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The moral backbone of the story is easily mastered.Commodus wants to be a dictator, but is opposed by the senate, led by Gracchus (Derek Jacobi).
(There are blue skies in the hero's dreams of long-ago happiness, but that proves the point.) The story line is "Rocky" on downers.
The hero, a general from Spain named Maximus (Russell Crowe), is a favorite of the dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris).
After Maximus defeats the barbarians, Marcus names him protector of Rome.
But he is left for dead by Marcus' son, a bitter rival named Commodus (the name comes from the Latin for "convenient" and not what you're thinking).
The senators want him to provide sewers for the city's Greek district, where the plague is raging, but Commodus decides instead on a season of games.
Proximo arrives with his seasoned gladiators from Africa, who prove nearly invincible and threaten the emperor's popularity.
When Maximus wins his first big fight, it's up to Commodus to decide whether he will live or die. Luckily, no one else in the Colosseum knows this, either.
Crowe is efficient as Maximus: bearded, taciturn, brooding.
" The battle sequences are a pale shadow of the lucidly choreographed swordplay in "Rob Roy" (1995); instead of moves we can follow and strategy we can appreciate, Scott goes for muddled closeups of fearsome but indistinct events.
The crowd cheers, although those in the cheaper seats are impossible to see because of the murky special effects. " the fans chant, and Commodus, bowing to their will, signals with a "thumbs up." This demonstrates that Commodus was not paying attention in Caesar School, since the practice at the Colosseum at that time was to close the thumb in the fist to signal life; an extended thumb meant death.