“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
Extended Version Runtime: 171 minutes
Theatrical Version Runtime: 155 minutes
1080p Dual-layered BD50 Blu-ray
Disc Size: 48,335,265,792 bytes
Feature: 40,230,770,688 bytes
Video Bitrate: 23.18 Mbps
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1
Dolby Digital Audio French 5.1
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 5.1
Dolby Digital Audio English 2.0
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North. General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” These are the words that echo in my head every time I think of the film and the performance of Russell Crowe in this Ridley Scott directed film. I don’t remember a film that has profoundly resonated in my head before. This is one of my all time favorite film.
The film deserved to have picked up 5 Oscars including best actor and best picture. There really isn’t much I can say in this introduction, but praise the work done by the filmmaker and its cast. The film was a huge box office success and now let’s see what Paramount included in this Sapphire Series Blu-ray release.
The dying Aurelius (Richard Harris) decides to appoint temporary leadership to Maximus, with a desire to eventually return power to the Roman Senate. Aurelius informs Maximus and offers him time to consider before informing Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who, in a bout of jealousy, murders his father. Declaring himself the emperor, Commodus asks Maximus for his loyalty, Maximus refuses to be loyal to Commodus who sends him to death. Maximus escapes being a prisoner where he rushes home to find his wife and son has been murdered.
Slave traders find Maximus and take him Proximo (Oliver Reed), the head of a local gladiator school. Proximo then purchases him to fight as a gladiator. Maximus initially refuses to fight, but as he defends himself in the arena his combat skills lead to a rise in popularity with the audience. This is precisely the moment where the film begins to take off, where Proximo realizes Maximus is not just another fighter.
The viewer is shown various scenes of Rome with filled streets and ending with the scene from a bird’s eye view of the Colosseum, I must say seeing these brief scenes are breathtaking. Seeing the Colosseum in all its glory must have been a very impressive sight, this is exactly what the filmmakers attempted and were very successful with. The fight scenes are magnificently recreated, the costumes, the chariots, the crowd, etc., are done with so much care it’s impeccable.
Gladiator is a superbly directed and acted film. The plot has some twists and turns as the film follows Maximus journey to be the greatest gladiator Rome has seen. There really isn’t much to complain, the acting is superb and the details are nicely done. Other than this the only problem with the film is the historical inaccuracy. However, if you want historical accuracy pick up a book at your local library about Roman gladiators, this film is meant for entertainment and it delivers in every moment. The film was a box office smash at the time of release and picked up the awards it truly deserved. Easily 5/5.
This is where everything turns ugly. There have been many horror stories behind the release of this title. Yes, there’s disappearing arrows in the beginning of the movie and there are various other issues, however, the movie is still watchable. There is some serious color banding in the first few scenes when the title appears and the brown background doesn’t entirely blend, the problem is very noticeable. During the first battle a few arrows seem to disappear, but really it’s not something you would catch unless you are looking frame by frame with the movie paused. Videophiles with eagle eyes will most likely catch these really quick instances.
The picture has been scrubbed taking away some of the fine detail and giving the skin textures looking very unnatural. There’s also some edge enhancement detected throughout the film. Edge Enhancement is very noticeable and overall distracting. There is some color banding in the opening scene where the film’s title appears on screen and I must say the banding is very heavy any viewer will detect this instantly.
Gladiator was one of the most anticipated movies to be released on Blu-ray. When Paramount announced the Sapphire Series and that Gladiator would be part of it, I must admit, I was excited. The promise that Paramount made to provide the highest quality for Gladiator was quickly forgotten once the film was released and the video was subpar. As mentioned earlier the film is watchable and is a good improvement over the previous DVD version, however, there’s several problems throughout the film that prevent this to be a perfect release. Unlike the other Sapphire Series title, Braveheart, that managed to look beautiful, Gladiator fell short.
