Overrated Classic? Gladiator
That gladiator was played by Russell Crowe and the film got 8.4 on IMDB – a pretty good score (even though it doesn’t land the film in the top 250). (Edit: Apparently it DOES land in the top 250, it’s in 75th place – IMDB just lied to me. Apologies).
I saw it a few times in the cinema back in the day; I loved it. But then I started thinking, maybe it wasn’t so good. Maybe it was just hyped up. I saw it one more time and I kind of loathed it.
It went on my list of the most boring films ever. And so, my copy of the DVD started to collect dust on the shelf.
Then it came to light I was supposed to write an article about an overrated classic, and I decided on Gladiator. With trepidation in my heart, I put it in my PlayStation 3, and watch it I did.
In the beginning scene, two thoughts struck me:
- Ridley Scott really doesn’t do small films. This is huge.
- Who brings a dog to war?
Another thought struck down pretty quickly: Hans Zimmer is pretty similar to John Williams, that is, they aren’t really good at writing anything that doesn’t sound exactly like something else they’ve written (The Sherlock Holmes soundtrack is an exception for Hans Zimmer). So I thought for a while I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean. During winter. And not in the Caribbean.
And then of course there is the lone lady singing that everyone and their grandmother used in their films for years afterwards (including 300). It usually accompanied similar scenes as it was used in Gladiator – a field and a person walking through it slowly.
When Joaquin Phoenix comes on screen, you can just see the sleaziness drip off him. And I thought to myself that this would be a hard film to watch, not only because I don’t really like Russell Crowe, but also because Commodus is such a sleaz-bag in it!
Dumbledore v.1, however, makes up for it a little bit – shame Commodus kills him in a very dramatic and Shakespearian way.
But after about 30-40 minutes I realised something. I was enjoying myself. I realised I was trying as much as I could to dislike it, but… I just didn’t. I got invested in it. Was rooting for Maximus, even though I knew perfectly well how it ended.
Joaquin Phoenix did a very, very good job in my opinion in portraying Commodus. I just remembered him as this annoying emperor who killed the nation’s favourite gladiator.
But, his bitterness is almost tangible. You can almost lick it off the screen. And it is understandable why he is bitter. His father never really loved him, never really saw him for who he was, and he was scarred by that. He wanted to be loved but no one did. After having killed his own father in a fit of sorrowful rage, and realised the man he thought was dead (Maximus), the only man who could overpower him, he goes a little mad.
His cowardice is perfectly shown when he challenges Maximus to a duel but wounds him gravely before they go into the arena. But he’s not stupid – he’s just clueless, bitter and angry.
He also had a very disturbing tendency towards incest and paedophilia. *shivers*
I don’t suddenly think it is great. I don’t really think it is worth the 8.4 it gets in IMDB. And Russell Crowe still annoys me.
But I have a new-found respect for the film. Especially Phoenix’s role. He’s the best thing about the film.
I could go nit-picking at the storyline. For example, why does Maximus pray to “father” in heaven – I’m no expert on Roman mythology but I’m pretty sure they didn’t pray to their “father” in the sky. And the film happens way too soon for him to be Christian. Also, gladiators weren’t dressed like that.
But, who cares about that?
Gladiator is, I guess, a bit overrated. Not horribly. I would say it’s worth a 7 on IMDB, and Maximus should’ve been played by someone other than Russell Crowe.