Gladiator Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the highly anticipated Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Director Ridley Scott’s epic which won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

93

Details:

Studio and Year: Paramount/DreamWorks – 2000
MPAA Rating: R/Unrated
Feature running time: 155/171 Minutes
Genre: Action/Drama

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X/English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, English DTS Headphone: X, Spanish/French Dolby Digital
Subtitles:English SDH, Spanish, French, Korean
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Written by: David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson
Region Code: A

Release Date: May 15, 2018

“My Name is Gladiator”

My Take:

I reviewed Gladiator’s 2009 Blu-ray release, and have included my comments from that review here. Ratings for film, and bonus content will be the same, as they are identical to that release. New comments and ratings for the Ultra HD video and DTS:X mix are below.

Note: There are spoilers contained below. Skip to paragraph four to avoid them. 

Gladiator is an epic film from Paramount and director Ridley Scott that revolves around Roman General Maximus Meridius (Crowe), that begins with the Roman Army’s to victory against Germanic barbarians in the year A.D. 180, ending a prolonged war, and earning the esteem of elderly Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Harris). As the battle come to its conclusion Commodus (Phoenix) and Lucilla (Nielsen) son and daughter of Marcus Aurelius arrive in Germania to meet with their father. Although the dying Aurelius has a male heir, Commodus, he decides to appoint temporary leadership to the morally-upstanding Maximus, with the desire to return power to the Roman Senate, effectively reviving the Republic.

Aurelius meets with Maximus privately and speaks candidly about his feelings for him and his wishes. Afterward he offers him time to consider before informing Commodus. Marcus meets with Commodus and breaks the news to him before receiving an answer from Maximus. Commodus goes into an emotional rage and smothers his father to death. He declares himself the emperor and asks Maximus for his loyalty, which Maximus, realizing Commodus’ involvement in the Emperor’s death, refuses. Commodus orders Maximus’ execution and dispatches Praetorian Guards to murder his wife and son. Maximus narrowly escapes his execution, but is injured in the process. He races home only to discover his wife and son charred and their bodies crucified in the smoldering ruins of his home.

After burying his wife and son, a grieving Maximus succumbs to exhaustion and collapses on their graves. Maximus is found by slave traders and sold into slavery. He is bought by a Proximo (Reed) a gladiatorial fight promoter/trainer and ex-gladiator who soon discovers that once spurred to fight Maximus thrills crowds with his superior swordsmanship, leadership and vicious style. For Maximus there is one thing that motivates him, the opportunity to avenge his murdered wife and son, by killing Commodus. His fame and crowd pleasing wins in the arena provide him with that opportunity as he comes face to face with Commodus and challenges him before all of Rome.

I saw Gladiator during its theatrical run and multiple times now on home video. This is an epic style film that holds up incredibly well under repeat viewings. This is due to its superb balance of action, drama, and lightly historical significance. Additionally, it features dynamic, well executed action choreography, strong casting, and excellent direction. Academy Award winner Russell Crowe tows the line and is the catalyst that establishes the connection between Maximus and the story. For me this is Joaquin Phoenix’s finest performance and unfortunately the swansong for the versatile and perfectly selected Oliver Reed. This is to take nothing away from the remaining cast, specifically Djimon Hounsou and Connie Nielsen that offered strong supporting roles.

This Sapphire Series contains both the theatrical and extended version of the film which adds an additional 16 minutes of footage. In my opinion the additional scenes didn’t add or take away anything from theatrical version. Both are fine but if I had to choose I would prefer the theatrical cut. Gladiator may not have the depth of the better classic films that depict its subject matter but, make no mistake that it has made its mark as a cinematic work and is one of my personal favorites.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

Both versions contain intense and graphic combat/battle sequences.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

DTS:X Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Gladiator comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home Distribution featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless DTS:X/7.1 Master Audio sound.

Gladiator was shot on 35mm film, and Its presentation in Ultra HD appears to be derived from the same source that was used for its re-mastered 2010 Blu-ray release. It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Gladiator has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of optics that won’t result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of a film shot using digital cameras. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.

This is a period specific and stylized film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Ridley Scott’s vision. Epic is both narrative and scope, that vision comes through in this Ultra HD presentation. With a discernible increase in detail and dimension the image appears more vivid and lifelike when compared to the 1080p version, which is excellent in its own right.

The opening sequence with its dreary aesthetic, teal cast and gritty image captures the visceral depiction of battle. High dynamic range provides the catapulted fireballs and flaming arrows with excellent visual pop. The same is true afterward in the Roman army’s encampment as the incandescent lighting illuminates the rows of tents and interior of Caesar’s dwelling.

The image comes alive after Maximus’ capture as the sun-drenched arenas deliver gorgeous vistas via the natural rendering of light and its discernible stages and incremental highlights. On the flip side, dark elements mixed with bright highlights simply look terrific, revealing deep rich blacks and delineated shadows. The film’s plethora of close up camera angles shows off the superb rendering of detail. At times the level of minutia is excellent, making even the finest nuance in facial features, period clothing, sets, and props is resolvable. Gladiator isn’t a colorful film per se but, the use of color to set the tone of a scene is very effective and Ultra HD’s wide color gamut allows them to shine adding an enriching element that underscores that purpose.

The difference between viewing Gladiator in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t night and day, but it most certainly benefitted from the increase in resolution, and high dynamic range treatment. I was extremely pleased with this presentation and hope to see more catalog releases like it.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Gladiator, I found the rendering of HDR to be essentially identical. As stated earlier, this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the type of eye catching HDR that makes the format shine. You can’t go wrong with either as the both look great.

In listening to the DTS:X sound mix I was pleased with how it was implemented. The use of overhead sounds elevates proportional correlation. When compared to the 5.1 channel mix, the immersive sound offers a noticeable improvement by opening up the soundstage and elevating the perception of low level detail. During the various battles within the confines of the coliseum/exterior venues, the tracks brim with atmospherics that adds an enriching layer to the film’s soundtrack. This is noticeable right from the beginning, with the battle in Germania, and then throughout. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is the star of the show, at times taking a subtle or more active approach, conveying the spirit and overall feel of the original soundtracks while adding a complimentary element. I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and had a blast revisiting it.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Gladiator Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Gladiator Blu-ray
  • Disc 3: Bonus Features
    • Introduction by Ridley Scott (Extended Edition)
    • Commentary by director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe (Extended Edition)
    • Commentary by director Ridley Scott, editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson (Theatrical Edition)
    • Introduction by Ridley Scott (Extended Edition)
    • Commentary by director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe (Extended Edition)
    • Commentary by director Ridley Scott, editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson (Theatrical Edition)
    • The Scrolls of Knowledge
    • Deleted Scenes Index with Optional Commentary by Ridley Scott
    • Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal
    • Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator
    • Image & Design: Storyboard Demonstration, Storyboard Archive, Costume Design Gallery, Photo Galleries
    • Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes
    • The Aurelian Archives – My Gladiator Journal by Spencer Treat Clark
    • And More
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Gladiator is a powerful and exciting film that essentially made Russell Crowe a household name. Its mix of evocative storytelling, engaging battles, and epic scope not only earned it 5 Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Crowe) and Best Picture, but make it a compelling film that has found its rightful place in the video collections of many. Its highly anticipated release on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Distribution is a good one that features excellent Ultra HD video, an engaging DTS:X
Sound mix that enhances the film’s thematic impact, and legacy bonus features. This is a must own and belongs in every Ultra HD Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended!

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 


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