The Gladiator Film Analysis

601 words | 3 page(s)

The “Gladiator” is an entertaining film that meshes historical ideologies and cultural norms with a fictional chronology and dramatized actions. While most of the characters in the film were real historical figures, the plot combines many of the eras into one, reaching as far as the Gracchi brothers to Commodus. The transition between Antonine emperors, Marcus Aurelius is the time period for the film. Viewers of the film must assume that, given the many historical accuracies of the film, the intentions of the filmmakers were to sacrifice historical accuracy of facts and chronology of the film in favor of a romanticized, dramatized picture of Roman ideology.

Early scenes in the “Gladiator” depict German Goths as uncivilized, barbaric brutes with little organization. This is an exaggeration, though not one without good intentions. By depicting the Germans in such a way, the filmmakers align the audience with the Romans. The honor of the Romans is displayed prominently throughout the film, but never more than at the beginning when they are in formation. Against the Germans, the Romans appear very organized, which they of course were, and very honorable. The audience is prepared to like Rome, as an empire and an ideal.

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Masterfully, the filmmakers have anachronistically implanted several historical figures in the central plot of Commodus taking over the emperorship from his father. The true story is that Commodus was coemperor with Marcus Aurelius. The filmmakers needed a villain, an antagonist. Without Commodus killing his great father, there are fewer reasons to hate Commodus. In addition, without that, Maximum would have already been crowned emperor.

One of the historical figures in the film is Gracchus. While there were likely members of the Gracchi family in Rome at the time, and maybe even some in the Senate, Gracchus in the film represents reform, much like the historical Gracchi brothers who were both senators and both killed for their reformist propositions. Gracchus plays a central role in the attempt to bring back the Roman Republic and do away with the emperorship. He also aids Maximus in his journey to kill Commodus. Bringing in Gracchus as a great move by the filmmakers, as it carries with it the revolutionary ideology of Rome. Another historical figure in the film is Cicero, whose public death in real life and in the film were quite a spectacle.

A major theme throughout the “Gladiator” is that the mob controls Rome. Lucilla says, “The mob is Rome,” and Gracchus says “Rome is the mob.” In some sense, this is true. Certain people were responsible for who controls Rome. However, the members of the mob were not these people. Instead, whoever controlled the armies, that is whoever controls the legions with the most force, controls the Roman Empire. This choice by the filmmakers is a great one. The mob is who is in the stands at the Coliseum. If it were the soldiers who controlled Rome in the film, then either Commodus kills Maximus immediately or Maximus gathers his troops and marches on Rome early on. Either way, the film is much shorter and suffers for it.

The “Gladiator” is a great film that captures many of the great qualities of the Roman Empire and some of its most interesting historical figures. Though its historical accuracy is intentionally off, it still does a great job of telling a Roman heroic story, carried by Roman ideals. It was a welcoming choice to bring in anachronistically historical Roman figures to give characters to the ideals of these figures. All of these decisions helped create a masterpiece that entertains as well as informs its audience.

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