NOTE: Comments contain spoilers.
27 April 2000
1) Compared to what has happened in Serbia, Kosovo, etc., the atrocities of the gladiatorial world seem to pale. If nothing else, more straightforward, and more limited. 2) The criticism of the opening battle scene is groundless. Confusion is exactly the overriding feel of any battle. 3) Thank God Scott does not delve on the "psychology" of the characters involved. Psychology is a modern idea that had no place in ancient Rome. There is a three-line passage in Caesar's De Bello Gallico in which he explains that the Helvetii (modern-day Swiss), wanting to migrate, but finding internal opposition, burnt down all of their own towns so as to make migration inevitable. This, as mentioned, is related in three lines of terse Latin. Nowadays we see entire films in which the characters aren't able to make up their mind, say, on whether or not they should marry. May we be delivered from such drivel!
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my review. I'm not absolutely certain that I understand all of the points you're trying to make, but I'll do my best to respond to them.
Re: 1) Compared to what has happened in Serbia, Kosovo, etc., the atrocities of the gladiatorial world seem to pale. If nothing else, more straightforward, and more limited.
I'll assume that you've mentioned this because I noted that Gladiator did not take the time to flesh out the experience of being enslaved as a gladiator. Though it might well be true that the scope and complexity of the atrocities associated with Serbia, Kosovo, and other wars exceeds that experienced by men who were enslaved as gladiators, I don't see how that's relevant to my complaint. If this were a film about Kosovo that failed to paint an illuminating portrait of what being a participant/victim entailed (emotionally as well as physically), it would be equally guilty of missing out on an opportunity to engage me by bringing a more resonant view of that experience to the screen. (And the fact that more people died in the Holocaust than in Kosovo would not mitigate my disappointment.) Before seeing Gladiator, I already knew that a gladiator is a man who is forced to fight for the entertainment of others. After seeing Gladiator, I know precious little more about what that experience must have been like. Ridley Scott failed to put ME into the slave quarters or the arena with Maximus. By skimming over the topic, he left me almost nothing to learn, relate to, or care about, despite the fact that being enslaved and FORCED to fight and kill (perhaps even kill a friend) is a sufficiently harrowing notion... about which I should have felt something at least marginally resembling horror or sorrow. I'm an easy mark, and usually respond emotionally to that sort of story. With this film, I felt very little. I barely got to know any of the other gladiators, and the process by which they were victimized was rarely personalized in a way that made me feel their fear or sadness. Perhaps there was no place for that in this movie, but I would have responded better personally if I'd invested some emotion in those men and their circumstances.
Re: 2) The criticism of the opening battle scene is groundless. Confusion is exactly the overriding feel of any battle.
What about terror? Is that not also the overriding feel of any battle? There's little or no conveyance of terror in the battles. Blood spraying around does not terrify me. The suggestion of a beheading does not terrify me. If I were placed into the action in a comprehensible way, I might have FELT something. But I wasn't, and I didn't. Detached confusion is almost certainly not what a battle feels like. By comparison, I was horrified by what I saw in Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. I FELT something akin to what the soldiers were experiencing, even from the safety of my seat. I never felt threatened by or saddened by what I was shown in Gladiator. If it worked for you, that's great. It simply did not work for me.
Re: 3) Thank God Scott does not delve on the "psychology" of the characters involved....
