For the first time I made the dangerous choice of not writing this review immediately after I watched the movie. Which if last year is anything to go by then you are lucky to be getting a review at all! It is a bit like that phenomenon when the first cup or plate is not washed you can guarantee that it will be days before you wash any of your dishes... thank god for having a dishwasher!!
I love Rome. It is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. The place is just magical. What I love most about it, is that unlike many other cities in the world, the history is incredibly important to it. Monuments to all the different eras that have had an impact on Rome's development are still in existence. In the UK you can pretty much guarantee that if these monuments were in a large city they would have been knocked down and some disgusting 1960s monstrosity would have been built over the top of it.
The Roman world is a fascinating era in history, particularly because there are so few accurate sources to say what actually happened. Most of the characters in Gladiator actually existed, with the exception of Maximus himself who is an amalgamation of several people. Yet what they do in the movie is merely a script-writers invention. Yes Commodus is regarded to be a weak leader, who had a love for gladiatorial battles - yet he was much more bloodthirsty than regarded. His sister Lucilla was involved in the period and made an attempt on Commodus' life which failed and resulted in her deportation to Capri where she was assassinated within a year.
So Gladiator the movie has some element of fact within it. But even if it didn't I still think it would be an awesome movie.
I couldn't disagree with Ebert more when he said the characterisation was vacant. Yes the actors could have done more with the characters than they did, but the subtlety actually works really well in this movie - a Heath Ledger Joker type villain would have detracted from the story-line. In fact from my perspective I think Joaquin Phoenix did a brilliant job as the weak and feeble Commodus, suffering constantly from paranoia and reacting accordingly. Russell Crowe plays a typical Russell Crowe character and there is sort of charisma surrounding him, which is exactly what the character needs.
Gladiator combines pretty much everything I love in a movie, a great setting, good acting, a story-line that sees someone lead a group to victory against a baddie... if only there was a place for Drew Barrymore in the film and it would be perfect!