Why I find Gladiator (2000) to be slightly annoying

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I've not heard of Proof. The best 'unknown' Crowe film that I've seen and was impressed with was The Water Diviner.
Check it out if you can find it, Rules. I think you'll like it because it's got the feel of an Indie film - it's not flashy or formulaic. But it is one of those cerebral, thought-provoking movies with a very unique plot that deals with psychology & issues of honesty, trust and friendship (not to mention perceptions of reality). Not widely known and totally underrated.

I only saw it once, but it left such an impression that, although I can't remember some of the plot details, I remember it as a film that was thoroughly engaging.



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I could discuss this movie a lot (especially since I went and read the first 4 books of the 21 book series the movie was derived from... and let me say, this is one case where the movie is better than the book or books - unless they kept improving after the first 4).

I tried reading the first book and it just turned me off. I'd already read the Hornblower books and Forester is just more readerly. The Hornblower series are a hoot. O'Brian's books feel are too showy and descriptive (to the point of making up fake nautical bull**** to make the reader feel alienated from the proceedings, but also "really there"), where Forester gives us just enough description to give us the sense of being there.



Interesting you mentioned Aubrey's superstition, as Maturin seemed to play as the antithesis (a man who embraced science and empirical evidence over superstition or religion). It was their oppositeness (is that a word?) that made them friends.


There is a divide, but Aubrey is not without his technical proficiencies. He instantaneously surmises why the Acheron is faster without giving up sturdiness when he is given a model of the ship to inspect. He can also navigate with extreme precision, which requires substantial mathematical acumen. He is also musically accomplished as is Marturin.



If Aubrey is the antithesis of anyone, it is Hornblower (the character that O'Brian "borrowed" from when he was basically commissioned to write new sea-faring adventures in the mold of Hornblower). Horatio Hornblower is profoundly tone deaf (he only hears music as noise), where Jack Aubrey is deeply musical. Hornblower hates being drunk. Aubrey loves to tie one on. Hornblower is withdrawn and introspective, where Aubrey is open, especially with Marturin. Hornblower has bad luck with naval prizes and credit in big battles, where Jack is lucky.


I'd say that the divide is that where Aubrey is a man of his time, Marturin is a man of our time. Marturin is a rationalist, scientist, empiricist, and humanist. Aubrey is a patriot, a pragmatist, and while he has shares qualities with Marturin he is a Navy man, raised on the high seas and who loves the service/life. It's kind of like night arguing with the dawn as we, the reader, find ourselves in the light of our day, trying to reconcile life in a world where men on the street might be abducted and forced to serve as able seamen. We should not forget that part of what kicked off the War of 1812 was the British capturing American seaman on merchant ships and impressing them into the British Navy. Marturin is our intermediary. He let's yell back a little bit, and this is why is a bit annoying. I don't need a modernist surrogate (or maybe I do, but I need one a bit more subtle?).



Maturin was like an amalgam of "Spock & McCoy" (Spock's logic & McCoy's annoyance at military protocol) to Aubrey's "Kirk."


Right. I think this hits the nail on the head. Where the Kirk-Spock-McCoy Holy Trinity is like the relation of Superego-Ego-Id, Aubrey/Martin is a condensation of this, and this takes inside of the man as a composite character. Aubrey is really two men in one, and this is how we get inside him, so to speak, right?



Check it out if you can find it, Rules. I think you'll like it because it's got the feel of an Indie film - it's not flashy or formulaic. But it is one of those cerebral, thought-provoking movies with a very unique plot that deals with psychology & issues of honesty, trust and friendship (not to mention perceptions of reality). Not widely known and totally underrated.

I only saw it once, but it left such an impression that, although I can't remember some of the plot details, I remember it as a film that was thoroughly engaging.
I will watch it, I just read this and it sounds like my type of movie +what you wrote above..
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@Corax - Excellent analysis on Aubrey / Maturin (the names usually used to refer to the full book series).

You are so right about the first book. Reviews I read said it was more like reading a nautical text book than a novel - which is also quite true.

I'd never heard the comparisons between Hornblower and Aubrey before (I've heard comparisons between the books but not to the characters).

Although Dr. Maturin seems more the rebel (at least when it comes to blind patriotism) he also becomes a spy (a secret agent if you will) for the British Empire in later books which lands him in some hazardous situations. Just a bit of trivia on the development of his character.

If there was one movie I was hoping for a sequel, Master and Commander was it. Alas, at this point a sequel probably could not have the cast reprise their roles.



