Gladiator is a 2000 movie directed by Ridley Scott that has a combination of action, adventure, and drama. It entails betrayal, bravery, and survival, which is set in the ancient era of the Roman Empire. General Maximus Decimus Meridus (Russell Crowe) impersonates the role of Maximus brilliantly as an honorable General, loyal to both his emperor and Rome. Tired of fighting in wars, Maximus is looking forward to returning to his family and the farm. It was then that the emperor called upon Maximus to assume the throne after his death. However, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the son of the emperor, was displeased to hear the news because he had other plans. As the news of the emperor’s death, Commodus ordered the killing of Maximus family, and that set the events of the rest of the film in motion as the audience escapes to a story filled with history, culture, and adventure. The movie did win five academy awards for best picture, best actor, best costume design, best sound, best effects, and best director (IMDb, 2020).
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The cinematography used throughout the film is excellent, which certainly captivates the audience’s attention and emotion. The movie credits start with a scrolling text to inform the audience how massive the Roman empire was during that time. Next, the film shows Maximus walking through a wheat field as his hand delicately brushes the tip of the wheat. In this silence, closeup shot, we noticed Russell Crowe is wearing a wedding ring and that he could have children. This closeup shot also allows the audience to draw closer to the character to learn and that he is a person who enjoys the beauty of nature. The director likely chose this way of filming the scene to demonstrate that, despite his military profession, Maximus did not lose his capacity for gentle feelings and is tired by waging endless wars.
Moving on into the final battle scene, we see that it starts with a high angle shot inside the Colosseum when the Roman guards surround Maximus, followed immediately by a slow panning shot of the arena in the Colosseum. Then the camera cuts to a medium-long shot of the spectators and begins to pan to the right, allowing the viewers to see the expressions on their faces. After that, another high angle shot shows the guards surrounding Maximus and Commodus on the arena. However, this shot is shown from a different angle of the Colosseum, thus giving the audience a new visual experience with each scene. In all likelihood, Ridley Scott shot and edited the scene in this way to highlight the magnitude of the event and the tense emotions of the spectators that should pass onto the film audience as well. Still, the two main characters are the main focus, and, as the scene intensifies, it shifts to demonstrate their perspectives.
Color is equally important in a film, and is immediately seen as the title “Gladiator” appears in the opening credits. The background of the text scrolling consists of grey, orange, and red and resembles a dark and cloudy feeling. The set location takes place in Rome, which shows a grey color. And the battle scenes are set in gray and blue tones, which makes it feel cold and dark. In the end, we notice the red petals in the Colosseum, which signify love and also death. This choice emphasizes the implicit point that Maximus’ love for Rome and his family was great enough to pay for it with his death without thinking twice, thus adding to the bittersweet tone of the ending.
Editing is an essential part of the film, and we notice this at the very beginning of the movie. It shows Maximus hand touching the wheat in the sunshine as it cuts back to Maximus, who is waiting for the battle to begin. The audience quickly discovers that the man in the field is the same man who is an officer of the Roman army. Just as the battle is about to begin, we see Maximus grabbing a small amount of dirt and rubbing it into his hand. This gesture remains consistent throughout the film, as the soil reminds the protagonist of his home. It was definitely a conscious choice by the director to demonstrate Maximus as a literally “down-to-earth” character, as opposed to his nemesis, the arrogant and haughty Commodus.
Another part that shows the importance of editing is when the first battle is about to take place, and Maximus is riding his horse. The camera quickly pans back and forth to see the faces of the soldiers, allowing the audience to see their facial expressions of the solders, which gives the audience a grasp of what they may be feeling. It allows the audience to relate to the soldiers and also solidified the image of Maximus as a leader of men.
Finally, following the end of the last battle scene, Maximus wins the battle against Commodus. Suddenly the stage is set in slow motion as it shows Maximus extending his hand out to open the doors where he will soon be able to be with his family. His love for his family is strong, and he yearns to be with them, but the only way he can be with his family is that he must die. This slow-motion allows the audience to follow him to his resting journey with his family, which is probably why the director made that choice.
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There is a lot of sound in this film, such as sword clashing, horses’ footsteps, sounds of animals, and the chanting of the spectators. Indeed, these sounds allow the audience to hear and experience the emotion of the scene. Music helps set the tone in the film as it begins with a slow and somber feel, which quickly captures the audience’s attention. As the first battle is about to launch, we first hear the horns playing, followed by the beating of the continuous drums. It creates an intense feeling as the war is to begin, and it quickly escalates as the battle is in full motion. It is also giving the audience a glimpse of what it would like if they were there fighting along with them. As the war comes to an end, the music quickly slows down and fades to a string melody. Another significant part of the music is when Maximus goes home to find his family only to discover they were murdered. The music intensifies the sadness that he feels as it captures the emotions of the audience as well.
Gladiator is a great movie. What I liked about the film was the attention to detail. The props, which include the armor, swords, and costumes, definitely carried out the movie. Even though the location is not in Rome, the features of the coliseum and chariots give the audience the film is set in that particular era. A specific detail shown at the beginning of the film shows Maximus wearing a Roman armor trimmed with fur signifying someone of power. In the last battle scene, Maximus is wearing a black leather breastplate with silver designs, symbolizing that he does not wield power anymore and is heading toward his death.
Additionally, I found it interesting that the dog at the beginning of the battle is always by Maximus’s side, thus showing the same unwavering loyalty, which Maximus then demonstrate to his emperor. When the battle is over, you no longer see the dog in any of the scenes, leaving the audience to speculate that the dog died in battle. This may foreshadow the protagonist’s fate by suggesting that Maximus’ loyalty to his emperor may well be his undoing.
Also, I like how the camera pans to a bird’s eye view of the Colosseum, giving the audience a glimpse of what it would have looked like during that time. The spectacular visual effects allow the viewer to experience each scene as if they were actually in Rome. They are bringing the audience much closer to the characters.
The main actor Russell Crowe does an excellent job of impersonating the role of Maximus, powerful and noble. Drawing in the audience closer to the character, and leaving the viewers wanting to know more about Maximus, he encourages the viewers to feel compassion for him during the gladiator battles as they root for him to win. Maximus’s stoic demeanor and unbending will signify him as a strong character easy to sympathize with, and the tragedy of losing his family and his emperor makes it easier
The director gives the audience a more historical view of how Ancient Rome was during that era. He makes the film realistic and, as a consequence, succeeds in making the audience feel like they are part of the movie. In particular, the film captures the grim determination and iron will with which the gladiator fights to live for another day. Undoubtedly, Ridley Scott did an exceptional job of having a great script to tell his story.