Updated: May 18, 2018
4K FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy; 2000; R for intense, graphic combat; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: Commentary with director Ridley Scott and leading man Russell Crowe featured on the 4K disc
RIDLEY SCOTT'S “Gladiator,” winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, is a perfect example of how a 4K master (2.39:1 aspect ratio) provides a terrific home viewing experience. Remastered from the original 35mm camera negative and enhanced with High Dynamic Range (HDR10 & Dolby Vision) makes a huge difference.
The new visuals are superior to the earlier Blu-ray, which had been plagued by edge enhancement and digital noise reduction. The 4K disc also includes the Theatrical cut, (Scott's preferred version) and the Unrated: Extended Edition with 17 additional minutes seamlessly inserted throughout.
The 4K master has a darker palette, creating deeper black levels without losing fine detail in the shadows. Colors are also richer and fuller quickly apparent in the opening battle between Germanic tribes and Roman troops. Expansive reds, oranges and brighter highlights highlight the darkened landscape with fiery arrows and firebombs. Much of the war footage used several thousand extras in the dead of winter (only six hours of daylight) in the Bourne Woods of Surrey, England, which reduced the field of sharpness causing some shots to be fuzzy.
During the North African scenes where Maximus (Russell Crowe) is sold into slavery, the desert scenes reveal the six million more pixels per frame more readily. Wide shots receive the maximum benefit from foreground to background, replicating clarity of the human eye. Close-ups provide refined detail in Janty Yates’ Oscar-winning costumes. The only shortcoming is the Oscar-winning FX scenes of historic Rome, limited by computer technology of the day, have a slight loss of overall sharpness, a byproduct of filming on the Super 35 format. Scott selected the format for its camera and lens flexibility as opposed to the more expensive anamorphic Panavision format.
The film grain is pronounced as it should be – slightly larger from the Super 35 film source. Paramount/Universal 4K remastering job is one of the best from a Super 35 source, nearly equal to Sony's 2016 "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
AUDIO The audio has been remastered with the DTS: X format, pushing Hans Zimmer's Oscar-nominated score to height speakers, while the Oscar-winning sound gets a real boost in environmental sounds to the Colosseum crowd cheering "MAXIMUS, MAXIMUS, MAXIMUS." Arrows zip from speaker to speaker during the opening battle.
EXTRAS All of the bonus features from the 2009 Blu-ray special edition are included: two commentaries with Scott and Crowe, another with Scott, editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson on 4K and Blu-ray; historical factoids popup during "The Scrolls of Knowledge" in both Blu-ray versions; 13 deleted scenes; "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal" on the second Blu-ray has more than a hundred video clips detailing production to the Oscars; "Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator," a seven-part making of documentary (standard-def) runs over three hours, and explores the $100 million gamble Scott and his production crew took to make the film; "Image and Design" is a five-part featurette covering production design, storyboards, costume design, photo galleries and a weapons primer with Simon Atherton; The Aurelian Archives provides the original nine-featurettes from the DVD.
Hopefully Scott's sword-and-sandal epic will be a 4K launching point for others including "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Ben Hur."
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
SECOND BATCH OF FRAME SHOTS (MAY 15)