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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Gladiator - Extended Edition



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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted August 26 2005 - 04:51 PM

Posted Image
Gladiator: Extended Edition
Directed By: Ridley Scott

Studio: DreamWorks
Year: 2000
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 2 Hrs. 35 Mins. (Theatrical) 2 Hrs. 51 Mins. (Extended)
Rating: R (For Intense Graphic Combat)/Unrated (Extended Edition)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital (English, French), 2.0 Dolby Digital (English)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
MSRP: $39.95
Street Date: 23 August, 2005

Review Date: 26 August, 2005
(Ratings are out of five stars)

Summary
I’m not going to go into intricate detail on the plot of this film. Most of you saw the film theatrically or already own the original (and fantastic I might add) DVD release. Obviously Gladiator tells the story of a General in the Roman Legion that is forced into slavery after a failed execution attempt. He works is way up through the ranks as a constant thorn in the new Caesar’s (Joaquin Phoenix’s excellent Commodus) side. The film plays as a wonderful meditation on the Gladiatorial life in the ancient Roman days, as well as a burning revenge flick. In my opinion, it is a bit too skewed toward action, but it’s still a damn good film.

DreamWorks' new 3-Disc DVD set features an all-new extended edition of the film with once-deleted scenes re-inserted by Director Ridley Scott. From what I’m told (honestly I can’t remember), many or all of the re-inserted scenes existed as stand-alone deleted scenes on the old DVD, while other deleted scenes on the previous DVD are no where to be found in this version. This DVD features both the original theatrical cut and the new extended version. The extended cut opens with a Ridley Scott introduction in which he specifies that his preferred cut is the theatrical version.

As you might expect, the new cut has a little more character development and a little more action. For those of you already familiar with the deleted scenes on the first DVD, you already know what to expect. It’s been a while since I watched Gladiator at all, so it was hard for me to pick out the new scenes. I’m pretty indifferent to the new cut, and I’ll probably stick with the theatrical version, because the editing is a little tighter. Either way, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of the film.

Film Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Video
I didn’t notice a difference between the video quality on this release compared to the last. That is to say that it’s very good. I noticed a little banding in the smoke during the opening sequence, but it’s possible that it was the cause of my projector. I didn’t notice it as much on my computer, so perhaps I’m due for a re-calibration. In any event, if you’ve seen the first release, you know how good it looks. Expect more of the same here.

Video Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Audio
Here’s where we get a little slippery. The first release included a reference quality DTS-ES Discrete soundtrack (the first I had ever heard at the time) that knocked my socks off. This release dropped the DTS track all together (I’m assuming to preserve bit-rate for the extended scenes and commentary). The main problem already being discussed is distortion during specific sequences in the film. I will say this: I did not notice any distortion. That’s not to say it wasn’t there. In fact, I’m near certain it was, because so many people have reported it. My only contribution to this argument is that if it is there, it isn’t significant; at least not so much so to be a make-or-break on buying the DVD. Getting past that fact, the new Dolby Digital track on the DVD is significantly worse than the DTS track on the first release. It’s not a bad audio track by any means, but it doesn’t have the punch that the original DTS track had. Compressed would be a word I’d use to describe the new track. The old track was considerably more dynamic. Part of that was that it was simply mastered louder, but it definitely sounded larger than the new DD track. Bottom line is that you will not be getting the same audio quality with this release as you did with the first.

Audio Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Extras
Disc 1
The first disc features a commentary track (only on the extended edition) with Scott and star Russell Crowe. I didn’t have a chance to listen to the entire track, but it seemed fairly interesting, if a little repetitive. Both participants seem engaging and interested in the material. Crowe seems to talk more than Scott, and I didn’t notice much dead air. This is a track I will probably revisit in the future.

The extended edition also features a historical and production trivia track entitled “Are You Not Entertained?”

The theatrical edition features 13 deleted scenes, as well as another trivia track. It may contain the same material, as I did not watch either of them.

