Why I find Gladiator (2000) to be slightly annoying

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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 didn't think it was low-key at all, that was the problem, I thought he was hammily chewing all the scenery away.



I didn't think it was low-key at all, that was the problem, I thought he was hammily chewing all the scenery away.
From what I have read in actual Roman texts, Commodus was viewed, even in those times, as a rage-a-holic and a bombast, none of which are like Phoenix's portrayal.



While I get why some people don't care for Gladiator, since it's the most flawed movie I've ever given a 10 to, I still think it is a 10 anyway for the things it gets right, as you can see in my review of it below:





What we do in life, echoes in eternity.

WARNING: spoilers below
Ridley Scott has certainly had a highly impactful, but nonetheless inconsistent career as a director, and Gladiator stands tall as one of his most noteworthy, but nonetheless divisive efforts; after all, not only did it win the top award in Hollywood (the Academy Award for Best Picture), but it was also a significant commercial success, grossing close to half a billion dollars worldwide (which is especially impressive considering that it's an R-rated, 2 & 1/2 hour, non-franchise historical epic, released at a time when Hollywood's grosses were significantly less gargantuan than they are now). But, on the other hand, it still seems to displease a good number of film fans and critics regardless, including Mr.Roger Ebert himself, and, while my recent rewatch of the film did clarify certain problematic aspects of it that I hadn't really noticed beforehand, helping me to better sympathize with its various detractors, the overall power & effect of Gladiator is still just so strong, that I can't help but declare it to be a flawed modern classic, but a modern classic nonetheless.

To get my newfound issues with Gladiator out of the way right away, I have to say that I now better understand the people who complained that it was its tone was rather, er, monotone, to the point of being self-defeating, as, at times, its almost relentlessly morose, downbeat nature comes across as being borderline tragedy porn, even by the usual standards of a dark revenge narrative, and there are times I can't help but wish Scott had injected just a bit more levity into the proceedings, as too many of the characters seem to do almost nothing but just wallow in their own tortured misery for the entirety of its running time. This is especially true of the main villain, the Emperor Commodus, as he often comes across as a somewhat cartoonish, one-dimensional baddie, but even Maximus's own family, who are his main motivators during the film, get essentially zero character development here, as they basically just exist as plot devices, as people who are there just to die in order to justify Maximus going on his warpath later on. Now, I know they aren't anywhere near being the main characters here, so I'm not expecting much of a focus on them, but something besides just being referenced in dialogue and a few shots of them standing around in a field would've been appreciated, Ridley.

However, all of that being said, one of the main reasons why I still love Gladiator on the whole is, while the emotional beats it hits may be rather repetitive, they're still incredibly intense and unabashedly raw nonetheless; I really became invested in Maximus's epic quest for vengeance "in this life or the next", which is written with sharp, memorable, insightful dialogue, and which Scott portrays through the huge, sweeping scope and grand tragedy of the overall tale. The shots of Maximus's family waiting for him in the afterlife, and the sight of him finally reuniting with them at the end, never fail to pluck at a couple of my heartstrings, and you can feel the righteous rage in every ounce of Russell Crowe's performance here. Besides that, the rest of the cast fills out Gladiator well, such as Richard Harris's old, war-weary Emperor Marcus Aurelius, or Connie Nielson as Marcus's daughter, Lucilla, who is torn between her past love for Maximus, his blind rage at her for being related to the man responsible for his family's deaths, and the fear of her brother's twisted desires, which are alternatively incestuous at certain times, and downright <i>homicidal<i> at others.

