David Ramer

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The film “Gladiator” is not only a graphic depiction of the Roman Empire, but a tremendous example of how films use formal expectations and facts to tell a compelling tale.

First our main character, Maximus, must be forced to leave home. Although we do not actually see this in the film, we come to the understanding that he had to leave home to serve his country in war. We fill this part of the story in because after the opening sequence, which is the final battle in the conquest of the Roman Empire, Maximus asks to be released to finally return home. This not only fills in the beginning part of the story but gives us the motivation for him to want to go home. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the film as we see many images and hear Maximus speak of his home and family. This also has an effect on the emotions of the viewer. Here we have a general that conquers lands and leads many people to kill, but the viewer is manipulated to see him as the caring father and husband, which gives us the desire to see him return home.

Now for the story to continue many problems must come in the way of Maximus’s journey home, and they do. First his family is murdered by a corrupt ruler, Comidus. Now it would appear that we just want Maximus to get revenge for their deaths, but in the back of our minds we would like to see him reunited with his family. So for us to accept the film both of these expectations must be met, and I will explain how this is done perfectly. His search for revenge drives much of the film as Maximus is traded as a slave and must fight to stay alive. This part of the story is seen in many other “hero” type films; the hero must overcome what appear to be impossible odds to get his vengeance.

You may be wondering how the film can satisfy the last part of the form, the hero returns home, if there is no family and home to return to. During the climax of the movie our hero sustains a lethal injury that he must overcome. As he battles the man that...
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