Gladiator boasts a fine 5.1 DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track. Let me get to the point here, yes, the video quality is less than stellar but this audio track is superb. From the first battle scene to the climax of the film the audio never fails, the dialogue is prioritized very clean and crisp. The bass adds a whole another dimension to key fighting scenes, the thundering moving chariots, tigers, etc. The rears help create an amazing soundfield specially noticeable during the arena battles where it feels as if you are in the middle of the Colosseum taking part of the gladiatorial games. The music is brilliantly mixed into the film; it’s very crisp and clear until the final minutes of the movie. I have no doubts this is reference audio quality and is simply one superb track.
In this release Paramount made sure the fans of the film wouldn’t be disappointed and indeed they have accomplished that. Gladiator is full of supplements, including two great audio commentaries for each versions of the film. However, none of the supplements are in high definition. Let’s see what was included in each disc.
Audio Commentaries – The disc contains two audio commentary tracks, one for each version of the movie. For the extended cut, director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe take us in a compelling conversation, very good commentary track worth watching. For the theatrical cut also includes director Ridley Scott, also John Mathieson and editor Pietro Scalia. This commentary track deals more with the filming, techniques, CGI effects, etc. It’s more technical nevertheless there is some interesting topics and some good information.
The Scrolls of Knowledge – This interactive feature displays a series of windows on your display as the feature film is playing. Each collapsible window provides information about ancient Rome. Certain small featurettes in this mode will require the user to insert disc two, however, if you select ‘Save’ your picks will be saved and will be remembered when disc two is inserted. This also includes a trivia track that contains information about the historical facts among other things.
Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal – This simply lists all the topics from the “The Scrolls of Knowledge”.
Documentary: “Strength and Honor: Creating the World of ‘Gladiator’” – This is a very long documentary lasting approximately 197 minutes. Yes, that’s longer than the actual film itself. This documentary features interviews with the cast, features behind the scenes footage, visual effects, costume design, etc. The documentary also includes everything having to do with the filming of the film. That’s not all; the documentary features collapsible windows that lead to more footage. It’s worth a watch, but I am sure most will find it exhausting to watch it entirely in one sitting.
Image and Design – This is a five part featurette and deals with several topics like production, costume design, storyboarding, and weapons. Also, there this featurette includes two photo galleries.
1. Production Design Primer: Arthur Max – This featurette analyzes the film’s challenges, as well as the influences for the film’s look, and the recreation of the Colosseum.
2. Storyboard Archive – This featurette includes collections of drawings from different scenes.
3. Storyboarding – Sylvian Despretz offers a look into the storyboard and talks about working with the director Ridley Scott.
4. Costume Design Gallery – Contains the two photo galleries as well as sketches for the principal actors as well as the extras.
5. Weapons Primer: Simon Atherton – Gives an insight look at some of the authentic torture instruments as well as the fictional.
Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes – This featurette is composed of several scenes left out of the film as well as some montages and excluded sequences.
The Aurelian Archives – This is a hefty behind-the-scenes featurette, it is divided into nine parts.
1. The Making of Gladiator – Behind the scenes featurette
2. Gladiator Games: The Roman Bloodsport – Very interesting featurette that compares the gladiatorial game to today spectator sports.
3. Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator – A look behind the music of Gladiator.
4. An Evening with Russell Crowe – Actor Russell Crowe answers fan made questions.
5. Maximus Uncut: Between Takes with Russell Crowe – Gag Reel
6. My Gladiator Journal by Spencer Treat Clark – A diary of the film’s shoot.
7. VFX Explorations: Germania and Rome – Go behind the scenes to see some of the computer generated effects in Gladiator. The film also includes two theatrical trailers as well as twenty TV spots.
Without a doubt this is one of the best films ever made. Yes, there is some problems with the video transfer, but regardless of those problems this is an excellent film. The problems with the video will most likely end up turning away those unwilling to see past the problems and be entertained. For those people I recommend at least a rent before deciding to spend their hard earned money on the purchase of the movie. For the rest of you all I got to say is, Gladiator is an excellent film truly epic with great acting performances, excellently directed, with an excellent music score. The sound quality of this release is simply superb and the supplements are more than enough to satisfy any fan of the movie. With the above mentioned, and as a fan, I recommend this release.
* Special thanks to Scott for providing a piece for this review.