Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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When in Rome"¦ Gladiator brings new life into an old concept Against most odds and skeptics "“ in the midst of the fiascos that can only reluctantly be referred to as movies this year "“ enters Gladiator, a film that by present standards should fail. It doesn't. The oh-so-unoriginal trailer ("The general who became a slave ... the slave who became a gladiator "¦ the gladiator who defied an empire!"), a huge budget, a plot seen and done so many times over, and cardboard characters to match should have all been indicative of what a flop this movie was going to be. In the face of unsuspecting critics, Gladiator dashes in to become on of the year's best films.

The premise is predictable enough: a Roman general by the name of Maximus (Russell Crowe), a fictional warrior in a sea of real historical figures in 180 A.D. Rome, is ready to head on home after a glorious defeat over some random dirty looking people, but, as fate would have it, Marcus Aurelius, the dying emperor "“ brilliantly brought to life by Richard Harris "“ informs Maximus that he should assume power after his death since he fears all hell would break loose if his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), takes control.

Shortly after, Marcus Aurelius has a little talk with Commodus telling him that he intends to name Maximus as his successor and make Rome a republic. Commodus loses it "“ after murdering his father, he orders the execution of Maximus, who is barely able to escape only to be forced into slavery. For many months he trains as a gladiator under the instruction of his owner, Proximo (Oliver Reed), and vows to avenge the murder of his wife and son. Typical and predictable? Yes, but Gladiator is so much more...