Really, read up on ancient world warfare. Gladiator is the best that it's ever been done. In addition, the world weary Emperor Marcus Aurelius is pretty much straight on. In his later years he became a philosopher, completely disillusioned by the state of humanity and the things he had to do. Marcus, in the movie, does this pretty well. His actual rule was fairly long and came after the insane excesses of previous emperors so Marcus WAS in a state of despair and depression and wanted to restore the republic. He wanted a better world than he left, but didn't get it.

As for Joachin Phoenix as Commodus, the real emperor was actually MUCH weirder. Phoenix downplays him and makes him too emotionally vulnerable. The real Commodus would not be a credible movie character. By the way, only royals could wear purple like Commodus, which was a rare and expensive dye.

Maximus (Crowe) is a composite of the way soldier/farmers were seen in the early days of the empire. He's the guy who has seen more blood and death than anybody needs and just wants to go home to his family and attend his crops.

The scenes in the arena were really pretty good, a meat-market staged for cheap entertainment. A few of the gladiators survived and thrived, most died quickly, although death was not universal since training gladiators was expensive. They needed to last long enough to be a reasonable investment.

Sets were spot-on, as was Roman armor and Rome itself.



I am the Watcher in the Night
The story is not nuanced and there are no shades of grey to the characters but that's not how epics work. These types of movies are always great, resounding stories of good versus evil. The courageous triumphing over the cowardly. So the hero will always be righteous and the villain will always be pure evil. Not quite sure what the complaint is.
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The story is not nuanced and there are no shades of grey to the characters but that's not how epics work.


So, you don't count Lawrence of Arabia as an epic?



These types of movies are always great, resounding stories of good versus evil. The courageous triumphing over the cowardly. So the hero will always be righteous and the villain will always be pure evil. Not quite sure what the complaint is.

Merely that the film is slightly annoying in the manner in which it gives us our contest of good and evil. There is a line between drama and melodrama, pathos and bathos, a righteous man and absurdly perfect one, events coming full circle organically, seemingly by chance, and things coming full circle under the groaning rails of heavy emplotment. Again, I don't dislike the film, but find it has a little too much icing on the cake for my own personal taste.



The weakest part of the movie is how it tries to encapsulate a 500 year empire into a 2 hour movie. I have to admit to having more than a passing knowledge of ancient Rome, especially in regard to history that's not wrapped up in telling the story of Christianity, which has spent 2000 years portraying Rome in a fairly negative light. The 30 second version of the history of the empire is that it evolved from a small kingdom, to a representative republic and then devolved into the first use of the word dictator in our sense, but at least a competent dictator (early Caesars), and then later into a sprawling, ungovernable empire run by despots who who seem so wacky that you suspect neurological damage.

The movie suggests a lot of this, and, especially among Romans, nostalgia for the days of honorable rulers and a return to those old republican virtues that were the founding myth of Rome. It seems like too much plot for one movie but if you're familiar with the characters and the history, that nostalgia for the "Glory That Once Was Rome" is pretty hard to miss. The rule of the actual historic Commodus is the perfect fulcrum for that story. The death of Marcus and the ascent of Commodus is often thought of as the moment when it all started to go bad, the beginning of a 200 year decline that ends in the return of the Germani and their bearskin-wearing barbarism. Maximus is the archetype for the soldier/farmer of early Roman legend, a guy with lots of old Roman virtues.

I really don't think that one movie can tell this story, or even a mini-series; it needs a maxi-series. Gladiator is the 2 hour metaphoric capsule. I like it because it tells the story from a Roman perspective rather than the usual scathing, disapproving religious perspective and it gets the clothes and interior design right.

The religious perspective misses a lot, notably that in the ancient world, living inside the empire was better than living outside; they had roads, a common language and soldiers to guard the borders. When the empire was gone, Europe spent centuries trying to figure out how to get it back because, in spite of their evils, most of the time the empire was a better place to live.



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in the ancient world, living inside the empire was better than living outside; they had roads, a common language and soldiers to guard the borders. When the empire was gone, Europe spent centuries trying to figure out how to get it back because, in spite of their evils, most of the time the empire was a better place to live.



I am the Watcher in the Night
So, you don't count Lawrence of Arabia as an epic?