And, in addition to all of that, Gladiator draws a lot of strength from capturing the cultural mystique of the Roman Empire at its most powerful peak, with the weight of history laying heavily on the film (in a good way), whether it be in the dusty markets of Rome, the mighty catapults and calvary of the Empire's great army, or, of course, the bloody gladiatorial combat of The Colosseum, where about a good half of the film's scenes are set, which play a bit like similar moments from mid-century Hollywood sword-&-sandals epics like Ben-Hur & Spartacus, but updated with a modern emphasis on gallons of spilled blood, and piles of disemboweled guts. And, while the action in Gladiator isn't quite as coherent as I would've preferred, with too much over-editing, shake-y handheld camera work, and overly close framings of the combat that sometimes make it difficult to make out exactly what's going on, just the sight of epic, bloody, gladiator-on-gladiator combat adds a lot to the film, whether it be the recreation of The Battle Of Carthage where the barbarians get to win this time, an intense, relentless fight with a legendary, fearsomely-masked retired champion (where ravenous tigers keep getting released at the most inopportune moments), or one final, man-to-man duel to the death with the loathsome, tyrannical Emperor himself.

Gladiator has all of this and then some, and, again, while I can now better respect and understand why certain people don't care for it, the overall experience of it for me is still just so strong, with its lavish, grandiose period detail, and Maximus's tragic tale of righteous vengeance, that I can't help but love it anyway. This is rousing, operatic, larger-than-life entertainment, the kind that we sadly don't see out of Hollywood much anymore, and with how powerful a cinematic experience Gladiator is on the whole, all I really have left to say now is... are you not entertained?



In following this thread with interest I thought it worth mentioning and comparing The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). There's a lot of similarities which may have influenced Gladiator throughout, including the aging Marcus Aurelius and his fight with the Germanic tribes, a jealous rivalry that Commodus possesses with a fictional hero/General who was selected to be heir to the throne instead, and the final duel between the two of them in Rome whilst surrounded by guards with locked shields. Also amusingly, apparently Richard Harris was originally cast for the role of Commodus, before being replaced by Christopher Plummer. Entire film's on YouTube for anyone interested.



While I get why some people don't care for Gladiator, since it's the most flawed movie I've ever given a 10 to, I still think it is a 10 anyway for the things it gets right, as you can see in my review of it below:





What we do in life, echoes in eternity.

WARNING: spoilers below
Ridley Scott has certainly had a highly impactful, but nonetheless inconsistent career as a director, and Gladiator stands tall as one of his most noteworthy, but nonetheless divisive efforts; after all, not only did it win the top award in Hollywood (the Academy Award for Best Picture), but it was also a significant commercial success, grossing close to half a billion dollars worldwide (which is especially impressive considering that it's an R-rated, 2 & 1/2 hour, non-franchise historical epic, released at a time when Hollywood's grosses were significantly less gargantuan than they are now). But, on the other hand, it still seems to displease a good number of film fans and critics regardless, including Mr.Roger Ebert himself, and, while my recent rewatch of the film did clarify certain problematic aspects of it that I hadn't really noticed beforehand, helping me to better sympathize with its various detractors, the overall power & effect of Gladiator is still just so strong, that I can't help but declare it to be a flawed modern classic, but a modern classic nonetheless.

To get my newfound issues with Gladiator out of the way right away, I have to say that I now better understand the people who complained that it was its tone was rather, er, monotone, to the point of being self-defeating, as, at times, its almost relentlessly morose, downbeat nature comes across as being borderline tragedy porn, even by the usual standards of a dark revenge narrative, and there are times I can't help but wish Scott had injected just a bit more levity into the proceedings, as too many of the characters seem to do almost nothing but just wallow in their own tortured misery for the entirety of its running time. This is especially true of the main villain, the Emperor Commodus, as he often comes across as a somewhat cartoonish, one-dimensional baddie, but even Maximus's own family, who are his main motivators during the film, get essentially zero character development here, as they basically just exist as plot devices, as people who are there just to die in order to justify Maximus going on his warpath later on. Now, I know they aren't anywhere near being the main characters here, so I'm not expecting much of a focus on them, but something besides just being referenced in dialogue and a few shots of them standing around in a field would've been appreciated, Ridley.

