Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2000: Gladiator

An aging Roman emperor unofficially appoints army general Maximus to turn the government back into a republic after his death.  However, the emperor's son Commodus kills his father in order to become emperor himself.  He then orders the slaughter of Maximus and his family when Maximus refuses to swear allegiance to him.  Maximus manages to escape death and eventually returns to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge on Commodus.

As far as gruesome, epic, disturbing films go, this is one of the better ones.  Maximus is a very sympathetic character, so the audience actually cares what happens to him.  This turns what could have been a bunch of random bloody fighting into powerfully meaningful scenes.  Though I don't like all the violence, it's not too difficult to look past the gore and focus on the characters, especially the contrast between Maximus and Commodus.  One is courageous and fights for the chance to avenge his family's death; the other is a disturbed maniac who craves love and power, which no one wants to give him.  You can't blame Marcus Aurelius for preferring Maximus over Commodus, despite Commodus's insistence that it's his father's fault that he's the way he is.  To a certain extent, Commodus may have a point, but I think he's basically just evil.

While this isn't really my type of movie, I can appreciate that it's well-made.  The soundtrack and special effects are mind-blowing.  The script is very good, although the dialogue is at times difficult to understand.  And, of course, the intense fighting scenes are filmed and choreographed very well.  I personally find it very difficult to get past the fact that it was good entertainment to watch people kill each other, although I guess people still kind of do that today.  Of course, it's usually fake now, but on the screen it looks real.  In ancient Rome they didn't have television, so actually killing people was the next best thing, I guess.  It's all very disconcerting to me, which was probably the point of this film.  I think a lot of people like it because they think the fight scenes are cool, which is sad because it means that we are still entertained by watching people kill each other.  Between the evilness of Commodus and the whole idea behind gladiators, this is one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen.  But in my opinion it is made watchable by the character development, which, as you've probably noticed if you've been following this blog, is something that usually makes or breaks a movie for me.

Stay tuned for: A Beautiful Mind

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