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4K Ultra HD Review: Gladiator: 20th Anniversary Edition Steelbook

June 17, 2020

By John Corrado

Director Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, the filmmaker’s 2000 epic set in the Roman Empire which won the Oscar for Best Picture, is an example of the types of films that used to triumph at the Academy Awards before they started regularly awarding smaller fare. It’s a big, outsized piece of filmmaking that delivers in terms of sheer spectacle, and an epic in the grand tradition of Cecil B. DeMille and David Lean.

There were more “serious” films competing for Best Picture that year, (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Traffic were among the five nominees, and Steven Soderbergh won Best Director over Scott for the latter), but the sheer entertainment value of Gladiator helped it triumph. In honour of the film’s 20th anniversary, Paramount is re-releasing it on 4K Ultra HD in a beautifully packaged Steelbook set that includes both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film.

The film stars Russel Crowe, who won Best Actor for the role, as Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman General who is chosen by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) to be his heir. The Emperor’s own son Commodus (Best Supporting Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix) becomes jealous of Maximus, killing his family and sending him into slavery. Maximus trains to become a Gladiator so he can get revenge on Commodus, leading to the film’s climactic battles in the Colosseum.

At one point, Crowe’s Maximus bellows in the arena “are you not entertained?” and this classic moment, which has now found a second life in gif form, perfectly encapsulates the film itself. This is a piece of muscular filmmaking, a mix of classic swords and sandals epic and straight up action movie that seeks to entertain in epic fashion, and ultimately does just that. It’s aided by strong performances from Crowe and Phoenix, exciting action sequences, a rousing musical score by Hans Zimmer, and a screenplay peppered with memorable dialogue.

The film won five of its twelve Oscar nominations, including for costume design, sound and visual effects, which isn’t shocking. On a technical level, Scott’s film is superbly crafted, and it proved to be hugely popular with audiences when it was released in May of 2000, becoming the second highest grossing film of the year. Twenty years later, Gladiator remains a solidly crafted throwback to Old Hollywood entertainment, a blockbuster-sized crowdpleaser that still provides a satisfying viewing experience. It’s hard not to be entertained.

The 4K disc also includes an introduction by Scott as well as a commentary track featuring Scott and Crowe, both on the extended cut. The set also comes with two regular Blu-ray discs; the first of which features the theatrical and extended cuts, along with the aforementioned bonuses and a secondary commentary track on the theatrical cut with Scott joined by editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson; and the second disc includes several hours of previously released bonus features. A code for a digital copy of the theatrical version is also included in the package.

Gladiator: 20th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. The theatrical cut is 155 minutes, and the extended cut is 170 minutes. Both are rated 14A.

Street Date: June 16th, 2020

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