Prof. Jonathan Beller
13 March 2011
What would you do if you were engaged in a twelve year campaign; you have a wife and son who are waiting for you, but you are asked to be king and leader of your country? Would you refuse your king, and turn your back on your country, for the sake of two? Ridley Scott, director of Universal Pictures “Gladiator,” brought to life, writer David Franzoni’s epic tale of Maximus, an inspiring and powerful Roman General. After twelve years of fighting, Maximus longs for nothing more than the warm embrace of his family. Unfortunately, the king, Marcus Aurelius asked that he should be crowned king of Rome instead of his corrupt son Commodus. Maximus is caught in a power struggle, which leave him and his family condemned to death. This critical analysis of the motion picture “Gladiator,” will analyze the key elements of film, which embody the storytelling, acting, cinematography, editing, sound, style and directing, societal impact, genre, film criticism and analysis.
The story of Maximus, once the most powerful, and respected, general, in Rome, reduced to a slave who fights for an opportunity to exact his vengeance for the brutal death of his family is written with three basic elements. It has character, desire, and conflict. The narrative structure of the film is organized in six stages. These stages are developed by the turning points in the plot. The stages are the initial setup, new situation, progress, complications and higher stakes, final push, and aftermath. In opening scene of “Gladiator,” the initial setup reveals the day and life of Maximus; it identifies him as powerful and likable. Evidence of this is seen in the first scene in Germania at the beginning of the battle against the barbarian tribes. Maximus walks by his men who are going to fight for their lives in the name of Rome as a Commander would when inspecting his troops for battle. As he walks by, they address him as “general” while taking a knee. Some of his men smile as he passes by illustrating that he is well liked, and respected. Maximus’ power is revealed as he rides first to lead his men into battle; he rally’s his men and raises their spirits to fight.
The second stage or the new situation occurs when the dying king asks Maximus to take his place as king of Rome. This is the first turning point in the structure of the narrative. The purpose of this turning point is to create and opportunity, which the lead character will have to react to. This can be a good or bad thing for the lead character. For Maximus, this was unfortunate, because instead of dancing in excitement, he faces conflict, and placed against obstacles far greater than he had ever seen. Actor, Joaquin Phoenix, plays the king’s son Commodus, the antagonist. Commodus is so eager for power that he kills his father and assumes the title of King. Now, he demands that Maximus should swear his allegiance to him, the new Caesar. Maximus’ refusal to serve Commodus, sentences himself, his wife and children to death. He now has to get acclimated to his new situation and environment. In doing so, he is saved by a slave trader and finds himself sold as a gladiator.
This brings us to the third phase of the story, progress. At this point Maximus must decide what his goal is and commit to it fully. He is determined to win the crowd and use Commodus strength as his weakness in order to seek revenge against him. Evidence of this is seen when Oliver Reed, the actor who played Proximo reveals to Maximus how his freedom was won. In the next stage of the narration, Maximus must become Rome’s champion. He fight s many battles and adds insult to injury by refusing to remove his mask when he was addressing Commodus. During this stage, Maximus’ goal becomes much harder to achieve, because if he fails the lives of Lucilla, actor, Connie Nielsen’s character, and Lucius, who is played by actor...