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Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" makes an impressive 4K upgrade

Updated: May 18, 2018


Russell Crowe won the Academy Award for Best Actor as Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius. Once Caesar's right hand man, forced into slavery to become a gladiator. He fights for his life and revenge in every match. (4K frame shots courtesy of Paramount Studios/Universal Studios)


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


Quintus (Tomas Arana) betrays Maximus to Commodus.
General Maximus smells the dirt before the battle against the Germania.
Preparing for battle

A catapult fire bomb hits a tree
Germania soliders are overcome by the Roman firepower.
General Maximus in the heat of the battle.

Legendary actor Sir Richard Harris played Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Russell Crowe said during the commentary, "It's Harris' best performance in 30 years."
Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Commodus, the son of Caesar Marcus Aurelius.

Danish actress Connie Nielsen plays Lucilla, Caesar's daughter and target of her brother's unnatural obsession. Nielsen is fluent in English, German, Danish, Swedish, French and Italian.
Caesar is died

General Maximus is on the run, as the 4K imagery provides added depth and richness to the rugged landscape filmed in Lone Pine, California. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are the backdrop.

Oliver Reed as gladiator entrepreneur Proximo. Warm tones dominate the second and third act of "Gladiator."
Proximo lines up his newest batch of gladiators
Former Mr. Universe Ralf Rudolf Moeller plays gladiator Hagen.
Maximus and Juba (Djimon Hounsou), his closet friend during his gladiatorial captivity.



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