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Gladiator – Steelbook (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Pretty crazy to think that the Academy Award Best Picture winner Gladiator turned 20 years old this year. But hey, here we are. In celebration of that, Paramount is releasing a new Steelbook edition for the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray they brought out two years ago. This is coming out in tandem to celebrate Braveheart’s 25th anniversary with a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray steelbook. Gladiator‘s 4K steelbook features Russell Crowe’s Maximus in a battle ready pose, oversized for the space provided on the cover. Disc content-wise, this is the very same release from a couple years ago, the identical discs inside that include one 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray and two standard Blu-ray discs. Both cuts of the film are here like that set as well. As is, enjoy the images of the steelbook to accompany the review I wrote in May of 2008. You can find yourself a paid Amazon pre-order link at the bottom.

The following review was original published on May 7, 2018. See the original review HERE.

Film 

Set in Roman times, the story of a once-powerful general forced to become a common gladiator. The emperor’s son is enraged when he is passed over as heir in favour of his father’s favourite general. He kills his father and arranges the murder of the general’s family, and the general is sold into slavery to be trained as a gladiator – but his subsequent popularity in the arena threatens the throne.

Gladiator delivers equally as both an epic Roman Empire period drama and as a bloody sword and sandals action film, complete with a 1980s action “You killed my wife/son/girlfriend/family” blood-lust revenge angle. Academy Awards aside, the film is rife with iconic moments, lines, scenes, performances and a score that you can recall the film instantly by hearing it.

I absolutely loved Gladiator when I first saw it in the summer of 2000 while visiting Manhattan. I wasn’t much into films of this kind, but this one took me in and made me a fan. It was huge, epic, larger than life and had a main character that wanted to see like hell succeed against a complete rat bastard of a villain. Russell Crowe was someone that had been growing on me since LA Confidential and Joaquin Phoenix caught my attention in 8MM just a year before (Movie is hilariously dated, but his performance is still terrific). As I’ve grown older, I’m still fond of the film, but don’t really return to it much and its lost a little luster for me, but I’m fine with it being considered a classic (Though, if you like Gladiator, you owe it to yourself to see Ridley Scott’s cut of the superior Kingdom of Heaven).

This one was no stranger to Oscar backlash either. It seemed a well liked and praised film at the time, and then when it starts threatening to take a golden statue, people turn on it. Saying things like Russell Crowe got his Best Actor award as a make-up fro not winning it for The Insider the year before. He’s terrific in this movie and its one of his most iconic roles. I’m pretty sure he was awarded for this one. If Russell Crowe is only remembered for one film, I’m pretty sure its gonna be this one. Is anyone still talking about A Beautiful Mind? This was the movie I was rooting for Gladiator as a 19 year old watching the 2001 Oscars, but today, I’d probably have handed that Best Picture statue over to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (And that Best Director one over to Ang Lee to boot). However, both film have still had pretty good legacies, so I think everything is all right.

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is definitely one of his best (Possibly toward the bottom of best, but its still one of his strongest efforts). Yes, Maximus, I am still entertained 20 years later (WOW!). There are a lot of character and dramatic aspects in this film that I feel opened the doors and influenced some of our popular tv and films today, like Game of Thrones. Despite the ones who want to be cool and hate on it, its still iconic, still popular, still has scenes shown on various programmings and seems to be a inspirational tool for many people (Professional athletes love this movie). We can only hope tat inspiration leads the way for a Kingdom of Heaven director’s cut 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray next 😉

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Gladiator looks absolutely beautiful on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Being shot on film lends itself to a natural 4K experience. The image has a much crisper and finely detailed look than before. The color saturation of all the browns and darker colors helps to increase a much fuller and well rounded appeal. Its got a much more striking and feel that makes it sort of feel new again. Oh, and the CGI holds up quite well and doesn’t ever really appear dated or revealing. Paramount has been doing some pretty nice work with their catalog titles and this is of the better of them.

Depth:  The image features a much more spacious image, with a distance between a character and the background of the environment much more apparent. Actor movements as well as camera ones go smoothly, fluidly and without any distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and well saturated here in the picture. Loss of detail is at a bare minimum if at all that isn’t intended. You can still see wet pieces of hair, fabric stitches and more in the darkness or dark colored material.

