Review: Gladiator (4K)

“The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor.”

‘Gladiator,’ is one of my all time favorite movies, so I’m trying to hold my bias back and review this properly. Critically, it won Best Picture, along with four other Academy Awards in 2001. If those five wins weren’t enough, it was also nominated in twelve total categories that year… yes, 12! In this brand new release, the original film master was scanned in native 4K, plus it’s been given color grades in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, along with a theatrical aspect of 2.39.1. What do you get when you put it all together? A timeless piece of work at near reference material from the legend himself, Ridley Scott.

Plot: 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.

Director: Ridley Scott

Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1

Runtime: 155 (Theatrical Edition) & 170 min (Extended Edition)

Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 77% IMDB 8.5/10

Unboxing (see below)

Review:  This transfer, like the previous 4K treatments from Paramount, bring all the little things to the forefront. Pretty immediately you see the bows and arrows flying through trees on fire during the heat of battle with the goodness of HDR. Of course, all the skin tones are spot on — facial hair, wrinkles, pores, jewelry, even subtle freckles are more apparent. Fire lit scenes have solid dark levels bringing out any color in those low lit scenes. This movie’s color tones sits in the sepia section with a lot of burnt browns, dark oranges, tans and muddy reds. When you get the greens, blues, bright reds and purples on screen, they really stand out over the rest and when HDR naturally heightens these, it’s lovely to see.

You will see highlights in the outfits worn by royalty, down to the gritty armor worn by the gladiators. On top of that, you will see highlights in the scenery from the strands of wheat in the fields to the sands of the coliseum.

Sure, there is little grain in high intensity and long shots to keep the cinematic look, plus some soft shots, but nothing that takes away from the movie. I wouldn’t say it’s as much as an upgrade that ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ saw, but definitely noticeable and worthy.

I jotted down some of highlights during last night’s watch — not to say that this is all of them, just some of the things that caught my eye.

Chapter 3

Maximus returns to his sword pulling out from the tree. You get close ups of the sword with high detail down to the bark. You then get a conversation with the King while the snow flurry happening around them is more apparent than ever — this scene continues while the nice touch of vibrant red flags surround them.

You can see the dents, scratches and blood on the armor, along with dirt and blood splatter on their faces. Commodus and Marcus Aurelius wardrobes stands out with shining gold accents on the dark navy uniforms.

Chapter 8

Although a brutal scene in nature, the textures of Maximus’ farm shown from a distance look amazing from the blades grass and hay on the ground, to the long strands of wheat his son and wife are playing around.

Chapter 13 & 14

In the conversation with Maximus and Juba you get a lot of close up interaction, which of course, shines with no movement and pure 4K goodness.  With all the clay surrounding them, their sky blue shirts get the impact benefit of HDR.

When Lucilla goes and talks to the senators, you get another conversation of high resolution close ups with fire drawn lighting. The HDR brings the colors out in their faces and all the low lit shadows look crisp, not too dark.

Chapter 16

When Maximus and Commodus meet for the first time you get reference shots of Maximus grabbing the arrow in the rubble to up close shots of Maximus in his iconic Gladiator helmet. You can spot the single chains in the armor to the discoloring in the helmets. It’s a reference shot. (Thumbs UP)

(Their second meeting, a few chapters later has more of the same effect.)

Chapter 27

In the final moments of Maximus’ life, he lies on the sand talking to Lucilla. Everything about these 30 seconds is reference to the clarity of her face against the blue sky to the dirt and gravel surrounding Maximus’ face as they lift him from the ground. Wow!

Audio & Subtitles

Blu-Ray:

English 5.1 DTS-HD Mater Audio, French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish & Korean

4K UHD:

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

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish & Korean

Special Features

Blu-Ray:

1) Introduction by Ridley Scott (Extended Edition) 2) Commentary by Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe (Extended Edition) 3) Commentary by Ridley Scott, Pietro Scalia & John Mathieson (Theatrical Edition) 4) The Scrolls of Knowledge 5) Deleted Scenes Index with Optional Commentary 6) Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal 7) Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator 8) Image and Design 9) Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes 10) The Aurelian Archives: Gladiator Journal and more….

4K UHD:

1) Introduction by Ridley Scott (Extended Edition)  2) Commentary by Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe (Extended Edition) 3) Commentary by Ridley Scott, Pietro Scalia & John Mathieson (Theatrical Edition)

Conclusion:

‘Gladiator’ is not only one of the best films ever made, but it’s one of my personal favorites. When I think of this film, the first two things that come to mind are — arguably the greatest movie song ever, ‘Now We Are Free,’ and of course, the rose peddles falling from the sky as the last scene ensues with Maximus and Commodus. You won’t laugh much during this movie, but it’s full of raw emotion, triumph and heart. In Ridley Scott’s long line of great films, this is near the top of his best work and this movie is still iconic today.

This new transfer has benefited in multiple areas from the new 4K scan , especially with the touch of HDR — I don’t know if I can say this is a reference disc, but it’s in the ballpark. (There are plenty of reference scenes throughout the movie) I will say that this is something you absolutely have to add to your UHD collection when it releases via Paramount May 15th. Please, make sure you do.

Cheers,

Matt.