Directed by Ridley Scott

It is a great pleasure, as well, to see Jacobi and Harris on the screen again, surrounded by classical trappings. Jacobi instills his Sen. Gracchus with a passion for justice, struggling to keep Rome from becoming the lavatory Commodus would have it be. Harris, similarly, gives Marcus Aurelius immense dignity, showing him to be brilliant in territorial conquest but lousy at fatherhood, creating the foundation for this entire conflict. Between these elders juts the loose-catapult son, credibly delivered by Phoenix.

Still, however rote its paradigm, however obvious its objectives, it's nice to see massive entertainment like this on the big screen. Perhaps, if this makes some money, it may be possible to explore wider stories and more complex themes, rather than the stubborn preservation of outdated societal models that a movie such as this one endorses. Why just toss audience natives a few trinkets for their box-office dollars? Surprise and delight us! After all, as Scott himself says (in an ironic statement that seems to have slipped over the heads of the executives at DreamWorks and Universal), "Entertainment has frequently been used by leaders as a means to distract an abused citizenry." If that's not a call for real heroes to rise, what is?

Russell Crowe in Gladiator
Russell Crowe in Gladiator

Opens May 5.

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