movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] I’m sure most people who are going to watch this already have, but I had decided against it, based on what I perceived as over-hype (I also never saw Independence Day or Titanic). Then I noticed it was directed by Ridley Scott, of Blade Runner and Alien fame. After seeing that Ian didn’t like it, I asked him for reassurance, and he said that, at the very least, I would get “epic violence” out of it. So I figured, what the hell — we’ve been watching so many comedies… Let’s do an action/drama/revenge flick instead. It was entertaining, but… Not quite my favorite genre. And the 126th best movie of all time? You have GOT to be fucking kidding me!

FLAWS:

  1. How the hell did he manage to [highlight for spoilers] escape his execution? They shoot it like he head-butted the guy, but then they cut to his head being way down on the ground. We actually thought it was another person helping him, and played it twice in slow-motion, and it definitely does not make any physical sense whatsoever. Very poor directing.
  2. He knew his family was threatened, [highlight for spoilers] so he makes camp and lets them die instead? He only rushes there in the morning? Don’t tell me it’s because he was wounded. He demonstrated incredible ability to function despite having wounds.
  3. Why the hell would the emperor [highlight for spoilers] let him live when he realized it was him? Because he didn’t want to make an unpopular decision? But how unpopular was it [highlight for spoilers] to sentence the Roman equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld to death in the first place, when he was a war hero in a battle they just won!?!?!???
  4. I would have liked to see Julius Caesar (who I am apparently descended from, but hey, social darwinism means that most people alive today were descendents of the rich, and not the poor. The poor didn’t make it.) I have no clue if the characters are real historical characters or not–and I don’t really care–because this is not a historical documentary. However, I was still hoping for a Senate-stabbing-Caesar scene, and an “Et Tu Brute”.
  5. Spirituality. I’m supposed to feel happy because the characters believe they will be going to the Elysian Fields afterwards? All this talk about whether their loved ones are waiting for them or not? Being an agnostic, I just DON’T CARE AT ALL. In fact, I kind of find that method of coping to be contrived both in real life, and as a character advancement mechanism. I just found it a lame distraction.
  6. Why were the tigers only interested in Russel Crowe, but not the people holding the chains, or the other gladiators? WTF?
  7. “Are you in danger of becoming a good man?” Really, they’re trying to evoke sympathy for a [highlight for spoilers] slave-trader who kills his slaves for profit? I understand that there are shades of good and evil, [highlight for spoilers] but this guy is a bad guy no matter what. Don’t evoke sympathy for bad guys. Not in a shallow action flick, which this was.

CONCLUSION: I give it 3 stars on Netflix, and 6/10 on IMDB, sort of my “minimal passing grade”. It was definitely worth seeing, definitely entertaining, and definitely delivered epic gladiator violence with some good fight scenes. I don’t regret seeing it, but I was not really satisfied with the ending either. I consider this a revenge flick, and I think there are several revenge flicks that are much better than this.

RECOMMENDATION: If you want to see gladiators, I can think of no better film to watch. But if you want to see revenge, I’d recommend to instead watch The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover. Or if you want to see revenge with swords (closer to gladiator combat), and have an amazing ability to find out-of-print films: watch The King’s Whore (La Putain Du Roi) with Timothy Dalton (which, unfortunately, nobody has seen, is not available on Netflix, or via bittorrent searches, and only very recently had a very limited region 1 dvd pressings… For the past 5-10 yrs, if you wanted it on dvd, you’d have to fork up $50 for a region 2 dvd).

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Jordan loved it. Glen Steven loved it. Christian D loved it. Metinee really liked it. Bob S really liked it. Wayne H really liked it. Rebekah really liked it. Tatiana liked it. Dave O liked it. Ian didn’t like it.

Mood: full
Music: Celtic Frost – Obscured