Does this refer to my plea for more character development? I don't think wanting character development is the same thing as wishing for a deep psychological analysis of each character to be written into the script. That really wasn't what I meant at all. In any case, regardless of what era one lives in (and whether theories about psychology had/had not been developed), all people are driven by fear, hope, desire, anger, loyalty, selfishness, etc. And all people amount to more than the sum of their five most traumatic experiences (or biggest plot points, if you will). For me, Maximusas writtenis a concept, not a whole person. His personality has one characteristic: stoic loyalty. While this may be interesting, it's not enough to engage me emotionally. Did this guy have a sense of humor? If he ever stopped to chat about life beyond plot points in the movie, where would his interests lie? The far superior Spartacus is chock full of small moments that flesh out the characters by simply watching them interact in casual ways. Those scenes are not "psychology"... they're character development. They make the characters feel more fully human in ordinary ways, and therefore more like ourselves. Doing so helps bring the audience into their world by showing that human nature is human nature, regardless of the era. That's what's missing from Gladiator. It does a fine job of showing Maximus as a paragon of virtue, but fails to make him into a complete human being. This may not be a "failure" to you or anybody else, but it is a failure to me... reducing my emotional response to his plight and actions to a vague sense of admiration. I wish I could have felt more, but I didn't.
I don't know if you wanted or expected me to respond, but here you are! Thanks again for writing. I do appreciate the fact that you shared your thoughts with me, even if they are criticisms of my point of view. I take it you loved Gladiator, and am sorry if my less thorough embrace of the film comes as a disappointment to you. It came as a disappointment to me as well!
It might surprise you that, like you, I did not enjoy the film. Still, I feel that you have analyzed it not from the right angle. I ascribe this to your lacunal understanding of history, and to your conviction that Romans and barbarians eighteen hundred years ago reasoned and acted as we do. That is why I made reference to Caesar's De Bello Gallico. I assure you that if you read this book, you may well think it was written, and peopled, by extra-terrestrials.
1) Terror in battles. In Saving Private Ryan we see a very disturbing opening in which a major battle of World War Two is depicted in all its horror, and the terror felt by many in it we feel too. But, this is modernity. One cannot compare it to antiquity. Many of the soldiers fighting that battle did not belong in an army, and indeed were recruited forcefully. In antiquity, on the other hand, the warrior caste was made up of men whose calling was, precisely, to engage in warlike activities. The belief in eternal life after death, for example, was not accorded to everyone; this was a novel idea brought in by Christianity. Indeed, only the war hero was accorded eternal life after death in Elysium. Even dying was not the worst of all evils. If a warrior was slain in the battlefield, his was a mors triumphalis, a triumphant death, whereby he automatically gained access to Elysium. Indeed, there is a fleeting mention of Elysium in the film itself.
2) You write: "They make the characters feel more fully human in ordinary ways, and therefore more like ourselves. Doing so helps bring the audience into their world by showing that human nature is human nature, regardless of the era." Warriors of the caliber of Maximus are all but ordinary. Indeed, we do not want them to be ordinary. Perhaps you do not realize what skills and fortitude it took, in 200 AD, to be the best general in the Roman army. This was by all means an extraordinary man. (And so was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, writing his marvelous Meditationes in the midst of years of war, and all in, nota bene, perfect Greek.) Again, I must remind you that in antiquity a divine life could be had on earth, not exclusively in the afterlife, as taught by Christianity. The greatest heroes were semi-gods, at times already worshipped on earth. Transcendence was obtained by military feats. Pride, strength, and honor were revered, in antithesis to Christian humbleness, weakness, and forgiveness. (Ours being the culture of debasement, a concept such as transcendence is particularly hard to revitalize.)
The problems with Gladiator are manifold. Most arrestingly, perhaps, one must note that the actual history of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus is more intriguing than this fairly idiotic fictionalized rendition. But the chief problem, I suspect, is that Scott and all others involved in the production do not know enough about antiquity, and at any rate do not understand its spirit. Suffice it to be said that Rome conquered the world on a porridge diet (that is what its soldiers ate). Roman armies were not necessarily always superior, or better trained, or more numerous than their very vigorous opponents. Indeed, the wild Celts of Cisalpine Italy, to name but one foe, were monsters as opposed to the shorter and less impressive Roman soldiers. Yet, they were quickly disposed of. This metaphysical spirit of conquest, this almost transcendental fortitude is so incompatible with modernity that people do not even have a clue of its existence. Had Scott had adequate knowledge and understanding of history, he could have shown us a story about warriors THEN. How they acted and functioned according to THEIR cosmology and ontology, not ours. Handled this way, it would have had the same impact of ALIENS, as indeed the warrior of antiquity is as alien to modern man and woman as a dinosaur.
