Director: Ridley Scott
Year Released: 2000
Ridley Scott can never be accused of not making ambitious, visually inventive films - he made the grand sci-fi film Alien and the cult classic Blade Runner - but this is all style, no substance, and an hour too long (it runs around two-and-a-half hours - it could have easily been cut to an hour-and-forty-five). The visuals and the battle scenes - especially the one in the beginning, which seems to borrow heavily from Janusz Kaminski and Steven Spielberg's D-Day invasion sequence in Saving Private Ryan - are simply amazing. The sound-effects, which rumbled and boomed and whistled from speaker to speaker in the theater I was in, are extraordinary. But the meat of the film - the performances, the dialogue and the story - is poorly done. Russell Crowe isn't that bad as the title character, a Roman General seeking revenge against Marcus Aurelius' despotic son, who killed his wife and son (Aurelius apparently preferred Crowe over his own son, making his offspring jealous). But the despotic son, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is abhorrently miscast. I can't recall how many times I rubbed my eyes in disgust every time he tried to seem menacing and came off as unconvincing or merely goofy (I swear, he belongs in a Bond film). In fact, the only actor in here that I would say was exceptional is the always reliable, undoubtedly talented Shakespearean performer Derek Jacobi, who shines in every scene he's in. Spartacus it is not.