Merely that the film is slightly annoying in the manner in which it gives us our contest of good and evil. There is a line between drama and melodrama, pathos and bathos, a righteous man and absurdly perfect one, events coming full circle organically, seemingly by chance, and things coming full circle under the groaning rails of heavy emplotment. Again, I don't dislike the film, but find it has a little too much icing on the cake for my own personal taste.
Honestly, all I can say is that's what these films are like.

As for Lawrence of Arabia, it's not a sword and sandals epic but even so, it's hardly nuanced. Lawrence is the great white, blonde haired, blue eyed saviour of the savage brown folk. There is no actual grey in his character, he is the shining light. He kills because he has to, he leaves the politicians to their task of betraying his friends because he has to...in reality, the historical Lawrence of duplicitous and a traitor to the people he claimed to be helping.



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Honestly, all I can say is that's what these films are like.

As for Lawrence of Arabia, it's not a sword and sandals epic but even so, it's hardly nuanced. Lawrence is the great white, blonde haired, blue eyed saviour of the savage brown folk. There is no actual grey in his character, he is the shining light. He kills because he has to,


No, he doesn't kill because he has to. He kills because he likes to. The first man he kills troubles him because he relished the event. And then he almost loses his crown jewel of Damascus when he finds a Turkish column in retreat "No Prisoners!' is the cry and he needlessly kills these people, a massacre, nearly at the expense of his own cause.



I don't think we watched the same movie at all.



The notion of reducing Lawrence to a character who is operating in pure black and white terms is just about as confounding to me as leaving Citizen Kane with the impression it was primarily about a tobagganing enthusiast.



I remember the movie as being extreeeeemly long.
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I've always been mixed on Gladiator. I find that I do not like the way the action scenes are done because it introduced that jittery camera quick cutting technique that so many felt they had to replicate afterwards.

SPOILER

I also found the ending to be predictable and saw it coming a mile away, that Commodus and him would just have a fight in the ring. It was said on here before that Commodus did this in real life and liked to fight guys in the ring himself, but this was never set up before previously in the movie, so it just didn't seem to ring for me therefore.

I also didn't buy that Commodus couldn't just had this guy killed whenever he wanted and made it look like something else. It just just seemed a bit hard to swallow, so with that, the predictable ending, and the jittery action scenes, I felt it comes up short in areas.



There are issues with it, but itís still a pretty decent film. A lot of it has more to do with Crowe then anything else.
I always felt Phoenix was prone to overreacting in the film, however.
Great action sequences, though.
Lord, do I agree with you. He's (obviously) gotten much better, but for several years I wouldn't watch any film that featured him because of his performance in Gladiator. I thought it was painful to watch.



Wait, if we're mentioning great Russell Crowe performances, how did we get past, like, two without L.A. Confidential coming up?
I'd never seen him before, I saw that, and I was like, "Oh, that guy's a ****ing star."



The trick is not minding
Wait, if we're mentioning great Russell Crowe performances, how did we get past, like, two without L.A. Confidential coming up?
I'd never seen him before, I saw that, and I was like, "Oh, that guy's a ****ing star."
I thought for sure that it would have been mentioned earlier. Huh.
But yes, probably his best performance? I remember watching it when it was released to DVD and was instantly blown away from his presence some 20 odd years ago.
Honestly, him, Pearce and Kevin Spacey were all amazing in it. And yet, all three were passed over for an Oscar Nomination.

Instead, they felt the need to award Crowe for the much less impressive A Beautiful Mind, years later.



Lord, do I agree with you. He's (obviously) gotten much better, but for several years I wouldn't watch any film that featured him because of his performance in Gladiator. I thought it was painful to watch.
It's worth noting that Phoenix's low-key performance was quite at odds with the historic Commodus, who was a raging character that did fight in the arena and embarrassed the family and empire. I don't think the real Commodus would have been a credible character in a movie.



I am the Watcher in the Night
No, he doesn't kill because he has to. He kills because he likes to. The first man he kills troubles him because he relished the event. And then he almost loses his crown jewel of Damascus when he finds a Turkish column in retreat "No Prisoners!' is the cry and he needlessly kills these people, a massacre, nearly at the expense of his own cause.



I don't think we watched the same movie at all.
I'm pretty sure his attitude to killing was driven by the harsh reality of desert life, time away from "civilisation" and utter dedication to the Arab cause against the evil Turks who are represented as pure bad guys in the film. I am however, currently re-watching on Prime so when I get to these scenes, let's see how they are.

But my original point still stands. Epics, mainly of the sword and sandal type are broad, easy battles of good v evil. Even if LoA is different, that would be an exception.