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A Hero’s Journey: “Gladiator” (the movie)

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“Gladiator” is a movie meant to be remembered for many years to come. It is an action-packed; historical, tragic, emotional, vengeful, moral, amazing, exciting, breath-taking, and thrilling ride into the era of the Roman Empire. Maximus was the most honorable, respected, and skilled general Rome had ever has, and when everything is taken from him, he still manages to die as Rome’s most respected, honorable, and skilled gladiators. Maximus is the definition of Gladiator.

“Gladiator” tells the tale of the general (Maximus) who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, and the gladiator who defied an empire. Maximus was the most honorable and respected general Rome had ever had, and when everything is taken from him, he still manages to die as one of Rome’s most respected and honorable men.


Maximus’ journey starts when the dieing Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, asks him to be Rome’s new emperor when he passes. He does not feel that his son, Commodus is fit to rule. When Marcus tells the news to Commodus, Commodus is outraged and suffocates his father while hugging him. Since the Emperor had not announced his wishes for Maximus to take the throne publicly, the heir, Commodus, became the new emperor of Rome. Commodus then asks for Maximus’ allegiance to him and to be the general of his army, but Maximus would not have anything to do with this false emperor.

Commodus orders for Maximus to be executed away from the camp. He also orders for Maximus’ wife and eight year old son to be burned alive and crucified. So two executioners took Maximus out into the middle of some woods to kill him, but being the amazing soldier he was, he killed both of the men, but had been cut very deeply in his lefts arm. He took there horses in an effort to stop the soldiers from killing his family. When he reaches his farmland, he finds that his entire crop has been burnt, his cattle slaughtered, but worst of all, his wife and little son burnt to a crisp nailed to crosses above where his kitchen would have been. He passes out from grief and blood loss.


While unconscious, Maximus is picked up by slave merchants and sold to Proximo, who trains slaves to become gladiators, so that he can profit from either their deaths or their victories. He had won his own freedom by being one of the greatest gladiators. He has a special place in his heart for Maximus and feels that Maximus will bring him great fortune. Proximo tells Maximus, “If you can win the crowd by becoming their hero, you may, perhaps, win your freedom”. He even gives Maximus his old armor that he used when he was a gladiator. Proximo knows that Maximus is a great fighter, but he also knows that Maximus could be taken against any gladiator and kill him in seconds. Proximo teaches Maximus to take time while killing his opponent and to entertain the people, because that is the way to win the people over and to win his freedom.

Maximus easily wins his first few battles in small arenas, and is known throughout the people as the great gladiator, The Spaniard. He is victorious match after match. Finally, he battles at the great Coliseum. He leads the other gladiators and together, they become a mighty force and are victorious. The Emperor (Commodus), unaware that Maximus is still alive, wishes to meet the amazing Spaniard. He tells Maximus to remove his helmet and reveal his name to the people, but Maximus just turns his back on the emperor, which was punishable by death. Commodus is furious and demands for Maximus to reveal his identity or he will be killed. Maximus turns, slowly lifts off his helmet and says, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius; commander of the Armies of the North, general of the Phelix Legions. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next”. Commodus is petrified by the site of Maximus alive and could kill him with the simple flick of his wrist, so his thumb faces down. Luckily for Maximus, the crowd cheers for him to live and Commodus was forced not to have him killed.


Maximus had to win the crowd in order to stay alive. He took command of the gladiators when they fought and he killed all of his opponents valiantly. After winning The Battle of Carthage, he had to reveal himself to Commodus, which could have meant his life, but he had won the crowd by killing so brilliantly, so he was spared. Maximus was forced to fight the previous champion gladiator. Maximus was ready to kill him, waiting for the raising or lowering of Commodus’ thumb. But when Commodus points his thumb down (that means death), Maximus lets him live, and the crowd loves him for being merciful and defying the emperor.


Maximus’ hardest challenge is his fight with Commodus in the Coliseum. Commodus, being the horrible person that he is, stabs Maximus near his left kidney before the battle, while Maximus was in cuffs. He orders to have Maximus’ armor cover the wound. At the beginning of the fight, Maximus’ blood loss makes him weak, but he still fights with all of his power. While fighting, Maximus begins to fade into delirium. In his illusions, he is at the gates of heaven, which is his farm with his wife, son, crop, and peace. He begins to walk into the door, but snaps back to reality as Commodus attacks. Maximus is brought to his knees, and Commodus swings his sword at his neck, but Maximus ducks in time and counters Commodus’ move. Maximus knocks the emperor’s sword out of his hands and beats the hell out Commodus with his own fists. Maximus goes back into delirium. As Maximus starts fading and dieing, Commodus pulls a knife that had been hidden in his sleeve cuff. Maximus snaps back to reality again, remembering that his purpose to be alive was only so he could kill Commodus. Maximus grabs Commodus’ arm and bends it to make Commodus stab himself in the throat.


Maximus doesn’t really have a transformation, because he dies almost immediately after he kills Commodus. But since he kills Commodus, he becomes the new Emperor of Rome. He knows he is about to die, so with his power, he orders the freedom of his fellow gladiators, and he reinstates the senate to take control of Rome. Marcus Aurelius had said that Rome was to be a republic again, so Maximus fulfilled the wish of his slain ruler.


Maximus’ revelation occurs, when he defeats and kills Commodus. He realizes that he has fulfilled his vengeance against the emperor and is at one with himself. He feels that he may now die in peace.


In the beginning of the movie, after he wins the war against the Romanians, all he wanted was to go home to his family and the harvest. After killing Commodus and reinstating the senate to power, Maximus falls back once again into delirium. He collapses in the middle of the great Coliseum and sees himself walking back to his farm, where his beautiful wife and little son have been waiting for his time to join them in heaven. He has returned to his family and is at peace with himself and the world.


I feel that “Gladiator” is an absolutely amazing movie. The fall of a general, the rise of a gladiator, the defiance of an empire, a single man does in one lifetime. Although Maximus is not a true historical figure, but the story has great lessons and morals that are taught to its audience. The cinematography of the movie is just brilliant. You have to see the movie to really understand what goes on and it will amaze you. Maximus takes on an empire and comes out on top. Maximus was the best of the best. He is not just a mere man of honor and an amazing gladiator. No, Maximus is the Gladiator.

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