Disc 2
The lone feature on the second disc is the massive 3 Hr. 20 Min. documentary entitled, “Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator.” It’s broken up into seven sections (listed below). In an effort to get this review out there as quickly as possible, (DreamWorks didn’t send me this DVD until 3 days after street) I didn’t watch the entire doc. If there are any important details that I’ve left out, feel free to add them in your comments. Needless to say, this documentary is very, very good. I’m not sure if it was as interesting as the long doc on the Black Hawk Down 3-disc set, but it’s at least in the same league. If like me, you’re a fan of obsessively long making-of documentaries (LOTR, Frighteners LD, etc), you’ll be very pleased. Structure-wise, it’s along the same lines as the Lord of the Rings documentaries. It starts with historical context and the story’s origin in books, continues through pre-production and production, and finishes with the film’s release. The interviews were a combination of “on-the-set” and post-release footage.

Tales of the Scribes – Story Development(34:00) – This portion of the documentary discusses the historical context of the story, as well as the script writing process. The writers seemed mostly concerned with making a film that set itself apart from the standard sword and sandal gladiator epics.

The Tools of War – Weapons(12:55) – A pretty self-explanatory section about the weapons used in the film. I found the information pretty interesting, but couldn’t help to think back to the weapons features on the LOTR sets.

Attire of the Realm – Costume Design(19:38) – Again, another section similar to the LOTR documentaries. I’m not a big costume person, so I didn’t find it particularly interesting.

The Heat of Battle – Production Journals(65:49) – This section makes up the heart of the documentary and takes us through the production of the film. They successfully presented the chaos of filmmaking as well as the specific rigors of dealing with such a large film.

Shadows and Dust – Resurrecting Proximo(24:30) – This was my favorite part of the documentary. The ever-charismatic Oliver Reed talks a little bit about his choice to play Proximo and we get to hear from the rest of the crew about his presence on set. Most of this section is about the aftermath of his untimely death. Regardless of the details, it’s fun to watch Reed and watch others talk about him. It’s sad to see both Reed and Richard Harris gone from the world. They were two amazing actors.

The Glory of Rome – Visual Effects(20:10) – This material feels a little repetitive with stuff from the last DVD as well as the VFX feature on the third disc of this set. Interesting if you haven’t already seen anything about the special effects in this film.

Echoes in Eternity – Release and Impact(19:27) – This is the “Wow! We really pulled it off” back-patting section. Obviously these people have the right to be happy about the finished product, but this is pretty standard making-of fare. They do talk a little bit about the scenes that were cut from the theatrical version and re-inserted into the extended DVD edition. I still get a little pissy about Gladiator taking in the Best Picture Oscar, so it was a little frustrating watching members of the crew bitching about Ridley not winning Best Director. Get over yourselves.

Disc 3
Production Design – This section contains a 10-minute featurette with Production Designer Arther Max. It’s a little short, but very interesting. Also featured here is a Production Design gallery that contains an assortment of images relating to the design of the film.
Storyboarding – This featurette shows just what goes into creating a storyboard. The artist takes us through the entire process. It’s pretty by the book, but I found it pretty interesting from an artistic perspective. Overall, the featurette runs about 14 minutes. This section also contains multi-angle comparisons and a storyboard archive.
Costume Design Gallery – A series of images highlighting the costume design for Maximus, Commodus, Lucilla, Proximo, Marcus Aurelius, generic Gladiators, Senators, and Citizens.
Photo Galleries – Pretty self explanatory here; a series of photo galleries encompassing Germania, Zucchabar, Rome, Proximo’s gladiatorial compound, roman streets and surroundings, imperial palace and surroundings, and images from a deleted scene entitled “Execution.”

Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes – This section contains the alternate title sequence (as well as a featurette), Blood Vision (footage intended for use following Maximus’ escape from the Praetorians), Rhino Fight (storyboards and pre-visualizations of a large abandoned action sequence), and a deleted scene entitled Choose Your Weapon. All of these features are fairly interesting, but nothing groundbreaking.
VFX Explorations: Germania and Rome – This featurette runs almost 24 minutes long and goes into detail regarding the visual effects used in the Germania and Coliseum sequences. Pretty bland material here, but I’m glad it was included.
Trailers and TV Spots – This section contains theatrical trailers, all the TV spots, and a couple of trailers for other DreamWorks films. Trailers can be watched individually or all at once with the Play All feature.