(Not to be captious, but Scott's general lack of culture is photographed by a myriad other points. For example, when in Spain, we see some blooms from a bougainvillea. This plant, native of Australia, was imported to Europe a century and a half ago. The list could continue, but it would be pedantic. The core of the problem lies in what I have stated above.)
All the best,
Wow! What a treat it is to get this reply from you. I feel like I'm getting a one-on-one tutorial on some fascinating subjects... for free! :) You're absolutely correct about my woefully limited knowledge of ancient history. I did attend American public schools, which should suffice as an explanation. I had to consult a dictionary for "lacunal," by the way.... Thanks for the new word! (And no, I'm not being the least bit sarcastic.)
I definitely understandand certainly had not known or consideredthe distinction you're making between the conscripted soldiers depicted in Saving Private Ryan and the ancient warriors as you describe them, which does make an enormous difference in terms of what may or not have been experienced on a battlefield by the individuals fighting. I wonder, though... did these ancient warriors really feel no emotions resembling fear, even if they were utterly convinced that their endeavors were true to their natures (a calling of sorts) and something on the order of spiritual missions (at least in terms of believing that they would have a special status in the eyes of the gods)? As you said, that seems almost alien to me! I can grasp the notion that people thought quite differently in other eras, but the survival instinct appears to be deeply imbedded in our genes. It seems that there ought to be at least a marginal parallel between humans of all eras, but perhaps I'm just incapable of thinking outside of my own experience to such an extreme extent. In any case, I now see your original point (in the first e-mail you sent) more clearly. I still think the battle scenes were ineffectual as a storytelling (or putting me into the moment) device, because they were evocative of nothing that enlightened or interested me. Frankly, it would have been much more fascinating if Scott had attempted to depict what you are describing as the warrior mindset, and then found a way to express a measure of that in the context of a battle sequence. If he did accomplish that, I didn't notice!
As regards the movie, I ought to admit right now that my responses to it (and complaints about it) come from a completely self-centered desire to be viscerally and emotionally satisfied at the very least (the movie fan in me), and intrigued or enlightened by the subject matter if at all possible. Knowing next to nothing about the era at hand, it's disappointing to emerge after 2 1/2 hours and know nothing more than I already knew. Your e-mail didn't take me more than a few minutes to read, and it's got more to say than the entirety of the film!
Regarding my desire for the more "ordinary" human element, you make an interesting point. If Scott had managed to convey the nature of a man such as Maximus in its full complexity and cultural context, I would have found the lack of "ordinary" interesting. By making him little more than a one-dimensional portrait of stoicism, all I was left with was a blandly admirable victim. This noble passivity may be closer to who Maximus would have been in reality, but (without further elucidation or development) it's not terribly engaging on a cinematic level. I suppose that's whyby the end of the filmI found myself wishing that Scott had either taken his subject much more seriously (which would result in the sort of portrait you've described), or gone whole-hog in the other direction and made a silly, inaccurate, stylistically engaging bit of bombast that I could have had fun with.
I can't tell you how incredibly pleased I am that you wrote back to me and took all of that time to elaborate on your points. Is your interest in history professional? If not, it ought to be. Has there ever been a film that you felt captured its era in history with any degree of genuine accuracy (in essence, if not absolutely in terms of factual accuracy)? I have a feeling that my ignorance has been of great (if somewhat shameful) advantage over the years. I know enough to take "historical" cinema with a grain of salt, but not enough to know which elements are absolute hooey. Of course, there's no obligation to answer this e-mail... but I still felt compelled to ask.
Thanks again, Angelo! It's been a pleasure to "meet" you.
I felt obliged by your own thoroughness in replying, and it makes for good exercise anyway.
