2000’s Gladiator from director Ridley Scott is the rare latter-day historical epics that is artistically and commercially successful. A winner of 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor (Russell Crowe), the film marries a dazzling spectacle with high-octane action and a riveting dramatic performance from its lead.
The story follows he Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who, after his brave and heroic victory in Germania for Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) finds himself in a precarious situation after Aurelius is assassinated by his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Maximus refuses to submit to the man who killed the Caesar that he was loyal to and loved like a father, so Commodus has him arrested, sentencing him and his family to be executed.
Maximus manages to escape his fate but is not in time to save his wife and son from the Caesar’s Praetorian guard. He then finds himself captured as a slave and forced into fighting as a gladiator in mortal combat, eventually making his way to Rome when Commodus declares 150 days of games to appease the crowds and distract them from his corrupt and dictatorial rule. Maximus becomes the darling of the crowds, but when it is found out who he is, Commodus begins plotting to have him killed as senators in Commodus’ own government begin plotting with Commodus’ sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) to free Maximus and raise an army to overthrow him.
A beautifully shot film with both visceral action and beautiful cinematography from director of photography John Mathieson, Gladiator is a gripping narrative from the beginning and arguably Crowe’s strongest effort on screen, A Beautiful Mind notwithstanding. From the awesome battles in the Coliseum – some involving tigers – to the palpable hatred between Phoenix’s and Crowe’s characters or the incestuous sexual desire Commodus holds for his sister Lucilla, the film has it all and a bag of popcorn. Ridley Scott pulls it all together without ever allowing it to tip over into kitsch or camp, though Phoenix’s performance comes dangerously close to the latter at times.
This 4K Ultra HD release comes with both Theatrical and Extended editions. The latter contains additional mostly additional graphic fight sequence scenes.
Gladiator was shot on 35mm slow speed Eastman EXR 50D 5245 and medium speed Kodak Vision 200T 5274 in the Super 35 (3-perf) format in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It comes to 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC 2160p (4K) encodement with Dolby Vision high dynamic range, its OAR intact. The finer details are preserved nicely in this transfer and the grain structure looks organic and true to the formats used for the original production. The Dolby Vision brings a lovely sense of color gradations in flames and differentiation in shadows and light in the scenes, offering excellent contrast extension.
The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for Gladiator gets a fantastic new immersive DTS:X audio mix that is both aggressive when it needs be and atmospheric at other times. The sweeping score by Hans Zimmer is balanced wonderfully into the mix, taking full advantage of the height channels for atmospherics and we even get some moments where some instrumentation like a strumming guitar comes from overhead. The arena scenes sound big, with roaring crowds surrounding us from all angles. The low end is nicely extended well into the lower frequencies as well.
There are an abundance of special features included on the two Blu-ray Discs that come in this set, but it is all previously available material and much of it is in standard definition. That said, it is all very sweeping, detailed “making of” and “behind the scenes” type productions that fans who haven’t seen (or heard in the case of the audio commentaries) should definitely watch.
- Commentary by director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe
- Extended Edition Introduction by Ridley Scott
- Commentary by director Ridley Scott, editor Pietro Scalia, and cinematographer John Mathieson
- Deleted Scenes Index (w/ optional commentary by Ridley Scott on select scenes*):
- Battle Aftermath*
- Looking for Strength*
- The Scribe
- Dye Market*
- Stage Direction*
- A Meeting at Gracchus’ House*
- Father and Son*
- The Execution*
- Grain Reserves
- Spies Close In*
- Another Enemy*
- Fighting with Fire*
- Quintus Obeys
- The Scrolls of Knowledge — An enhanced movie viewing experience, including streaming trivia and links to additional feature content.
- Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal
- Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator w/ optional “Enhanced Viewing Mode” that allows viewing the documentary with links to elated footage created exclusively for this Blu-ay release (SD; 03:16:50)
- Image and Design:
- Production Design
- Costume Design Gallery
- Photo Galleries
- Weapons Primer: Simon Atherton
- Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes:
- Alternate Title Design
- Blood Vision
- Rhino Fight
- Choose Your Weapon
- Treasure Chest
- The Aurelian Archives:
- The Making of
- Games: The Roman Bloodsport
- Hans Zimmer: Scoring the Film
- An Evening with Russell Crowe
- Maximus Uncut: Between Takes with Russell Crowe
- My Journal by Spencer Clark
- VFX Explorations: Germania & Rome
- TV Spots
The Final Assessment
A riveting historical epic with drama, tension, and fantastic action sequences and visuals, Gladiator gets kicked up several notches with this superb 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount.
Gladiator is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack from Paramount May 15, 2018
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