Are You Still Entertained? A Look at the Enduring Appeal of the Gladiator Theme

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Almost 20 years have passed since Russell Crowe thrilled the world with his heroic portrayal of a Roman general turned into a gladiator. Why is the Gladiator movie still so revered, and what kind of influence has it had in the two decades since its release?

Gladiator
Gladiator角斗士” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by jdxyw

The Original Gladiator Movie – 2000

There had been movies about gladiators in the past. Spartacus (1960) and Gladiators 7 (1962) are good examples of how much people love this theme. However, it was the release of the 2000 film starring Russell Crowe that brought the subject to life for modern cinema fans.

The tale of Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius avenging his murdered family captured the imagination of movie fans all over the world. It won five Academy Awards and five BAFTAs. The movie grossed $457 million worldwide and is now widely regarded as an all-time classic.

Rather than focussing purely on gory battles, director Ridley Scott brought us a heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and betrayal. It was loosely based on real events, although some real-life facts, such as gladiators endorsing products, were removed because they might seem too unbelievable to modern audiences.

The Gladiator 2 Movie

Given the immense success of the original Gladiator movie, it was no surprise to see talk of a prequel being in development the year after the release of the original. Another possibility, raised by Crowe himself, involved a sequel showing Maximum in the afterlife. Neither of these projects moved forward, though.

In 2018, it was finally announced that a sequel is planned. Gladiator 2 is said to focus on events some 25 years after the action that took place in the original. Ridley Scott will again be the director.

The main character is to be Lucius, who is the son of Lucilla and nephew of Commodus from the original movie. The memory of Maximus is still an inspiration for Lucius but it isn’t yet clear what exactly the story will focus on. No release date for this film has yet been mentioned.

The Spartacus TV Series

The upsurge of interest in the gladiator genre led to more movies and television shows being produced. This popular TV series ran first appeared on our screens in 2010 and ran until 2013. It was based on the real-life character of Spartacus, who led an uprising of slaves between 73 and 71 BCE.

Four seasons of the Spartacus show took us from the gladiator’s early days through to the intense battles as his band of rebellious slaves took on the might of the Roman Empire. The main actor changed part-way through, due to the tragic death of Andy Whitfield in 2011.

The Gladiator movie revived interest in what is commonly known as the sandals and swords genre. After 2000, we began to see gladiators appearing in many other aspects of popular culture.

In terms of video games, there are many that feature this subject. Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance was released by Acclaim Entertainment in 2003. Colosseum: Road to Freedom and its prequel, Gladiator Begins, were both published by Aksys Games.

The thrills of the gladiatorial arena have also made it onto video slots games. The five-reel Gladiator Gold title from Daub Games can be found among the online slots at Kitty Bingo, where players can extend their Gladiator fun with 100 free slot spins. This is just one of several slots that feature this theme, with Gladiator from Playtech another good example.

It is also now common to see sporting events billed as being gladiatorial-style events. Even board game fans can get some action in the Colosseum thanks to Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis. This is a board and card game for up to six players that raised over $21,000 in funding through Kickstarter.

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Ryse: Son Of Rome Gets New Morituri Map” (CC BY 2.0) by BagoGames

The Ongoing Legacy

There is no doubt that the gladiator genre has become far more popular since the release of the 2000 movie. It is now common to see these Roman-era warriors on the TV screen, in magazines, or in advertising campaigns. If the sequel achieves even a small part of the original’s success, it will ensure that the theme continues to thrive.

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