A semi-documentary about the life of Verus, a captive from the Rome's Balkan province of Moesia, who is pressed into the harsh life of a slave in Italian rock quarry. He sees no long term future there, so when the owner of a gladiatorial school comes there to recruit prospective fighters for his school, he purposely picks a fight with another slave to attract attention. Both he and Priscus, the Celtic slave, join the school, become friends, and build careers as renowned gladiators, adored by the crowds in the arena and desired by women of the aristocratic class. The Emporer Titus completes his father Vespasian's pet project, the Colosseum, and wants the inaugural games worthy of his memory, so he specifically selects Verus to fight in them. Written by
Pleasantly surprised... not bad, for a mix of documentary and drama film-making
Just prior to watching this, I read the other reviews of this. While there were only two that were particularly negative(and I won't claim that they're in the wrong... in fact, they bring up good points), I found my expectations lowering... and not being much of a fan of documentaries, and having little interest in history, they weren't high to start with. I tried to keep an open mind, and it worked; I liked what I saw. Instead of being purely a documentary, the narrator introduces us to Verus, our lead, within the first few minutes... after which, he joins in the narrating. From that point on, the narration is somewhat mixed... Verus tells us what he sees and experiences, and whenever he isn't in the scene(and occasionally while he is), the "present day" narrator explains about the gladiators and the time in which this took place... and slays several wide-spread myths about both, in the process. The drama and the documentary elements aren't separated... while it could have chosen to be either a full-on drama(no doubt evoking more emotions from the audience) or a genuine documentary(most likely being able to include even more information about the time), it chose an interesting path, involving both. The plot is as factual as it can be(as are all the tidbits of information), and it's well-told. The direction is impressively effective, being dramatic when it should be. The pace is very good. I was never bored for a second. The dialog is all in Latin, which is definitely commendable. The narration explains the important things said, though subtitles would have been nice. The fights, while they are fairly frequent, could have been just slightly better. Being a big fan of martial arts, they were a big part of why I watched this at all... and I would be lying if I claimed that I was not impressed with them. But the filming should have covered them better and the editing should have been tighter. Far too often, the momentum, the intensity was lost, if only for a second or two. Worse still, there were times when it was difficult to tell what was going on. If this were done on purpose, if the direction taken when making this was to show how chaotic these fights were, then it would have been a good creative call. But this was supposed to be a factual, detailed depiction of gladiatorial combat, and inducing head-scratching(as well as possibly causing some viewers to rewind in order to try to pick up on what *did* happen) is not good. The acting varies. All in all, I would say that anyone interested in the history will almost certainly like this. Anyone wanting an authentic drama set in this period will be satisfied. I would advise anyone simply in it for the fighting to not spend too much money on it, as you may find it unimpressive(compared to Hollywood and recent TV show fighting scenes). I recommend this to anyone in the aforementioned groups, and there is a bonus to anyone who speaks Latin(as every single line of dialog spoken is in this language). A very well done piece of film and documentary. 7/10
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