No, I cannot think of any film about antiquity that has given us the sort of reversal of standpoint needed. In short, the various directors, screenwriters and producers are ignorant, not so much of the historical facts, but of the spirit of the age.
Terror in battles in antiquity. Survival is an animal instinct. The best among warriors from antiquity certainly transcended animal and human limitations; check out Mutius Scevola; or the famous, "morituri te salutant" (those about to die salute you). There was great pride in a heroic death. Soldiers were even happy to die for their general, when he was worthy of this sacrifice. Again, none of this exists in modernity. I repeat: it's a different cosmology altogether.
A brief digression on modern times. Many men in the "rich" first world have invented sports that did not previously exist precisely because they miss, if not the thrill of war, certainly the adrenaline that came with a battlefield. Consider bunjee jumping, white-water rafting, jumping off cliffs with a parachute that is opened only 100 feet from the ground, and the list goes on and on. If I wanted to be extreme in my criticism of modernity, I could add that pedophilia on an industrial scaleas we have at present with sex tourismis unprecedented in history, and that too probably stems from a tragically misdirected peak-experience quest of essentially bored men. I could add that, blood not being water, or genes, as blood is referred to in modernity, men have in their veins millennia of bloody fighting, which has only recently ceased. Any excuse is a good one. In Europe, people marvel at the presence of hooligans who periodically transform harmless soccer stadiums in battlefields. The memory of blood... )
At any rate, you might wish to visit my web site, at http://www.guido-mina-di-sospiro.com. You will find there more of these thoughts, particularly in the essay WESTERN CULTURE, 2000 AD.
Finally, Gladiator did not work for me at all, or anyone. One film I enjoyed, one in which there is much high-mindedness, is The Horseman on the Roof, adapted from the glorious novel by Jean Giono. By the way, I've taken Angelo from that book as a nom de plume.
4 May 2000
My girlfriend swears this is a true story. Can you either confirm or deny the legitimacy of this movie and its contents. Did any of the cast die in the movie? Are the people they interviewed and the stories they told true? Please let us know.
Jill and Mark
Oliver Reed did die of a heart attack during production, but I don't think he was actually on the set at the time. He was almost finished shooting, but one of the scenes in the movie had to be created with digital wizardry. If you watch very closely, you'll see that his final exchange with Russell Crowe is a little odd, and that they avoid shooting his face as much as possible.
5 May 2000
I saw the film this afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though the initial battle sequence was edited as you say that you were outside looking in somewhat, what impressed me was the wide angle shot of both sides coming into conflict as the firebombs and flaming arrows were launched (akin to a meteor shower), simply breathtaking. I wished during the colosseum sequences there were more wide shots so as to appreciate the stunt coordination and action that it was giving you. I agree with the who's doing what to whom but there was carnage aplenty. I have been waiting for this film for the past 3 months and I was not disappointed. Also remember that the film was trimmed 16 minutes or more which might give you a better insight with the relationship of the characters (remember The Abyss!). I feel if the 16 minutes were not trimmed, the story might have been fleshed out more. The DVD reportedly will contain all the deleted scenes and will be interesting to see the reviews on it. James Cameron did the same thing with The Abyss. Once I saw the laserdisc special edition with all the deleted scenes it made me appreciate the movie tenfold, so I think this may be the case. I love the sword and sandals epics and I rate this one as one of the best if not the best. If you want to see a great gladiator sequence check out Conan the Barbarian, many people fail to notice it. Anyways the performances from all were great and I am glad that Oliver Reed departed this world with a performance worthy of a grand finale, he will be sorely missed.
7 May 2000
Hello, I was really impressed by your review of Gladiator, especially by your attention to detail and by the effort you took to write so much (unlike so many other lazy big-name criticsthey thought this was just a big summer action flick and had poor expectations coming in). However, I think you might have missed a few things, but much of it is from my interpretation.
