus and his status struggles yearning for freedom and his battles.

First off, "Gladiator" is one of the most enjoyable cinematic expierences I have had in a long time. The long running time only seemed like an hour to me, and the whole atmosphere the film creates is done to perfection. Crowe and Phoenix give Oscar® worthy performances, they truly bring life to the characters the play. The characters they play are really complex, and really show all sides of them. The supporting roles by Nielsen, Reed, Harris are good too, and just add to the film.

But what has so much speculation in "Gladiator" are the fantastic fight sequences. There are only a few, but, they are beautifully staged and entertaining, which is what counts the most. Most of these few sequences last a good amount of time, and are probably the best part of the movie. My only gripe though in a rare case or two the editing in these sequences were a little choppy. Things happen so fast and shaky you have a little trouble what is going on.

The sets, costumes cinematograpjy and all design aspects are excellent in "Gladiator". This also adds to the film, and just makes it a little bit more believable. Scott, a distinguished director, does not let tre audience down here. His style makes the film what it is - entertaining and enjoyable. The cinematography captures so many beautiful shots and really takes your breath away.

But I did have gripes about Gladiator, however. No, it wasn't the few historical inaccuricies, but rather, most of the movie is uneven. There is really unesscary subplot involving Phoenix and Nielsen, and I felt a certain character could have died a more noble death (sadly, he died during filming. If that's not a hint then what is?). A lot of "Gladiator" is also lavishly overdone, but within the story I felt it became really uneven. The various plot points were not just balanced equally. I could go on about this, but I don't want to ruin the movie.

Despite the few the flaws, Gladiator does succeed in what movies are supposed to be: entertaining and enjoyable, and the time flies surprisingly quick. The acting, fight sequences, design aspect and directing really shine. "Gladiator" is an excellent movie that deserves to be in your collection.

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dreamworks once again delivers an incredibly beautiful transfer. Every shot of the film is presented really nicely. Colors are bold and beautiful, as the colors and various hues represent the tones of scenes perfectly. Detail is amazing, and though some have criticized that the film looks annoying in widescreen, I have to disagree, as there is more to behold here than a full frame transfer will give you. You'll admire the action sequences and the beautiful sets, this transfer gives off a ton of the movie's production values. Though there are some pieces of dirt and grain now and then, the same thing with some shimmering, but it doesn't ruin the transfer. It doesn't get much better than this. You may have to watch the movie a few times to get everything and take it all in. A really sharp and beautiful transfer, I'm sure you'll be just as pleased as I was.

Wow, we're even treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS ES track (plus a Dolby Surround), all in English. I watched the movie in DTS and compared it to some Dolby Digital scenes. Each feature excellent use of the .1 LFE and a lot of dynamic range. Of course, the key moments for these tracks are the fight scenes in the arena, and the opening war scene. During these scenes, the channels really light up and make you feel like you're part of the action. The crowds roaring, the battle sounds, just a whole atmosphere full of punch. Hans Zimmer's score also sounds really beautiful with the channels, and dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Thankfully, nothing overpowers anything. In choosing between the DTS and Dolby Digital, the DTS wins here in my opinion, but not by much. I felt the DTS sounded a lot more sharper. No matter which track you choose, you're in for quite a treat.

This ain't a Dreamworks Signature Selection for nothing! It would only make sense to back this movie with goodies, due to all the critical praise and success it has. Luckily, Ridley Scott has always provided a lot on the making of his films when releasing them on DVD, as he seems to really support the format. This two disc set is no exception.

The only extra on the first disc is a Commentary with Ridley Scott, Director Of Photography John Mathiezon and Editor Pielro Scalia. While the box just lists Scott, Mathiezon and Scalia are here as well. The commentary even has an chapter index to get downright specific (very few DVDs have this nowadays and I certainly enjoy it, though the commentary stops are the same as the chapter stops). This is a very insightful and enjoyable commentary. Scott leads the way, as they discuss influences and certain parts of the production and how it affected it as a whole. Stories are told and in the end, you really a gain a lot of the commentary and the film as a whole. An excellent commentary, and certainly one of the best I've heard on DVD.

On to disc two, From The Cutting Room Floor features twelve deleted scenes, with optional commentary from Ridley Scott. Like most deleted scenes, you can see why they were cut and Scott does explain (though it seems on some he has second thoughts), but they are really entertaining. The scenes are in non-anamorphic widescreen and appear a bit grainy. These fully edited scenes are a great addition to the set.

The Making Of Gladiator lasts twenty five minutes, and is a wonderful featurette. Clips from the film and behind the scenes footage is shown, as well as interviews with Scott, Crowe and much of the cast and crew. A good amount of production detail is discussed. Not too promotional and very nicely done.

Gladiator Games: Roman Blood Sport is a supplement that fits perfectly with the movie. Rather than really focusing on the movie, it focuses on the real gladiator games. You can see how much was the same and how much was overall different in the movie. It lasts fifty minutes, and is pretty interesting as well as educational. This is great to make comparisons and whatnot. Again, very nifty to go with the movie.

Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator lasts about twenty-one minutes and is pretty much an interview with Zimmer and his thoughts on the film, how it was offered and the music in general. I am a big fan of Zimmer and his work, as I think he's one of the best Hollywood composers working today. I was eager to watch this and I was not disappointed.

My Gladiator Journal is a really lenghty journal from Spencer Treat Clark, the young actor in the movie who played Lucius. While I found some of his comments corny and annoying (plus sort of perverted, check out that massage photo and comment!), this is a very interesting journal and gives you a very good idea of how a movie is made, what challanges are faced and how much time and effort is spent - all from a kids perspective. While I'm not sure how many have the patience to read all of it, if you do, you'll get some interesting thoughts on making movies.

Original Storyboards are nicely drawn boards outlining key sequences in the film and some deleted scenes. There are twelve you can see: "Germania Battle", "Maximus Execution", "Flight From Germania", "Zucchabar", "Arena Fight", "Battle Of Carthage", "Tiger Fight", "Commodus Fight", (now the deleted) "Maximus's Vision", "Rhino Fight", "Altnerative Colosseum Fight" and "Alternative Proximo Ending". There are all very nice and could you view them all at once. It would have been nice if Dreamworks gave instructions on how to flip through the pages. Despite it being obvious, it'd be nice for DVD newbies and whatnot. But it's not hard to figure out.

Stills Gallery has very cool stills to look out. There are "Portraits", "Germania", "Zucchabar", "Rome", "Colosseum" and "Behind The Scenes". You can also view them all at once if you want. These are nice stills, and again, it would have been nice if Dreamworks put some instructions for newbies.

Rounding out the disc are the Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer, four TV Spots (look for a nice "Gladiator" related Easter Egg around there, which advertises another great Dreamworks movie) plus Cast and Crew Bios (a lot for the crew!) and detailed plus interesting Production Notes (these are also in the keep case insert).

Each disc also has some really nice animated menus with some of the great score, and they really reflect the movie.

Another excellent package from Dreamworks. Two well-executed sound mixes (DTS ES and Dolby Digital), a stunning transfer and a ton of supplements. And it's for a spectacular film to boot. Make no mistake, "Gladiator" deserves a spot on your shelf and is a great movie to show off your home theater.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(5/5)

(4/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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