Extras Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

In Closing…
This is a damn fine DVD release. As far as the extras are concerned, it ranks right up there with the 3-disc deluxe release of Black Hawk Down. All the extras are presented anamorphically, unless I’m forgetting something. That’s a nice touch that I find missing from even some of the best DVD releases. One flaw was that the documentary didn’t seem as personal as the Lord of the Rings documentaries. As much as I hate to compare everything to the LOTR releases, they have become the standard for making-of documentaries. I felt that the people behind the scenes were characters in another story, entirely parallel to the main plot. The one weakness of this documentary is that it’s a little bland and impersonal.

The biggest problem of this DVD (and I think everyone can agree on this) is the audio. If your one of the people that can hear the audio distortion, that will be an annoyance, and even if you aren’t, there’s no matching the DTS track on the original DVD. I’m not trying to stir up the age-old DD vs. DTS fires; it’s just my perception that the DTS track is much stronger than the new DD track. To bring up the Black Hawk Down comparison again: the 3-disc release of that film had a terrific Dolby Digital track on it; almost indistinguishable from the Superbit’s DTS track. Unfortunately, the same is not true here.

Audio problems aside, this is a great DVD. The video presentation is top notch, the new cut is interesting, and the extras are fantastic and extensive. For those of you who consider yourselves Gladiator fan-boys and girls, I highly recommend you hold on to your current DVD and pick this one up. It will provide hours of insight and an entirely new cut. For those of you who want to avoid presentation problems and don’t care about the extras, stick with your current DVD. And for those of you in the middle, you might want to pick it up as a rental first and see if the audio bugs you enough to skip the release. I recommend this release with reservations.

Overall Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Matt Stone
26 August, 2005
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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 26 2005 - 05:11 PM

Thanks for the review, Matt... I guess I'll be making the trek to the store later today to pick up my copy--although I will miss that awesome DTS mix that we were presented on the old version.

- Steve

#3 of 23 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted August 26 2005 - 07:22 PM

I'm guessing that the opening title features the slighlty altered "Gladiator" in black letters, as opposed to the stone look in the original theatrical release, per Ridley Scott's wishes?

#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted August 26 2005 - 07:29 PM

Quote:
extended cut opens with a Ridley Scott introduction in which he specifies that his preferred cut is the theatrical version.
Posted Image
That’s funny! It shows how it’s becoming just a marketing gimmick these re-edited, tinkered movies; they just want to put a new label on it to sell it. Ridley Scott is becoming the master of this too, following the studio and making a new cut and then apologizing on the DVD! Posted Image

#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Manus

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Posted August 26 2005 - 09:40 PM

Lucky old Swedes seem to be getting some form of dts track for those of you who care although it may have some negative effect on picture quality ?


http://www.dvdsverig....y2=&Category3=

M
I have just two words to say to you..... Shut the f*** up !

#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Dannie

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Posted August 27 2005 - 01:33 AM

im surprised the easter egg on the 2nd disc wasnt brought up in this review but i guess even matt cant figure out how to get to it

#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted August 27 2005 - 03:56 AM

Quote:
im surprised the easter egg on the 2nd disc wasnt brought up in this review but i guess even matt cant figure out how to get to it
Be fair. Dreamworks only got the disk to Matt yesterday. I appreciate him getting this review out quickly (even if it is not as in-depth as normal) in time for those folks who might still be on the fence to take advantage of release-week specials.
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#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 27 2005 - 05:14 AM

Hey Dannie, would you post the details of the Easter Egg, and how to reach it?