However, all of that being said, one of the main reasons why I still love Gladiator on the whole is, while the emotional beats it hits may be rather repetitive, they're still incredibly intense and unabashedly raw nonetheless; I really became invested in Maximus's epic quest for vengeance "in this life or the next", which is written with sharp, memorable, insightful dialogue, and which Scott portrays through the huge, sweeping scope and grand tragedy of the overall tale. The shots of Maximus's family waiting for him in the afterlife, and the sight of him finally reuniting with them at the end, never fail to pluck at a couple of my heartstrings, and you can feel the righteous rage in every ounce of Russell Crowe's performance here. Besides that, the rest of the cast fills out Gladiator well, such as Richard Harris's old, war-weary Emperor Marcus Aurelius, or Connie Nielson as Marcus's daughter, Lucilla, who is torn between her past love for Maximus, his blind rage at her for being related to the man responsible for his family's deaths, and the fear of her brother's twisted desires, which are alternatively incestuous at certain times, and downright <i>homicidal<i> at others.

And, in addition to all of that, Gladiator draws a lot of strength from capturing the cultural mystique of the Roman Empire at its most powerful peak, with the weight of history laying heavily on the film (in a good way), whether it be in the dusty markets of Rome, the mighty catapults and calvary of the Empire's great army, or, of course, the bloody gladiatorial combat of The Colosseum, where about a good half of the film's scenes are set, which play a bit like similar moments from mid-century Hollywood sword-&-sandals epics like Ben-Hur & Spartacus, but updated with a modern emphasis on gallons of spilled blood, and piles of disemboweled guts. And, while the action in Gladiator isn't quite as coherent as I would've preferred, with too much over-editing, shake-y handheld camera work, and overly close framings of the combat that sometimes make it difficult to make out exactly what's going on, just the sight of epic, bloody, gladiator-on-gladiator combat adds a lot to the film, whether it be the recreation of The Battle Of Carthage where the barbarians get to win this time, an intense, relentless fight with a legendary, fearsomely-masked retired champion (where ravenous tigers keep getting released at the most inopportune moments), or one final, man-to-man duel to the death with the loathsome, tyrannical Emperor himself.

Gladiator has all of this and then some, and, again, while I can now better respect and understand why certain people don't care for it, the overall experience of it for me is still just so strong, with its lavish, grandiose period detail, and Maximus's tragic tale of righteous vengeance, that I can't help but love it anyway. This is rousing, operatic, larger-than-life entertainment, the kind that we sadly don't see out of Hollywood much anymore, and with how powerful a cinematic experience Gladiator is on the whole, all I really have left to say now is... are you not entertained?
I bet I would actually like it if I watched it again, there's too many good things going for it between Scott, young Crowe, Oliver Reed, and my memory that I thought it was good (but for Phoenix) when I saw it in the theater. I've just never wanted to watch it again. But maybe I should.



Registered User
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 think you missed it. Lawrence is a romantic. He falls in love with a cause and especially with the idea of himself being a savior. He has a sort of semi-death wish in Deraa. He only has a handful of followers left now. Everyone else has a quenched their thirst with blood and treasure and abandoned Lawrence and his dream of a united Arab nation. He is at the end of his rope. But as he is the same man who has braved many dangers and won, Lawrence decides to test his "character shield" by proving himself a sort of deity by just walking into town. If he dies, his cause is dead anyway. If he lives, he's not mad. He is a god, or at least beloved by God and his cause is true. He didn't count on, however, being humbled and punished for his arrogance. And when he gets a chance for revenge for his humiliation he cries "No Prisoners!" He's bats**t crazy.


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.

I take no issue with this. It's all pillow talk, baby. Nothing on the film reel is real. There are only 7 types of skeletal plots that enflesh themselves with tired tropes that are as old as history itself. That stated, HOW you do it matters.



There is nothing new in The Matrix. And yet for it's moment, it moved around the furniture just right to make Plato's Allegory of The Cave suddenly shine again.



It's not that they do it that bothers me, only the thought that they could do it better. A little more seduction, a little more narrative soma, a little more style, a little less obvious. For me, this film falls short in how it does the epic.



I'll grant that the genre itself is given to a sort of simplicity and bombast, but I want more from my genres and I want more from a Ridley Scott. Genre is rather tired when treated a formulaic recipe book. It is much better when used creatively, such as when DUNE subverts the hero's journey and we find our protagonist trapped in his victory.



