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DreamWorks presents
Gladiator: Extended Edition (2000)

"What we do in life echoes in eternity."
- Maximus (Russell Crowe)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: October 05, 2005

Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquim Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
Other Stars: Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, David Schofield, John Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana, Ralf Moeller, Spencer Treat Clark
Director: Ridley Scott

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for contains intense, graphic battle sequences
Run Time: 02h:50m:47s
Release Date: August 23, 2005
UPC: 678149439120
Genre: epic


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+AA- A

DVD Review

Prior to the initial release of Gladiator in May 2000, Russell Crowe had achieved considerable success as a character actor and had delivered compelling performances in L.A. Confidential and The Insider. His ability to completely reinvent himself with each character promised a strong future, but nothing could prepare him for his newfound fame. The starring role of Maximus transformed Crowe into a movie star, and it occurred in a specific early moment. As a Roman general, he walks past his troops and acknowledges them prior to a possibly deadly battle in Germania. Their admiration for him has no limits, and it grows when he heroically leads them to victory. During this energetic sequence, Crowe’s presence dominates the screen, and he charms the movie audience as well as he does the soldiers.

The basic story follows the standard type of plot utilized in numerous historical epics of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Following his Germania victory, Maximus has grown in considerable favor with the wise Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) and has surpassed the less appealing son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). When the emperor dies suspiciously, Commodus becomes the leader and does not share his father’s positive view of Maximus. Our hero is exiled and nearly killed, which eventually leads him into the gladiatorial arena. His tremendous skills as a warrior obviously serve him well in this venue, and could assist him in gaining revenge against Commodus.

The primary difference between this picture and the old-fashioned epics is the advent of computer-generated effects, which allow director Ridley Scott to craft an even more ambitious film. His success in this venture depends largely on your opinion of CGI, which appears everywhere here, especially in the colorful, gigantic images of Rome. The initial arrival at the grand city does instill some awe-inspiring moments, but it also includes some shots that surpass believability. Scott deserves credit for taking a chance and making everything as large as possible, but the effects do overwhelm the story during several key moments. The writers also aimed to craft a modern tale that connected to our current situation. Are we distracted from our government's activities by mindless entertainment? It may not involve arena-style killings, but a definite connection exists to our society.

The film beings very effectively and delivers a first hour that makes its Best Picture Oscar completely understandable. Crowe’s Maximus is an especially brutal guy who can dish out considerable violence, but his heroism and quest for revenge aligns us with his interest. His first entrance into the gladiatorial arena is a powerful moment that showcases the actor’s star power. Joined by his friends Juba (Djimon Honsou) and Hagen (Ralf Moeller), Maximus quickly becomes a crowd favorite with his ingenious and violent methods. When the action moves to Rome, the gladiator battles are even more impressive and definitely surpass any expectations.

Unfortunately, the energy generated by the action sequences does not remain when the focus shifts towards political intrigue during the final hour. The creepy Commodus spends time lusting after his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and plotting with the senators, but his story lacks the necessary moments of drama. The actors deliver solid performances across the board, especially the late Oliver Reed as the slave owner and former gladiator Proximo. His emotional description of the character’s gladiatorial experiences is one of the film’s best scenes. Derek Jacobi also brings weight to the possibly one-note Senator Gracchus and makes him a memorable character.

This Extended Edition of Gladiator contains 17 minutes not originally included in the theatrical release. Many of these scenes were included separately on the earlier DVD edition, but now they’ve been incorporated into the completed film. Although they stretch an already long picture, the added scenes do add depth to the lead characters and flow nicely inside the completed story. One memorable scene shows Maximus strolling through the Germania camp and observing the dead and brutally wounded men. Another intriguing moment shows Commodus striking down a bust of his father after Maximus’ return. The extra footage plays only a minor role, but it should provide additional incentive for audiences to take a new look at this flawed but impressive epic.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Gladiator is the type of ambitious epic that requires a top-notch transfer, and this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation fails to disappoint in any way. The grandiose early battle scenes are especially impressive, and Rome's bright colors sparkle with sharp vibrance. The grain remains at a minimum throughout the film, and numerous scenes offer eye-popping visuals that enhance the picture's success.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: This release offers a stunning 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that truly immerses you within the action throughout the film. Chariots ride, arrows fly, and battle ensues inside your living room in this consistent and extremely complex track. The audio flows wonderfully across the entire sound field and helps to generate an intimate viewing experience. The one drawback here is the omission of the DTS transfer, which did appear on the past Signature Collection release. The included track should please most viewers, but the lack of the DTS option does offer a minor disappointment.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Ring Two, Saving Private Ryan D-Day 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
10 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Ridley Scott and Actor Russell Crowe, "Are You Not Entertained?" Historical and Production Trivia Track
Packaging: Four-fold case
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Design Primer and Gallery
  2. Storyboarding
  3. Costume Design Gallery
  4. Photo Galleries
  5. Introduction to Extended Edition from Ridley Scott
Extras Review: This impressive three-disc release offers a gigantic collection of extra features that easily surpasses the solid original two-disc offering. The highlight is Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator—an extremely detailed documentary that clocks in at three hours and twenty minutes. Specific information on all the supplements is provided in the sections below:

Disc 1

Extended Edition/Deleted Scenes
This disc offers both the theatrical and extended versions of Gladiator, which vary in length by 17 minutes. The theatrical menus offer the option of perusing the deleted scenes and viewing them individually. The differences between the two editions were discussed in the film review section.

Commentary by Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe
Ridley Scott is not a very lively speaker, so his commentaries are generally dreary affairs. He does provide some worthy information, but much of it is lost because of an extremely dry approach. Luckily, this new track with Russell Crowe is surprisingly enjoyable and includes plenty of interesting discussion. Much of the credit should go to Crowe, who avoids the typical "that was cool" actor statements and actually speaks insightfully about his experiences. My respect for the actor grew considerably while listening to this commentary, which is only available with the Extended Edition.

"Are You Not Entertained?" Trivia Track
The informational subtitle feature appears far too infrequently on DVD releases and is one of my favorite extras. The only drawback with the wealth of interesting material is that they barely leave you with enough time to finish reading each one. The items cover a wide array of subjects, including Scott's ideas, casting, and specific production details. This trivia track is accessible with both the extended and theatrical versions.

Ridley Scott Introduction to Extended Edition
This dry 30-second introduction from Scott makes it clear that this version is not a "director's cut." It would have been helpful to hear a more detailed explanation for the differences between the two definitions.

Disc 2: Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator
This comprehensive documentary runs longer than three hours and offers a complete look at the ambitious production. It begins with an excellent discussion on the story creation process, which involved three writers—David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson. All three men speak intelligently and frankly about their contributions and effectively depict the script's construction. The primary section is the The Heat of Battle, which runs longer than an hour and goes into great detail about the principal photography. The final piece, Echoes in Eternity, also offers an interesting perspective on the picture five years after its initial release. The other sections cover the armor and weaponry, costume design, Oliver Reed, and visual effects.

Disc 3

Production Design Featurette and Galleries
Arthur Max discusses the huge scale of the production during his nine-minute production design primer, which presents 18th- and 19th-century paintings that inspired him. The Colosseum was especially difficult, so they recreated it at one-half of its original size and added the rest digitally. This section also provides drawings, photos, and conceptual art of the various destinations depicted in the film.

Storyboard Demonstrations, Comparisons, and Galleries
Production Illustrator Sylvain Despretz gives us an example of creating a storyboard in this 13-minute feature. He crafts a detailed look at one shot with Maximus and offers a thoughtful, interesting description. This section also offers multi-angle comparisons of the Germania Sequence, Chain Fight, and Battle of Carthage. The Storyboard Archive provides 10 groups of storyboards, including Ridleygrams, the Tiger Fight, and unused sequences like the Rhino and Zebra Fights.

Costume Design Galleries
This very large collection of costume design imagery focuses specifically on the characters and showcases both sketches and origianal photographs of the actors wearing the outfits.

Photo Galleries
Viewers who cannot get enough of this film should enjoy yet another large group of photos grouped by such locations as Germania, Zucchabar, and Rome. It's pretty exhausting and is probably too much for the typical viewer.

Visual Effects Explorations: Germania and Rome
This 23-minute feature includes comments from the visual effects designers concerning the process used to make the Roman areas and other locations appear much grander than the actual settings. This area is also covered in the larger documentary, but with different details.

Abandoned Sequences
Unlike the deleted scenes added to the Extended Edition, these moments are rough cuts and were never completed for the film. The most noteworthy scene is the Rhino Fight, which especially excited Director Ridley Scott, but became far too expensive to actually complete. Although it was never filmed, we do get the chance to view storyboards and CGI footage with commentary from Despretz. Another interesting offering is the alternate title sequence, which is explained by designer Nick Livesy in a brief featurette.

Commemorative Booklet
This impressive full-color booklet includes sharp photographs from the various elements of the picture. Ridley Scott also provides brief comments on the pages with his thoughts about the filming experience.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Gladiator: Extended Edition deserves a recommendation solely for a stunning three-hour documentary that ranks among the most extensive DVD "making-of" features released. This big-budget film has received significant criticism, largely due to its Best Picture Oscar victory. While it may not warrant that prize, it still has considerable merit and deserves a second look. Crowe's performance stands among his best work and raises the story to a higher level.

 


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