Gladiator Movie Review Essays

Gladiator Analysis Essay

Gladiator, though not the most intellectually stimulating film of this decade, was deeper and more complex than one might gather from it at first glance. Its theme was not a simple "good-guy versus bad-guy" one as one might gather from the title. In fact, Gladiator in essence had very little to do with gladiators. Its real purpose, its real underlying flavor, was to depict a man's struggle against decadence in his society and to restore it to the disciplined one that it had been, a man who was driven not by outlandish ideals, but by down-to-earth loyalties and affections.

The plot of this film is relatively simple. Marcus Aurelius, empreror of Rome at the time, asks Maximus, his favorite general, to become emperor after his death and eventually restore the power to the senate. Commodus, the son of Aurelius, is jealous of Maximus and kills his father, afterwards asking Maximus for his loyalty. When Maximus refuses, Commodus attempts to have him and his family killed; he succeeds in killing his family, but fails to kill him. Instead, Maximus, is captured by slave traders and becomes a gladiator, a job which lends itself to his leadership skills and warrior abilities. Throughout his career as a gladiator, Maximus's primary objectives are to save Rome from Commodus and to avenge the murder of his family. Convenienty, both objectives have the same solution.

The film opens, essentially, with a scene depicting a pitched battle between Romans and German barbarians. Maximus is at this point commander of a Roman legion, and the legion performs masterfully. Against wildly roaring barabarians coagulated into an unruly mob, the Roman legionaires advance with discipline and even, in some ways, grace. All the while, the superior Roman technology rains fire upon the barbarians. The effect of this imagery is to illustrate not only the power of the Roman legions, nor even their relative modernity, but also to demonstrate the pride Maximus has in them and in Rome.

Maximus' role as a general is not the result of megalomania but rather a function of his love for Rome, for his family, and for his friend, Marcus Aurelius. This is clearly demonstrated when he is offered the empire of Rome from the dying emperor, and Maximus, the family man, tries to refuse. Maximus is torn between his own desire to be with his family and his desire to, essentially, help his friend and country by taking over upon Aurelius' death and then handing over power to the Senate. This is a clear indicator that he is not power mad: he would rather tend his farm and family rather than a huge block of the world's population.

His hopes of spending time with his family are ultimately shattered when, upon his return home, he finds his wife and child dead, mutilated and hanging. Their deaths were...

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Essay on "Gladiator".

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Gladiator (2000)

Published by The Massie Twins

Score: 9/10

Genre: Adventure and Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 35 min.

Release Date: May 5th, 2000 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ridley Scott Actors: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, David Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana, Tommy Flanagan


he Roman Empire was at the height of its power under the rule of the Caesars, commanding more than one-quarter of the world’s population. In the year 180 A.D., at the close of elderly Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ (Richard Harris) twelve-year campaign against the barbarian tribes in Germania, only one stronghold remains. Celebrated general Maximus (Russell Crowe) victoriously leads his army into combat, hoping to be released from service to finally journey back to his family (after nearly three years in the field). Aurelius’ immoral son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) anxiously awaits a succession announcement, scheming to amass power and take Rome away from unfavorable politicians. But the Emperor wants Maximus to become a regent and crush the corruption overcoming his domain, and to guide the Senate to rule Rome as a republic.

When Commodus learns of Aurelius’ plans, he flies into a trembling rage and smothers his father. Usurping command, he sentences Maximus to be killed. But the general’s skills surpass those of his praetorian executioners and he escapes to his farm, where he discovers that his family has been murdered. After he collapses from despair, exhaustion, and blood loss, he awakes to realize that he’s been captured and sold into slavery in the Roman province of Zucchabar. Purchaser Proximo (Oliver Reed) takes the new stock to train as gladiators for profit in arena entertainment, where Maximus reinvents himself as a crowd-winning dealer of death and destruction against armed combatants in brutal fights to the death.

It begins with a thunderous, fiery, large-scale battle with falling snow, mud kicking up onto soldiers, and blood splattering across steel. Intimidating armory and comprehensive costuming embellish the conflict. From here, the action only becomes more exhilarating as the titular warrior lays waste to his opponents in thrillingly choreographed skirmishes (not entirely removed from the outrageousness of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”). With breathtaking showdowns and nerve-wracking standoffs, it’s peculiar that slow-motion and time lapse editing aren’t used to generate grandiose variations of awesome dueling, but rather to attempt poignancy, reflection, and even to dampen bloodshed. The bookending of symbolic imagery, however, has a genuinely moving affect.

While some of the sets have the look of “Ben-Hur” or “Spartacus,” “Gladiator” is a vastly updated take on ancient barbarism clashing with politics, betrayal, and vengeance. It’s more highly detailed, visceral, violent, and visually breathtaking – chiefly through the meticulous reconstruction of the Coliseum and the elaborate spectacles orchestrated within. There are indeed iconic chariots, but the basic racing has been replaced with graphic hostilities. Nevertheless, the sensational carriage stunts are intact, as are the uprisings, anticipatory revenge, and hierarchy of memorable villains (leading up to the treacherous, sniveling, cowardly Commodus – a chilling performance by Phoenix – instead of a typical, physically daunting antagonist). Outside of the impressive design, “Gladiator” wisely includes rousing themes of defying authority, sacrifice, championing honorable notions of justness, and emboldening larger-than-life heroism. And, in the end, to preserve emotional and cinematic resonance, the film relinquishes the build of an epic revolution (and the intensity of two-sword beheadings or maddened tigers) for a decidedly more focused, intimate satisfaction and tragedy.

– Mike Massie


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