Gladiator Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Are you not entertained?
One of the last great classics from celebrated director Ridley Scott, the Russell Crowe-starring Gladiator single-handedly kick-started the resurgence in swords and sandals popularity.Sure, we have since had several seasons of the excellent - and unrestrained - Spartacus TV series, and we had the superior Rome, as well as a couple of visually striking adaptations of Frank Miller's 300, but back in 2000 Gladiator resulted in a real return to form for a genre which hadn't really seen any highs in decades, and stimulated a significant resurgence in interest in ancient Greek and Roman culture. Having come into the limelight courtesy of L.A. Confidential a few years earlier, Gladiator really cemented Russell Crowe's status as an A-list player, although it also became the first instance of his notorious desire to insinuate himself into every element of a film's production process.In the case of Gladiator, it was for the best, with some of the best lines - and even speeches - coming from Crowe himself, rewriting the script on the fly and making the character his own. Scott had a cool $100 million to play with, which was landmark 18 years ago, but he put every cent of that on the screen, delivering some epic setpieces that punctuate an emotionally charged narrative and both memorable and quotable script. The supporting cast (a nasty Joaquin Phoenix, a principled Djimon Hounson, and heavyweight support from both Richard Harris and, semi-posthumously courtesy of CG, Oliver Reed) are universally excellent, and the end result is a bona fide modern classic.
Picture QualityGladiator hits UK Ultra HD Blu-ray a few weeks ahead of its US bow, courtesy of Universal. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), as well as Dolby Vision, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Gladiator on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shot on film, Gladiator benefits from a full-fat native 4K video presentation held back only slightly by the limited digital effects available back in 2000, leaving a largely excellent presentation that is easily the best that the film has ever looked. Fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief that this classic has been given the right treatment.
The best this film has ever looked.
Detail is very good indeed for the most part, and frequently outstanding, with only a few instances of minor softness which may be inherent to the source but are more likely a result of slightly over-enthusiastic digital manipulation, tweaking the image to remove grain, clean up, and then re-apply it, to leave a warm and textured result that is almost universally consistent, but not quite.
HDR and WCG implementation afford a keen edge to the image, giving depth to the tones on offer, whilst affording Scott's oftentimes stylistic piece a rich look that embraces the high contrast sequences as well as a desert raw gladiator bouts. Bloods red crimson, the woodland scenes are shot through with a cool blue hue, and black levels remain intact, allowing for strong shadow detail and rounding out an excellent video presentation that's - more often than not - demo worthy. Even if its isn't quite reference perfection, it's the best this film has ever looked, and likely the best it will ever look.
Sound QualityGladiator gets an upgrade on the aural front too, with a DTS:X immersive audio accompaniment, primed upon the foundation of an already reference and demo worthy DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 core. With Hans Zimmer's legendary score (in collaboration with the mellifluous Lisa Gerrard) providing the blood and guts of the audio, it's a real stunner that will likely be regarded as both demo and reference by many.
Hans Zimmer's legendary score provides the blood and guts of the audio.
Dialogue remains clearly and coherently delivered across the frontal array, booming out Maximus' most memorable lines with resonance, whilst still attenuated to the quieter whispers and gruff growls. Effects are myriad, lapping up the roar of the crowd in the arena, the guttural growl of the tigers, and the cries during the battle charge, with metal upon metal clanging across the array, and surrounds expertly delivering the thunder. It's the score that stands out though, even above the roaring din in the arena, with Zimmer really affording the film one of its greatest assets and rounding out this modern masterpiece.
ExtrasGladiator carries over the majority of its plentiful previously-available extras, albeit only on the Blu-ray copy of the film included in the package although this is somewhat more understandable given the fact that they (admittedly, using seamless branching) manage to pack in both the Theatrical and Extended Cuts of the main movie on the Ultra HD Blu-ray, as well as include an Introduction by Director Ridley Scott, and not one but two Audio Commentaries, the first with Scott and star Russell Crowe and the second seeing Scott partnered with his Editor and his Cinematographer on the project.
A great selection.
The remaining extras are not to be dismissed either, with a number of sections - Strength and Honour: Creating the World of Gladiator; Image & Design: Storyboard Design, Storyboard Archive, Costume Design Gallery and Photo Galleries; Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal; and The Aurelian Archives: My Gladiator Journal by Spencer Treat Clark. There's also a swathe of Deleted and Abandoned Sequences included the unfinished Rhino Scene which has to be one of the best classic deleted scenes ever imagined (and unfortunately unrealised). It's a great selection.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictThe best the film has ever looked or sounded.
Gladiator makes a hell of an entrance on Ultra HD Blu-ray, the first of a wave of arguably must-have purchases including the likes of Braveheart, The Matrix, Die Hard and Jurassic Park which are due to land over the next few weeks, and, at least in Gladiator's case, the results are something of a relief, making the most of the shot-on-film native 4K source material and enriching the experience with an immersive audio track to boot. It's not perfect, but it's the best the film has ever looked or sounded, and it certainly comes highly recommended. It's an unmissable classic and possibly the only thing that could sully it's sheen would be if Scott actually managed to convince Crowe to do his long-gestating sequel and delivered another Alien: Covenant.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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