This file was generated 2002-09-03 03:17 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-04-07.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> March 2001 >> Gladiator
How can a film this dull excite so many people? The story failed to engage me until there were only a few of the 145 minutes remaining, by which time I'd been bored almost to tears. I knew there were problems when the extras in the crowd scenes didn't look very enthusiastic, either. They may have been pumping their fists and chanting, but their faces didn't show the slightest interest in the proceedings. The movie gleefully holds back on character development to a fault, often neglecting to supply the names of characters in a timely manner. Most members of the cast are good actors, but the writing condemns them from the start. I held out hopes for the score by Hans Zimmer, but his rip-off of Gustav Holst serves only to remind me of how much better the original is. The music is also typically buried under the sound effects, cutting into its effectiveness.
The biggest disappointment in Gladiator is the action. Every battle sequence from large to small was filmed in such a disorienting way that I rarely had a clear sense of where the participants were. The infrequent establishing shots usually went by too quickly to glean the necessary information. In one particularly egregious instance, the Roman infantry were shown facing one way and then the other, making me think for a moment that the barbarians were similarly armed. The trick editing is readily apparent, cutting from clip to clip at breakneck speed. There is an attempt to boost the excitement by varying the film speeds, but it only adds a veneer of artificiality to the already-unconvincing scene. There were several times when the camera was shaking to provide the point of view of a combatant, but since this was not the perspective of a notable character, it only undermined the presentation of the action.
The acting in Gladiator is sub-par, but I'm inclined to blame that more on the writing than the cast. People like Russell Crowe and Derek Jacobi have proven themselves to be capable on camera in the past, but the material in Gladiator gives most of them very little to work with. The characters are probably dull on the page, and they don't bring them to life. The one character that isn't quite dull is also gratingly overacted. Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus is a miserable psychopath who telegraphs his every move far in advance. He makes a terrible villain because we sense that, except for being the emperor, he is utterly unqualified to cause anyone any trouble.