Swords & Sandals Epic
Starting back in 180 AD, Rome is at the peak of its power, owning a quarter of the world’s population. General Maximus leads his army to victory against Germania, setting him off immediately as a believable warrior of great principle. After this victory, Rome’s near-dying emperor approaches him to say how he’s selected him to become the new emperor of Rome. What I particularly love about Maximus’ character at this point is how he’s clearly not corrupted by politics. He’s loyal to his family, and demonstrates that to the emperor by declining the offer, as his place is on the farm with his wife and son. He shows a very humble heart, one that is in favor of mercy, teamwork, and dying with honor.
It is worth noting how humbly Russell Crowe portrays the Roman general. He doesn’t attempt to win over the audience by proving how cool he is, like a weaker actor would resort to. Instead, Crowe earns your immediate respect through his subtle acts of mercy within each battle, such as the way he rubs dirt into his hands before every fight as an act of honor. Thanks to Crowe’s Oscar-winning performance, Maximus becomes the hero not that the people want, but that the people need.
But for every spectacular role model for Rome, there is one who’s not so good. Commodus, the son of the emperor, was sadly not selected for the throne, due to his proneness to corruption. But he ignores the moral voice of his sister to get what he wants: he kills his father, sells Maximus into slavery, and assumes the role of the emperor himself. During his rule, he ignores the senate, discarding his father’s desire to make Rome a republic nation again. His only priority is to become invincible, making up for the symbol of failure his father has told him he was.
Joaquin Phoenix is simply devious as Commodus. He contrasts beautifully against Maximus’ down-to-earth everyman appearance with his perfectly trimmed hair and royal robes, complete with his piercing stare and stubborn thirst for more.
The secondary star of the show would have to be director Ridley Scott’s meticulous choreography of each scene, whether the numerous battles or the cautiously paced talking scenes. Contrary to what you may think or remember of this picture, there is a lot more talking and discussing about Rome’s political power than there are swords and sandals, a turn made all for the better.
Within every individual scene, the atmosphere of ancient Rome looks entirely flawless. The computer graphics used to construct the marvelous city blend in seamlessly with the actors up front, tricking your eyes into believing that everything is all real.
Yet the greatest endeavor of this courageous picture lies within each meticulous battle in the coliseum. Unlike similar action movies that just throw everything at you without any care as to where anything is within the screen, Ridley Scott directs each battle with such intense clarity that it’s easy to make out who is winning and how badly they are wounded throughout the combat. I actually needed to remind myself throughout that I was watching only carefully screened choreography, and not the real deal.
It’s funny, over the past twenty years, I can only think of a few movies that can appeal to all levels of movie professionalism; from the casual sucker for popcorn entertainment to the philosophical questioners to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Gladly, Gladiator is one of them, as are several other films within Scott’s long career.
Maximus is a great leader for the people of Rome. That we already understand.
Commodus is a poor leader for the people of Rome. That we also understand.
But how do we know what makes a great leader? What is at stake if somebody has poor leadership skills?
There is one thing that helped me to learn the qualities on what takes a great leader: the very leaders of my own life—my mom and dad. Today, my lesson for this film is how every parent has the responsibility to be positive role models for their kids.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #58: He Must Know When He’s Wrong.
It took me a bit longer than others over time to learn how to pick up social cues, which was why my parents helped me learn by being socially well behaved themselves, and making sure that I saw that, even today with me as a grownup. Too many parents underestimate the heavy burden that every parent has in setting proper role models for their kids. Gladiator therefore contrasts positive role model (Maximus) against how a negative role model (Commodus) should look.
Commodus does all he can to win the people over, with great emphasis put on the deadly gladiator games. He even strives to win the honor of his nephew, who boasts of how he much prefers Maximus as the “savior of Rome.” Maximus didn’t have to live under the same roof as a child to leave a greater influence than the child’s corrupted uncle.
While it is true that every parent needs to be careful in leaving positive role models for their kids to follow, I want to stress even greater how important it is that children with autism learn right from wrong based on what their parents and other authoritative figures are doing. This includes teachers, social workers, speech therapists, and even older siblings.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #61: Teachers Can Make a Big Impact.
We as humans are just naturally prone to mimic what older people do.
As for me, growing up, it took me longer than others to learn what to say or not to say in a conversation, or whether or not if a certain question would offend somebody. So it was a greater responsibility for the people around me to teach me right from wrong.
While I was a toddler, my parents took me to a speech therapist who always used toys to help me feel comfortable with her, thus I always referred to her as “Kathy with the toys.” She helped me with basic communication skills such as eye contact and identifying various signals. Throughout grade school, I worked a lot with special education teachers who taught me about the proper things to say to other people, and the appropriate reactions to problems.
But even with all the educational support, there is nobody more influential in a child’s life than the two people who s/he spends the most time with: mom and dad. My own parents were always the first to tell me right away if I was acting socially unacceptable, and were not afraid to blatantly say it like it is. In addition to guiding me towards the proper morals, they were just as well behaved themselves: As hard as my father works to bring in a sustainable income, he has always joyfully dropped anything he was doing to help me or my sister or my mother with whatever only he knew the solution to. My mother always stayed clear of smoking and drinking, practicing yoga to keep herself mentally and physically healthy. These are the qualities that match the committed and courageous virtue that Maximus has to his own family and the people of Rome—he has the long-term reward in mind.
I most of all want to stress how each parent needs to know what is at stake for our kids to grow up merciful and hardworking like Maximus, not exploitive and manipulative like Commodus. It may be difficult to see in the present moment, but even the little things that we do will start a chain reaction leading on in a never-ending domino effect. What we do in life echoes in eternity, and what you most value in your life will for sure affect the next generation.
- Keep in mind to show your kids what interacting with friends and peers looks like in a real world setting. This is perhaps the most powerful method of mentorship. In Gladiator, this type of mentorship can be seen in the way Commodus’ nephew talks about Maximus.
- Take care of your own social skills first though: do similar to what Maximus tells his fellow soldiers to do as they’re out in battle. Teamwork, organization, and setting a goal are key to anything you ever hope to accomplish.
- Don’t try to win the favor of others. Commodus tried to win the people of Rome over through the gladiator games, but Maximus’ mercy ended up appealing to the crowd more. Make sure that your kids not only know this, but see you act it out.
If there is a specific movie in my Review List you’d like me to do an autism lesson on, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Gladiator. DreamWorks. Web. <http://www.dreamworks.com/gladiator/>.
Gladiator Trivia. Digital image. Movie Quotes and More. Web. <http://www.moviequotesandmore.com/gladiator-trivia/>.
MakingofHollywood. The Making of "Gladiator". Video. YouTube, 13 July 2014. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0g06GWs8D8>.