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Director Ridley Scott’s triumphant Gladiator is an unparalleled combination of vivid action and extraordinary storytelling that earned five Oscars® including Best Picture. The Blu-ray presentation will include both the original theatrical version of the film as well as the extended version in 1080p High Definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Korean subtitles. The two-disc set also will feature over four hours of bonus material.
Stills from Gladiator (Click for larger image)
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It seems the only definitive way to tell if you have the new version is to look at the innermost rings on the underside of Disc One itself. Hold it up to the light, and at the end of a string of letters and numbers, you should see "B1R2". If you have anything else (i.e. B1R1), you have the original version and NOT the remastered one!
If so, exchange it promptly.
I know that many of the reviews have focused on whether or not the reviewer received the remastered edition. I cannot comment on that because it wasn't a primary selling point for me so I cannot in all honesty state if I received the remastered copy or not. Regardless, I am not disappointed with the picture and sound quality which I thought was excellent.
There are plenty of special features to be had, including commentaries, storyboard designs, and deleted scenes. The bluray comes packaged in a dual disc bluray case. This was honestly the one source of contention for me. I personally felt that a movie this epic, deserved cooler packaging for it's remastered Sapphire Series release. Instead what I got was a cheap dual disc bluray case with no inserts or booklet. Other than that though this is reasonably priced and a great addition to any movie collection.
I'll blame the writers for making Commodus out to be worse than the historians make him. That is pretty difficult to do. In history, Commodus had a reputation for neglecting the day-to-day maintenance of the empire in favor of Roman imperial parties with all the debauchery that entails. Commodus did have a whimsical side that wasn't explored in the film. He liked to dress up as Hercules, carrying a club over his shoulder and a lion's hide for a jacket. One thing Commodus did do to scandalize the Roman nobility that was dipicted in the film was to appear as a gladiator in the Colosseum, but this is not how he met his end. After twelve years as emperor and about as popular as an outbreak of plague, a palace conspiracy was hatched in which his mistress attempted to poison his food, but he survived by purging the meal. Later in the day, his wresting partner was sent to strangle him in his bath. That was more successful. The Seante damned his memory, making him only the second emperor to be so dishonored, the other being Nero.
This is the second movie I've seen which depicts Commodus as the assassin of Marcus Aurelius. The other is the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a film made in 1964. Sophia Loren played Lucilla and was easily the bet thing about the movie. In both films, Commodus is prompted to murder his father when he decides to name another man as successor. In truth, Marcus Aurelius died of natural causes and there was never any doubt about who he wanted to succeed him. Commodus had been co-emperor with his father for the last three years of Marcus Aurelius' life. Marcus Aurelius wasn't as good an emperor as his reputation would suggest. Classical scholars have a hard time reconciling the fact that an emperor who wrote a book of philosophical musing that is still in print and widely read today wasn't a perfect ruler.
Lucilla became involved in a plot to assassinate Commodus early in his reign. The deed was to be carried out by a nephew of both Commodus and Lucilla, but he botched the job. Lucilla was exiled to Capri, where Commodus saw to it that she was quietly executed sometime later.
If I have an opportunity to meet Joaquin Phoenix, I would ask him how he prepared for the part, assuming that he is a method actor. It would seem that classical historians would not have been as great of help as it might appear as this Commodus, while well played by Mr. Phoenix, could have been made more interesting by incorporating actual actual manifestations of his unbalanced personality.