Monday, May 11, 2015

Gladiator (2000)

I haven't really done an actually review. I really just put this on the back burner for the longest time. In fact, I was originally going to post this review on Netflix, but apparently you can't exceed 2000 characters. But I felt so passionately about this, that I felt I needed to post it elsewhere. So here it is.

Ridley Scott's oevre is very polarizing for me. I really like Alien, Prometheus, and Kingdom of Heaven. And with those movies, it seems like he got lucky by making those movies. I have not seen Thelma and Louise. But I'll admit that I didn't like Blade Runner. I felt it was a style over substance movie that chose to tell its story through visuals but forgotten to put that story in. Ridley Scott certainly does have a look to his movies, much in the same way that Michael Bay, J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Alfred Hitchcock. You can tell from looking at the film, that it has their personal style over it. And Gladiator solidified his look for the modern age. It and Black Hawk Down did. Gladiator for his period pieces, and Black Hawk Down for his action/drama movies.

Gladiator has flaws right off the bat. In a period piece like this one, it is generally wise to start off setting up characters, places, and politics before shoving us into a battle that we don't know anything about, and because of this, don't care about. After a battle that feels 20 minutes, it was actually more like 7-10; we are finally introduced to the main players of our story without actually introducing them. Richard Harris, before playing Dumbledore, plays the Emperor. Joaquin Phoenix plays an undetermined close person to the Emperor. Russell Crowe plays our protagonist, Maximus. After the battle was over, I was hoping that we would get some context for the battle like, who is Maximus? Why does he fight for the Romans? What is Commodus' relationship to the Emperor? Which Emperor are we seeing on the screen? And who is daughter, granddaughter, or great-granddaughter eye-banging Maximus? These are questions that need to be answered. I know they always say exposition is bad. That you must show not tell. The problem is that Ridley Scott most of the time does whatever he can to not tell the story, but also forgets to put in visual clues that would show the story unfold.

Kingdom of Heaven for comparison, started out with the suicide and burial of the main character's wife, thus setting up the basics for his character. And running into his father and joining him on his crusade. By the time we reach that point in Gladiator, all we know about Maximus is that he is an accomplished general for the Roman Empire that wants to get back home. That is good set up, except we have a battle without any emotional ties and our whole main cast established at the same time. Kingdom of Heaven didn't start introducing the rest of the main cast until they reached Jerusalem, which was at the first fourth mark.

Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, King Arthur, and even Alexander are better movies than Gladiator.

Gladiator had potential, but was squandered in the first 15 minutes.

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