Ridley Scott’s rabidly renowned Gladiator remains one of my all-time favourite movies. Released in 2000, it’s the truly epic (one of few legitimate uses of a term that would usually cause me to tie my nuts in a knot in rage, incidentally. Damn today’s cool kids with their backwards hats, skateboards, contemptuous hairstyles and constant kicks to the sweaty balls of the English language) tale of the acclaimed general Maximus. Said meathead has more testosterone-fuelled manliness in one bristle of that heroic beard of his than my entire body could muster, and for that we salute him. A case in point: above we see him thoroughly unperturbed by the hulking pissed-off German dude coming to ravage him with an axe. Which is rather a feat, as even the guy’s helmet is terrifying. (I can’t speak for his actual helmet, of course, but that perilously short yet rather fetching little man-skirt threatens to reveal his freely-waving nutsack to the world at any moment. “Ja, mein magnificent penis has distracted many an opponent, allowing me to cut their delicate blood-bleeding faces right off,” chuckled the canny German.) Meanwhile, a goddamn actual tiger mooches about in the vicinity with carefree abandon, and still our hero doesn’t appear alarmed. Indeed, he later strides over to stab it in the ass, which constitutes really rather unafraid indeed in my book. These shenanigans alone, I’m sure you’ll agree, are a fine basis for a top man-movie. Nonetheless, after several dozen viewings of this magnum opus, I know a little more that certainly sets Gladiator apart.
Firstly, let’s consider the plot. It’s a revenge drama, set in the days of incest, orgies and exuberant over-eating at banquets (That is to say Ancient Rome, not just an average day on my family ranch. How any of the Romans managed to gorge themselves to such an extent when the menu largely consisted of pelican’s rectum and associated horrors is a mystery to me. If I, for one, saw bird’s shit-hole on the buffet table, I’d have to suggest a hasty trip to McDonald’s. That bastard clown Ronald is so ubiquitous I’m sure he existed back then, hawking his gut-eviscerating-yet-tasty patties of death). The elderly emperor (and he really does look old as hell. “Our almighty, noble and indefatigable ruler... has pissed his blankets again. Shove these in our ancient stone washing machine, Marcus" doesn’t quite convey the intended awe-inspiring majestic message, in my humble view) chooses Maximus to ascend to power, over his Machiavellian skidmark of a son Commodus. (Pictured here in an image from davidbarrkirtley, festooned in terrible Mr. T bling-chains he got from a charity shop. While posing dickishly. “What the shit! This ‘sword’ thing has a pointy bit on the end! That’s sharp as hell, that is! Somebody could have warned me, before I started pointlessly waving it about the place!”) The latter’s response to this, in a rather asshole-y move, is to suffocate the feeble old dude and take power himself. Because even this didn’t quite fulfill his let’s be a huge bitch quota for the day, Commodus then sends soldiers to horribly crucify Maximus’s family. for, I can only presume, a transgression of his own invention. Their alleged crime being something along the lines of: Your father/husband was a daddy’s boy. Not his own daddy, but mine. The point stands nonetheless. I’m now the ruler of Rome, after all, so you can’t question any of the belligerent bullshit I come out with. That old guy with the scraggly beard loved Maximus, you see, while just thinking I was a massive dick. Which I am. So, in sum: I’m quite pissed about the whole situation.
But all that wouldn’t fit on a police record (“We haven’t invented filing cabinets yet! I’m not carrying all those reams of paper everywhere like an ass! I do have a rather fine He-Man paperweight, whoever he is, so whack that on them and leave them on my desk”), so he decided instead just to send some beefy guys over to Casa Maximus to kill them. The resultant slavery of our protagonist, and his gladiatorial rise, make for a viscera-dripping action-fest of a movie with a truly immersive story. It’s a rare, nigh-oxymoronic combination, which I’m sure has contributed to Gladiator’s success.
It’s a tale of genuine heart, too. Crowe’s performance belies that of a generic action hero, with his character displaying a peculiar dichotomy of emotions. He stabs endangered species of big cat in their delicate facial regions when necessary (as, naturally, we all must on occasion), and reduces several men to squelching mounds of meat and bloody mess on the floor, I’ll concede. In the very next scene, though, you’ll see him weeping tears of pure masculinity into his perfectly-styled and shampooed beard at the figurines of his family. The likes of the “You’ll meet them again. But not yet. Not yet” scene mark unusual departures from the car chases and explosions norm of guy’s movies, it’s truly something special. Some finely-gauged emotional shenanigans, to complement the vicious head-rending carnage yet not dilute it.
Gladiator also has the honour of playing host to one of the most memorable movie moments in celluloid history. This article seems incomplete without a gratuitous quotation:
“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.”
Finally, for your delectation/memory-basking pleasure, the official trailer, from HDTrailersOfficial. It certainly doesn’t feel over a decade old:
Article by Chris Littlechild
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