I know it's been 20 years since it's been released, but I actually haven't seen Gladiator yet. It's on my list of must-see movies. Better late than never.
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“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!” ~ Rocky Balboa



I bet I would actually like it if I watched it again, there's too many good things going for it between Scott, young Crowe, Oliver Reed, and my memory that I thought it was good (but for Phoenix) when I saw it in the theater. I've just never wanted to watch it again. But maybe I should.
I really like it because it's one of the few Roman movies that is not full of judgmental, after-the-fact Christian attitudes; it just avoids that topic completely. It's definitely a kind of whirlwind tour of 250 years of Roman attitudes, romanticizing the old republic by bringing the time up to Commodus, one of the most decadent of emperors. It probably compresses that story too much, but it did it so well and looked so good doing it that I give it high marks.

We often tend to look at the Romans as though everything is seen through the lens of the church, but that non-Christian Roman society went on for a long time before there was a big religious migration. They were quite good at not forcing religion on the people they conquered. As long as you paid your taxes and did not rebel, they mainly did not care what religion you practiced.

I watched it recently and, also not having seen it for a while, was amazed at how good the visuals and the characters were. It's obviously historical fiction, with more of an emphasis on the fiction, but it's done well.



I really like it because it's one of the few Roman movies that is not full of judgmental, after-the-fact Christian attitudes; it just avoids that topic completely. It's definitely a kind of whirlwind tour of 250 years of Roman attitudes, romanticizing the old republic by bringing the time up to Commodus, one of the most decadent of emperors. It probably compresses that story too much, but it did it so well and looked so good doing it that I give it high marks.

We often tend to look at the Romans as though everything is seen through the lens of the church, but that non-Christian Roman society went on for a long time before there was a big religious migration. They were quite good at not forcing religion on the people they conquered. As long as you paid your taxes and did not rebel, they mainly did not care what religion you practiced.

I watched it recently and, also not having seen it for a while, was amazed at how good the visuals and the characters were. It's obviously historical fiction, with more of an emphasis on the fiction, but it's done well.
My favorite Roman movie is The Life Of Brian.



I agree with SpelingError Even I watched gladiator years back when it was shown at a Film Academy to make us see how movies are been made in Hollywood. but I didn't really like it back then and even today my opinion remains the same.



My brother has already watched Gladiator. He is always telling me that he dislikes the movie, mostly due to the points youse have already mentioned. But he says I should watch anyway, despite his criticism. I haven't watched it yet, though.

As for Lawrence of Arabia, it is one of my favourites movies ever! Specially because I think they go deep in the characters psychology, and both Lawrence and Ali change a lot though the 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 agree, we certainly did not watch the same film. I mean you may have watched a completely different film, maybe a B movie parody?

I just completed the restored version on Prime and none of what you said is even approaching the truth...apart from the "No Prisoners" but we'll get to that in just a bit.

The first time Lawrence kills is an execution, where a man is found guilty of murder, and to avoid mass tribal bloodshed and the dissipation of his army, he decides to execute the murderer...because if it was any one other than him, than there could be a tribal war.

Then we come to the example of the Turkish column. David Lean is pretty clear from the outset of this scene that the turks had just slaughtered an entire village, there is minutes of footage of dead women and children...there's even a blood splattered young boy with a sword through him. This enrages every one, including Lawrence but he struggled with a decision, until one of the Arabs rides forward to attack, we learn that this was his village. Only once that Arab is mowed down by guns does Lawrence shout, "No prisoners!". Pretty obvious what the context is here.

David Lean, throughout the movie. makes it abundantly clear that Lawrence kills because he hast to and there are several scenes showing him stopping others from being excessive in violence, so much so that there's even a piece of dialogue spoken between Gen Allenby and the other soldier (I forget who) speaking about Lawrence's need to take prisoners and not follow the Arab or Turk way of killing soldiers, sometimes their own.

Now, what you could have raised was a piece of dialogue where Lawrence believes he may "enjoy" the killing but once again Lean makes it quite clear he is a regretful, broken man by this stage and trying to get out of leading an assault on Damascus, but later Allenby appeals to his ego.

