Gladiator: A Look Back In Time

Before we know it, we’ll be ushering in the year 2020. That means the iconic film Gladiator is nearly 20 years old. The movie, released May 5, 2000, reached epic pinnacles in so many ways, and today, it still reigns as one of the most beloved films. Let’s reminisce about the mixed reviews, the numerous awards, the funny mistakes, and then peer into the future to the impending sequel.

The Critics of Gladiator

It’s fun to look back in time to see predictions versus actual performance, especially after nearly two decades. It’s also fun to see such opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to reviews of the movie Gladiator.

Kirk Honeycutt [at the time] from The Hollywood Reporter provided a glowing analysis of the film:

“Emphasizing brawn over brain and spectacle over intimacy, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator nevertheless is an impressive accomplishment in its re-creation not only of the golden age of the Roman Empire but of the unspeakable brutality with which one of the world’s greatest states conducted its business…Crowe is one of the most watchable of movie actors, fast on his way to becoming a movie star.”

Conversely, [the late] Roger Ebert tore it apart like a tiger with a raw steak:

“A foolish choice in art direction casts a pall over Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ that no swordplay can cut through. The film looks muddy, fuzzy and indistinct. Its colors are mud tones at the drab end of the palette, and it seems to have been filmed on grim and overcast days. This darkness and a lack of detail in the long shots helps obscure shabby special effects (the Colosseum in Rome looks like a model from a computer game), and the characters bring no cheer: They’re bitter, vengeful, depressed. By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies. (There are blue skies in the hero’s dreams of long-ago happiness, but that proves the point.) The story line [sic] is ‘Rocky’ on downers.”

While it is easy to sit here in 2019 and play Monday morning quarterback, it is difficult to comprehend how two seasoned critics who viewed the exact same motion picture could walk away from it with such diametrically opposing opinions. But therein lies the beauty of subjectivity.



The Awards

While Roger Ebert wasn’t a fan, the film industry was. With an astounding 102 nominations, the picture won more than half of them, with 59 total wins. Of those, 5 were for the most coveted award, the Oscar. During the 2001 Academy Awards, the movie would rake in the golden statue for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Effects – Visual effects.

In addition, both Raker and Screenrant rank Gladiator as the number one gladiator movie of all time.

The Goofs

Of course, no movie is perfect, subjectively or objectively. And with a movie as serious and morose as Gladiator, there is nothing wrong with lightening up the mood a bit with some “oops” moments. Whether it was a statue of a boxer that wasn’t part of the set (and is now in the Vatican Museum), a deaf and mute character who speaks, Lycra shorts peeping out during a fight scene, visible modern-day sunglasses and contact lenses, or blood that appears in one frame but is gone in the next, Gladiator has its goofs just like any film. 

Are you not entertained? Okay, you’ll find more bloopers here. And of course, there exist somewhere, outtakes, between-the-scenes footage, and even satirical parodies out there, but you’ll have to find those on your own on YouTube.

The Gladiator Sequel

First announced in November 2018, there will indeed be a Gladiator 2. Updates since have trickled in, but word around the coliseum is that director Ridley Scott is confirmed. IndieWire reported this past summer about the sequel: “The timeline means the franchise will pick up with the son of Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla as a young adult.” Producers include Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, with Parkes saying, “It picks up the story 30 years later…25 years later.”

Writer Nick Cave had apparently written a script for a sequel, but after 10 years, for whatever reason, nothing much came from it. Peter Craig, who is known for his work on The Crown and Hunger Games, has a completely different plot perspective, and is the writer with whom the production is proceeding. 

Who will return from the original cast? We all have to sit back, wait, and watch for the games to resume.

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