Thanks,
- Steve

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted August 27 2005 - 06:12 AM

Sorry for not addressing the easter egg. I looked for it for around 15 minutes and couldn't find it. I'm not a big fan of easter eggs anyway. I figure anything worth putting on a disc should be easily accessible to everyone; even those of us that don't obsessively frequent internet forums Posted Image

That being said, I'd be happy to take a look at it if someone would tell me how to find the damn thing. After ~7 hours of watching and writing last night, I chose sleep over looking for something that may or may not exist.
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#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Jack _Webster

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Posted August 27 2005 - 06:49 AM

Got this off of epicfilmtalk.com from the Charlie himself:

Quote:
EASTER EGG

I assure everyone, the exact same Easter Egg is also on the Region 1 release. The difference is that whoever authored the DVD in R2 decided not to follow my instructions in how it was supposed to be hidden, so it's a different (and unintentionally easier) path to take. I was given permission to include this Easter Egg so long as it was made difficult to access, so all of you in R2 lucked out!

Here's a hint for you in Region 1: Watch the documentary on Disc 2 before trying to find the hidden icon. (Or at least just watch the end credits!) Something might unlock if you do. Posted Image


#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted August 27 2005 - 07:18 AM

Thanks, Jack. That did it. Not really any new information considering what has been leaked so far. Can't say I'm very interested in a sequel.
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#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 27 2005 - 06:19 PM

Good review Matt! If the audio is not as good and the image is about the same, then this might have to just be a renter. Sounds like the bonus extras are pretty good though.

Keep up the good work. Posted Image

#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Steve K.H.

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Posted August 28 2005 - 04:02 AM

No DTS - (let alone ES) No sale
Nice Review tho.

Easter Eggs are silly and a waste of my time. If they produce content, don't make me search for it, that's not why I buy a damn DVD.Posted Image

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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted August 28 2005 - 04:25 AM

Thanks for the review Matt. I love the original disk and the pacing of the Theatrical version so I will be keeping that rather than getting this one as well, especially regarding the reports about the soundtrack.
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Jack _Webster

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Posted August 28 2005 - 06:18 AM

Well, I don't regret buying this - since I did enjoy seeing the extended cut and I LOVE the documentary. However, I think in the future I will be watching the original dvd. It would be different if I felt the film lacked something in it's original form, but it doesn't (unlike Scott's Kingdom of Heaven). Again, I don't mind owning both DVD sets, as I think they compliment each other nicely.

#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted August 28 2005 - 06:21 AM

Quote:
Again, I don't mind owning both DVD sets, as I think they compliment each other nicely.


I agree, but I think this is once again a case of a studio choosing to forgo releasing a "definitive version" in order to get more money out of the consumer.
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#17 of 23 OFFLINE   samuel_Khan

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Posted August 28 2005 - 07:34 AM

Well for me I will have to buy the extended edit as some 1 took my 1 disc Superbit R2 edit and never returned it to me. I was more than happy with that as the 2 disc edit was out of the market in 6 months in the middle east. After hearing the sound problem regarding the R1 edit, i think ill wait till the UK R2 (only having extended edit) edit releases and see if that edit is clear from flaws. If thats the same case in the UK edit, then I might bend over for the US edit as the packaging is better than the International releases.

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 28 2005 - 09:26 AM

Well, I just picked this up at Costco. I love the documentary, and the... almost pained introduction to the extended cut by Scott. It's far from an endorsement. But, the original cut is still there on-disc, so I'm not complaining.

I wonder what Scott's introduction would be like to Blade Runner?

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#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 28 2005 - 05:02 PM

One of the positives of this release though has been my re-newed interest in re-visiting Gladiator. I haven't watched it since I first owned it, meaning it hasn't been watched on the 2 year old projector. When the new sub arrives, the original dvd will get a spin.

#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted August 28 2005 - 06:53 PM

Quote:
I wonder what Scott's introduction would be like to Blade Runner?
I suppose it would be the only time where he would say I actually did this director’s cut with pleasure and for artistic reasons and it’s a real improvement over the studio controlled original cut! Posted Image


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