From The Duellists to Alien, Blade Runner to 1492: Conquest of Paradise, director Ridley Scott has often alternated the historical with the futuristic. But his most successful film, both commercially and critically, came by combining the two, using state-of-the-art special effects to recreate the glory of Rome for this, the first great film of the 21st century, and arguably the best. Now, a few months shy of its 10th birthday, the first Roman epic for thirty-odd years gets the Blu-ray treatment, and if, as Scott has said, high definition should be like looking through a window on a clear day, Gladiator in HD is like looking through a clear window onto the Roman Empire, circa 180 A.D. As with 2005’s 3-Disc Extended Special Edition, the BD includes the original theatrical release (155 mins, and technically the director’s cut) and extended edition (171 mins), which reinstates a few character-based scenes Scott originally left on the cutting room floor.
EXTRAS: You’d think it would be hard to improve upon the plethora of extras on the 3-disc Extended Special Edition, which included multiple ‘making ofs’, a cracking Scott/Crowe commentary, Scott’s inimitable ‘Ridleygrams’, abandoned/deleted sequences, and tons more. For the new edition, the original trivia track has been enhanced with Universal’s patented U-Control feature to access behind-the-scenes featurettes at relevant points, and a ‘topic marker’ allowing viewers to ‘tag’ moments of interest from the film, for further exploration on Disc Two. It’s a shame, however, that instead of padding the colossal 11 hours of extras, no one bothered to re-master the exhaustive, 200-minute ‘making of’ Strength and Honour in high definition. If you already own the 3-disc set, which was mastered in HD and will ‘up-res’ nicely via HDMI, this edition is probably not worth the upgrade. For everyone else, it’s a must buy.