I've been a Russell Crowe fan for over 5 years now, have seen and read about him in countless interviews, and all. I think what holds this film together is a subtle theme that most everyone won't see, or see enough of to deem as credible: that of entertainment in the Roman world and how it parallels to modern times. In Roman times, "gladiator" equated to "entertainer," and one of the modern applications of that term is undoubtedly "actor." The irony comes in when you see Russell in one of his longer earlier dialogues. Because of an unfinished script, the actors came in and helped shape it to its finished form, and that includes Maximus' short speech to Marcus Aurelius about his home in Spain. If you go back and watch it, and listen, you might detect how his accent shifts slightly from British to shades of his more familiar Australian (and note the way he acts, there's virtually no difference between that moment and his appearance on The Tonight Show last Tuesday) when he speaks of what could very well be Russell's own ranch in Australia, his "sacred haven" (Entertainment Weekly interview) where he retreats when he's not on a movie set (he'd rather live there than in Hollywood). In many other interviews, he's been quoted as saying something to the effect of him not having enough time to spend with the people he loves in the place he loves. Sound anything like our title character? The other levels of implications on acting, I leave for you to ponder. This film haunts me for more than that, though. The film follows Maximus as he becomes a Gladiator/Actor and there is a definite parallel (perhaps weak, but..) between his winning days in Morocco and subsequent rise to great fame in the Colliseum and Russell's early, promising years as an actor winning acclaim in small not-well-known films to making it to the big time by enterring such a large forum as the Colliseum (and the big-budget action movie that goes along with it).
I have two other points for you to consider and they're much shorter.
1) Marcus Aurelius was the leading Stoic philosopher of his time. Don't you think it would've rubbed off on Maximus? It would certainly account for how he acted. And imagine the combination: Stoic and warrior? Do you think Russell's performance achieved the right mix? (I don't know for sure, I'm asking you) All I know is, watching a man with such character go through what he does and then die at the end, finally going home, I was crying hours after I left the theater.
2) Back to the entertainment theme. It runs throughout from the Russell comparison to the end where the writers put such telling words into Commodus (a character who knows how to manipulate the mob like a good director), "The general who became a slave.....let's see how this story ends..." The movie isn't implying the violent sport nature of our culture so much as the violent movie nature of our culture (and with all the uproar of late, I'm surprised so many entirely missed this idea).
Well, those are just some thoughts I hope you will consider. Please, if you consider them valid, spread the word!!!! So many critics wrote unthinking blurbs about the movie and I think it was unjust of some of them not to think at all (I'm particularly fumed at Ebert). I think to understand this movie, you have to be a Stoic or a thinker and not go along with the mob mentality craving more carnage than the stylistic cinematography shows.
Hello back! First of all, thank you for making the effort to write down your thoughts and share them with me. It's great to get responses, and particularly nice to get responses that are detailed in a way that reflects some measure of the person behind them. Perhaps that's why you responded positively to my review, despite the fact that you clearly responded quite differently from me to the film itself? That's MY idea of great discussion, in any case. I'm not terribly enamored of the "You're wrong!" school of debate, because it gets you nowhere, and it's pointless to try to prove that a purely personal response is quantifiably "correct." In other words, thanks for not jumping down my throat! :)
As to some of the points you've raised, I did see the film's intended parallel to "entertainment" in a general way, though I was unaware of Crowe's personal input on that speech and its resonance regarding his own life. It's an interesting idea to equate the love of the Roman citizenry for the Games to our modern-day love of movies or other violence-based entertainment, but I honestly didn't think that Scott managed to create thematic connections that resulted in any significant insights. For one thing, the citizens are not represented as characters in the film, so all we really see of them is their enthusiasm from the seats. For me, this does not carry any particular meaning, because Scott's decision to pull his punches in displaying the violence in the arena kept me from "becoming" that mob. If you want people to see such parallels to themselves on screen, it's more effective (and artistically challenging) to use the medium force them into that state of mind... subsequently forcing them to reflect on their own darker side in the face of such a response. I'll give an example that seems relevant to this notion:
In Apocalypse Now, Coppola stages the helicopter attack on the Vietnamese village in a way that induces a distinct adrenaline high, which not only conveys the mindset of the soldiers, but also puts the audience in the position of being "excited" by the attack. At the same time, he establishes the villagers as ordinary people going on about their lives... now forced to defend themselves against an unwarranted barrage of brutality. As an audience, we can't deny the thrill we feel, even as our "better" selves are considering those actions unthinkably barbaric. Col. Kilgore calls the villagers savages for defending themselves, but we can't help knowing who the REAL savages are... even as we share their point of view (visually) and are manipulated by the filmmaker into sharing their state of excitement. It is the internal conflict raised that makes the scene interesting and relevant on a personal level. What is it in ME, or in humanity at large, that responds to this stimulation with pleasure? And how does that tendency play itself out in real world destruction? And doesn't it help to illuminate how such events happen in the first place to be forced to acknowledge that we areby natureadrenaline junkies?