Color Reproduction: Gladiator doesn’t really have colors that pop, but it has a beautifully saturated blend of natural colors with bold reds, nice pastel looking blues and good golds and greens. HDR mostly makes itself glow during the opening where there is fire amidst a darkened battlefield. The most impressive color in the whole film has to be White, though. There are all different shades with such a full, strong to the touch look on it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the duration of the film aside from a flash or dream here and there. Sweat, scars, stubble, moles, freckles, cuts, wrinkles…you name it, look clear and detailed as all hell on faces from any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, English DTS Headphone:X, English Audio Description, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean

Dynamics: Those familiar with Gladiator were probably licking their chops at the thought of a DTS:X remix for this release. And you knew it was going to beat its chest right from the start. And yeah, it does not disappoint. This is an intricately laid out mix, that puts you right in the thick of the battles. Every aspect is perfectly mixed at a great balanced volume, with good depth and layering for full effectiveness. The score is a hair louder during times, but it never affects your ability to hear or the clarity of anything else going on in a scene.

Height: Flaming arrows soar overhead toward the front and shooting behind you. Cannonballs roar through the ceiling and dirt flying from their contact scatters above. The arena crowds cackle above you as you watch. Everything you were hoping to hear from your ceiling channel happens just as you’d imagined.

Low Frequency Extension: Thunderous clanging, impaling, carts bursting, cannonballs smashing, fires roaring, horse clip clop beating the ground all pound your subwoofer to effecting bumping levels.

Surround Sound Presentation: Like the ceiling speakers, the sides and others really contribute to a tremendous experience where every channel is calculated and adds something special while crafting a strong ambiance to bring ancient Rome to life.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with terrific attention to character volume placement and diction.

Gladiator – 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray Steelbook comes with the 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and a digital code.

4K UHD

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Ridley Scott and Actor Russell Crowe (Extended Edition)
  • By Director Ridley Scott, Editor Pietro Scalia and Cinematographer John Mathieson (Theatrical Edition)

Introduction By Ridley Scott – Extended Edition (SD, :29) 

Blu-ray Disc 1

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary

  • Battle Aftermath (HD, 1:15)
  • Looking For Strength (HD, :31)
  • The Scribe (HD, 1:47)
  • Dye Market (HD, 1:21)
  • Stage Direction (HD, :41)
  • A Meeting At Gracchus’ House (HD, 3:54)
  • Father and Son (HD, 1:39)
  • The Execution (HD, 2:48)
  • Grain Reserves (HD, 1:48)
  • Spies Close In (HD, 1:11)
  • Another Enemy (HD, :54)
  • Fighting With Fire (HD, 1:03)
  • Quintus Obeys (HD, :29)

The Scrolls of Knowledge

Visions From Elysium: Topic Portal

Blu-ray Disc 2

Visions From Elysium: Topic Portal

Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator (SD, 3:16:50)

Image & Design

  • Production Design – Production Design Primer: Arthur Max, Production Design Gallery I, Production Design Gallery II
  • Storyboarding – Storyboard Demonstration: Sylvain Despretz, Multi-Angle Comparisons, Storyboard Archive
  • Costume Design Gallery
  • Photo Galleries
  • Weapons Primer: Simon Atherton 

Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes (Some w/ Optional Commentary)

  • Alternate Title Design – With featurette (SD, 9:16)
  • Blood Vision (SD, 2:16)
  • Rhino Fight (SD, 4:14)
  • Choose Your Weapon (SD, :48)
  • Treasure Chest (SD, 7:12)

The Aurelian Archives 

  • The Making of Gladiator (SD, 25:03)
  • Gladiator Games; The Roman Bloodsport (SD, 50:04)
  • Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator (SD, 20:42)
  • An Evening With Russell Crowe (SD, 27:15)
  • Maximus Uncut: Between Takes With Russell Crowe (SD, 8:00)
  • My Gladiator Journal by Spencer Treat Clark 
  • VFX Explorations: Germania & Rome (SD, 23:50)
  • Trailers (HD, 2:50)
  • TV Spots (SD, 8:55)

Summary 

And there you have it folks. Gladiator is the same movie, the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray disc and two Blu-ray discs are the exact same. The digital code may be a different number, but it redeems the same product. What’s new here is the collectible steelbook packaging. And I’ll say it is pretty slick. But if you own this movie already on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, this is your only temptation and its not really too much to tug you over. So, if you don’t own it and you love steelbooks, your time is now. If you do own it and you don’t care about packaging, enjoy the copy you already have. GLADIATOR!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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