On September 1st, 2009, Paramount released Gladiator to blu ray for the first time. Along with Braveheart, it signaled the beginning of the studio's Sapphire line of blu rays, celebrating their top titles. What it turned out to be was a disaster, Gladiator was given a botched, dated master riddled with DNR and edge enhancement.
With screams of anger from the home theater community, Paramount heard the shouting, and officially instituted a replacement program on July 20th, 2010. The newly remastered version was a complete stunner, in total contrast to the earlier version. I delayed buying this disc because I was afraid that I would end up buying the old botched version.
How to tell the difference from the outside: After searching through many websites, especially The Digital Bits, the answer is the new version has YELLOW UPC label!
I delayed in buying this new version also because the price was usually near $30. Now, finally, the latest price is $12.99. So I took a chance, and the disc that I received has a Yellow UPC label! Happy! I am even more overjoyed when I found that the new video transfer was simply stunning.
Now my review begins:
Gladiator arrives at blu ray with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p 2.35:1 encode. I have read reviews on the old transfer and was aware of all its deficiencies. But when I watched this new transfer, the picture is simply stunning. No more excessive DNR and edge enhancement. In its place is a beautiful, film-like effort. Image is razor sharp. There are lots of fine details, like the details of the intricate pattern worn by Joaquin Phoenix after he takes over Rome. Instead of a flickering, shimmering mess, this transfer restores the brilliance of the texture and design with no visible defects. The entire video also takes on a much warmer tone. Wonderfully calibrated black levels are phenomenal, maintaining shadow detail while keeping the depth of the frame evident. I am very happy with this new transfer. (4.5/5)
Though not the most earth-shattering, record-breaking, eardrum-busting mix out there, Gladiator's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is well above average across the board. The opening battle sequence sets the stage nicely. Arrows that fly through the soundstage during the picture's intense opening action sequence are accompanied by a continuous whoosh as they fly through the air towards their targets. Dialogue is pitch perfect. (4.5/5)
Maximus is a powerful Roman general, loved by the people and the aging Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Before his death, the Emperor chooses Maximus to be his heir over his own son, Commodus, and a power struggle leaves Maximus and his family condemned to death. The powerful general is unable to save his family, and his loss of will allows him to get captured and put into the Gladiator games until he dies. The only desire that fuels him now is the chance to rise to the top so that he will be able to look into the eyes of the man who will feel his revenge. There are two versions in this set: Theatrical version (155 minutes) and Extended Version (177 minutes). The Extended Version is preferred. Movie: (4.5/5)
Winners of five Academy Awards in 2001:
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Russell Crowe
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Janty Yates
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: John Nelson, Neil Corbould, Tim Burke, Rob Harvey
BEST SOUND: Scott Millan, Bob Beemer, Ken Weston
Nominations for Academy Awards in 2001:
BEST ACTOR IN SUPPORTING ROLE: Joaquin Phoenix
BEST ART DIRECTION, SET DECORATION
BEST DIRECTOR: Ridney Scott
BEST FILM EDITING
BEST MUSIC, ORIGINAL SCORE: Hans Zimmer
It has an estimated budget of $103 million. Its worldwide gross was $457 million.
Oliver Reed suffered a fatal heart attack during principal photography. Some of his sequences had to be re-edited and a double, photographed in the shadows and with a 3D CGI mask of Reed's face, was used as a stand-in. The film is dedicated to his memory.
Maximus' (Russell Crowe) description of his home (specifically how the kitchen is arranged and smells in the morning and at night) was ad-libbed - it's a description of Crowe's own home in Australia.
Contrary to rumor, Enya didn't record any music for the soundtrack of this film. The song simply sounds like something she would have recorded. The song, and in fact much of the soundtrack, was composed and sung by Lisa Gerrard.
Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay, rewriting much of it to suit his own ends. He would frequently walk off the set if he didn't get his way. The famous line "In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance" he initially refused to say, telling writer William Nicholson "Your lines are garbage but I'm the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good".
Replica of about one third of Rome's Colosseum was built in Malta to a height of 52 feet, mostly from plaster and plywood. The remainder of the building was added in digitally. It took several months to build at a reputed cost of $1 million. In the Colosseum scenes, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of people are computer-animated.
Gladiator is a great movie that deserved the Oscar for Best Picture. The same can be said for Russell Crowe, playing Maximus. A big thank you to Paramount Studios to listen to all the customers who complained about the initial bad transfer, and has the gut to admit the mistake, redid the transfer with a replacement programme in 2011. This new transfer has done great justice to this wonderful movie. Remember, the new version is the one with the yellow UPC label at the back. I would assume by now, all the old ones have gone off the market already on Amazon. Further, for only $12.99 now, it is definitely a real bargain. This disc is definitely highly recommended.
I hope the above review is helpful to you.