There we go. I come to an end on this discussion.
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I don't think the movie is for the official Hero. I say it's a thing of Leadership and Degree. But yes, for the common mortal, it's for the Hero.



Registered User
I agree, we certainly did not watch the same film. I mean you may have watched a completely different film, maybe a B movie parody?
I suspect I watched a much better film than you did.

I just completed the restored version on Prime and none of what you said is even approaching the truth...apart from the "No Prisoners" but we'll get to that in just a bit.
And higher resolution will "resolve" our interpretive dispute?

If so, I should note that I own the film on Blu Ray, so I am pretty sure I've "seen" the film myself. So, does that qualify me to position myself as having an adequate copy of the text? If it helps, I should note that I've also seen in in 70mm in a theatrical setting...

The first time Lawrence kills is an execution, where a man is found guilty of murder, and to avoid mass tribal bloodshed and the dissipation of his army, he decides to execute the murderer...because if it was any one other than him, than there could be a tribal war.
It appears that you missed this part.

- I killed two people. I mean, two Arabs. One was a boy. That was... ...yesterday. I led him into a quicksand. The other was a man. That was... ...before Aqaba, anyway. I had to execute him with my pistol. There was something about it I didn't like.

- Well, naturally.

- No. Something else.

- That's all right. Let it be a warning.

- No. Something else.

- What, then?


- I enjoyed it.
He's cracking in that scene. He is crying. He's discovered something dark within himself and he likes the darkness. That's why he requests to be taken off the mission.

Then we come to the example of the Turkish column. David Lean is pretty clear from the outset of this scene that the turks had just slaughtered an entire village, there is minutes of footage of dead women and children...there's even a blood splattered young boy with a sword through him. This enrages every one, including Lawrence but he struggled with a decision, until one of the Arabs rides forward to attack, we learn that this was his village. Only once that Arab is mowed down by guns does Lawrence shout, "No prisoners!". Pretty obvious what the context is here.
And in that scene he has the wild-eyed blood list in his expression. He struggling with staying on his mission and yielding to the ecstasy of slaughtering an enemy in retreat.



I watched Gladiator several years ago and didn't like it back then. I revisited it a few months ago as I had a feeling I would enjoy it more, but my opinion stayed pretty much the same.
Read up on Roman history and the movie will get better. It's definitely "Hollywood", but it gets more right about Romans than most movies of that sort.



I am the Watcher in the Night
I suspect I watched a much better film than you did.



And higher resolution will "resolve" our interpretive dispute?

If so, I should note that I own the film on Blu Ray, so I am pretty sure I've "seen" the film myself. So, does that qualify me to position myself as having an adequate copy of the text? If it helps, I should note that I've also seen in in 70mm in a theatrical setting...



It appears that you missed this part.


He's cracking in that scene. He is crying. He's discovered something dark within himself and he likes the darkness. That's why he requests to be taken off the mission.



And in that scene he has the wild-eyed blood list in his expression. He struggling with staying on his mission and yielding to the ecstasy of slaughtering an enemy in retreat.
LOL I just highlighted the version of the film because that's the one available for free on Prime, there's another version you can rank or buy. Just a bit of consumer update.

"It appears that you missed this part. "

Nope, I specifically raised that bit, please read it again.



My brother has already watched Gladiator. He is always telling me that he dislikes the movie, mostly due to the points youse have already mentioned. But he says I should watch anyway, despite his criticism. I haven't watched it yet, though.

As for Lawrence of Arabia, it is one of my favourites movies ever! Specially because I think they go deep in the characters psychology, and both Lawrence and Ali change a lot though the movie.
Maybe it's time to see it and form your own opinion. Commenting on a movie you have not seen based on someone else's comment won't get you very far.



Registered User
Maybe it's time to see it and form your own opinion. Commenting on a movie you have not seen based on someone else's comment won't get you very far.

And the film itself is worth at least one watch. There are nice sights and sounds and some great moments. Whether the whole affair takes you in is an open question.