Assuming that Scott intended to "say" something about contemporary violent entertainment, for me, Gladiator failed to make that connection. I did not feel the excitement that the Roman citizens felt, and thus, the shame was theirs alone. Scott failed to implicate me in their barbarism, making their darker side easier to dismiss as some ancient (long gone) lack of civilization that has since been rectified. Of course, I knowintellectually speakingthat this is not true. Because of that, I can intellectualize his thematic intent, but that's not the same thing as experiencing it and grasping some deeper implication on a visceral level while in my theater seat. While it's perfectly fine to bring the connections with you into the theater, thereby filling in gaps that may exist, the mark of a great filmto mecomes from a filmmaker's ability to use the medium to make me see something in a way that goes beyond what I already know (or think I know) about parallels between a fictional tale/character and the reality of living a human life. With Gladiator, I felt like an observer, never swept up into that world in a way that made it feel relevant on any personal level. I suppose the best way to put it would be to say that Ridley Scott's vision is too self-contained to mean anything to me beyond the surface of events as depicted. I took no greater understanding of myself or human nature away from it. Nor was I driven to ponder such things as a result of having seen the film. It ended, and pretty much evaporated from my thoughts (beyond contemplation of its merits as a film, that is... because I did have to write a review!).
What do you think Scott (via the film) was trying to say about entertainment? Do you think he was attempting to wake us up in some way? To make us more aware of something we do that we should not be doing? Or something we buy that we should not be buying? Or do you think he was indicting the notion of entertainment as a diversion that thwarts our ability to be good citizens? There are many worthy questions to ponder in that realm, but I didn't see anything in the film that drove me to reconsider my own life choices, tastes, or desires with regard to entertainment. I'm very curious as to what you think he was trying to get at, and I hope you'll write back and elaborate!
On another point you raised, I can certainly see the parallel between Crowe being cut off from the places and things he loves while working on a film, and the situation of Maximus as a general. But as an "entertainer," Maximus (unlike Crowe) was not there by choice, he wasn't expressing himself artistically, and he wasn't being paid huge amounts of money to be cut off from his private life (not that he had one anymore by that point). Also, Maximus is forced to risk death in his field of entertainment, while Crowe is unlikely to be taking any significant risks. They do share a rise to fame and glory, which serves as some protection for Maximus in terms of life span, and certainly serves as protection for Crowe's professional life span. In that regard, there is a visible parallel. Beyond that, I'm not sure I see much of a parallel to modern entertainers/actors, because they willingly engage in the entertainment field. As for parallels to audiences then and now, I don't believe that movie fans are hoping that Bruce Willis will actually kill Alan Rickman in Die Hard. (Or at least I hope they're not!) Movie audiences seek the pleasure of an approximation of violence that they know is fake. With regard to the Roman games, the assumption is that the audience went because they knew it was real, and were probably likely to reject battles that were faked. If that's true, then Scott's film should be celebrating violent films, because they're proof that we've advanced to the point where we embrace "fake" versions of death-as-entertainment, instead of insisting on the real thing. Somehow, I don't think that was a point he was trying to make, though.
I think your observation about Marcus Aurelius' philosophy and its connection to the character of Maximus is excellent, and clearly the backbone of the iconic character he was written to be. I can appreciate this intellectually, but it didn't carry a lot of power for me emotionally. Stoicism is inherently passive, which clashes somewhat with Scott's visualization of Maximus as classically heroic (a classic hero being anything but passive). The film presents him visually as if he were a passionate crusader, but he is scripted to be a dispassionate man of honor with no particular interest in the issues that confront him via his circumstances. With a different actor in the role, this conflict between what's implied and what actually IS would be disastrous. Crowe manages to save the day with screen presence, however, because his inherently powerful physical presence and his ability to convey the impression of "character" (as in nobility and integrity) non-verbally help to fill in the blanks that the script doesn't address. I love Russell Crowe, and I think he did as much with the character as was possible, but it's so one-dimensional as written thateven with his efforts and giftshe elevates Maximus only to the status of a two-dimensional character. If you take Maximus out of his circumstances as shown in the film, it's nearly impossible to imagine who he would be as a neighbor or friend. Would he hang over the fence with a beer and shoot the shit with you? Or would he keep to himself and build stuff in the garage? We know that he's stoic and loyal, but what else do we know? I could tell that he was someone to pity and admire, but I haven't a clue as to whether he was someone I would otherwise like or dislike. Yes, that may be irrelevant to the story being told, but it is relevant to me (personally) as a viewer, at least to the extent thatwithout any greater sense of his personalityI never invested genuine emotion in Maximus. I wish I'd had the inclination to cry at the end, but instead, I was totally unmoved. I'm trying my best to figure out why, and these responses to you are my attempt to articulate that. As much as I love Russell Crowe, my affection for him as an actor was not sufficient to make up for my lack of affection for the charachter he was playing. Like Maximus, I was almost utterly dispassionate.
Please believe me when I say that I don't AT ALL begrudge you your own response to the film. I'm always happy for people who find something to move them, to provoke thought, or even just to entertain them when they step into a theater. If I had my way, I would have been enraptured from start to finish when I watched Gladiator. But it just didn't happen. I'm not a highfalutin' film snob who believes that her view of a film is THE view of a film, and that somehow the rest of you were tricked or bamboozled into loving something that is undeserving of your love. I respect those feelings (and even envy them), but I just don't share them. Frankly, the only people whose responses ever bother me are those who are incapable of feeling passion at all, seeing every film as an excercise in intellectual dissection. Still... if it makes them happy, who am I to grouse?
I think it's cool that so many people are emotionally (and/or otherwise) satisfied by Gladiator, becauseif notthey wasted their time and their money by seeing it. I never wish dissatisfaction on anyone, because I'm not a critic... I'm a FAN! Every film holds the potential to transport me, and I wish that every film had that effect... even if it somehow meant that my "standards" were too low. Unfortunately, I can only react the way I react naturally, which makes every screening a crap-shoot. In the end, I reacted to Gladiator the way I reacted to the character of Maximus... I have plenty of admiration for the film's obvious virtues, but I never fell in love.
As for Roger Ebert... I found his comments a bit silly. It's fine that he disliked the movie, but getting one historical detail wrong doesn't prove that the film is trash. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong things to emphasize (especially in his television review), and ended up looking superficial and foolish. I've read much more scathing reviews of the film than his, and though I disagree with their dismissals, at least they made a reasonable case for why they hated it. Ebert didn't articulate himself well at all, even in his (better detailed) written review. Clearly, he was pissed off at the film for being less than he expected. Oh, well....
Anyway, thank you SO much for your response and your thoughts. I hope you'll write back and elaborate on some of your ideas about characters and themes, because I am genuinely curious about what you think the film was trying to convey in a more specific way regarding entertainment and heroism. One thing I do love to do is talk about movies!
|Send us a comment on Gladiator|
|Back to Dana's review|