Gladiator (Superbit) (2000)
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (74:31)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Ridley Scott|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"The General who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an empire."
With a tagline like that, no wonder Gladiator became one of the most successful films of the year 2000. It eventually won no less than 5 Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Sound, Best Effects and Best Costume Design). It combines all the attributes you would expect of an epic - a long running time, a strong plot and screenplay, a good director (Ridley Scott), superb acting, lavish scenes and special effects, a stirring original music score and brilliant cinematography.
It was also the first DVD of a major film to be released in Australia with both Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 audio tracks, and a second bonus disc crammed with extras. No wonder it became a best-seller DVD and no doubt was partly responsible for the continued release of dts titles into Region 4. And now, Columbia Tristar have decided to release a Superbit version of this title, no doubt hoping that there are many of us who wouldn't mind seeing a higher quality transfer of this film.
The plot itself is only very loosely based on historical characters - apparently Marcus Aurelius and Commodus are real Roman emperors, and Commodus even fought as a gladiator a few times at the Colisseum - the only Roman emperor to have done so. But otherwise, it's all fiction. History buffs also love pointing out inconsistencies and flaws in the storyline, characters and costume. But who cares - it's a jolly good ripping yarn.
Apparently Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), Emperor of the Roman Empire, is on the verge of conquering just about every corner of the known world after years on the battlefield. Only one tiny bit of Germania is still occupied by "barbarians" - but the great general Maximus Decimus Meridias (Russell Crowe) soon fixes that for him. In gratitude, Marcus makes him the heir to the empire as its "protector" - the man who will make the Roman Empire a Republic once again. He is sick and tired of battles, politics, the corruption of Rome and the loose morals of his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).
Unfortunately, his son Commodus, in a fit of rage and disappointment, kills Marcus and declares himself the new Emperor. Maximus refuses to pledge his loyalty and is duly sentenced for execution. He somehow escapes, but finds that the Empire has killed his wife and son. He is then captured and sold as a slave to gladiator master Proximo (Oliver Reed).
At first he is reluctant to fight, but he is so good at it from his years of experience as a warrior that Proximo encourages him to "play to the crowd." In the meantime, Emperor Commodus declares 150 days of "games" (i.e. gladiator contests) as a way of winning the people to him over the fractious Senate. Proximo tells Maximus that if he is really good he'll get to fight at the Colisseum in Rome and maybe even get a chance to meet the Emperor. Maximus agrees, thinking that this might give him an opportunity to exact his revenge ...
What follows is a sequence of some of the best, and most imaginative, gladiator fights action sequences I've ever seen. Maximus is undefeatable, which creates a problem for Commodus - just how do you kill a man who is so popular with the crowds and impossible to beat in a fight? And how does a powerless gladiator kill an Emperor? On the sidelines are the Emperor's sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and her son Lucius (Spencer Treat Clark) - Lucilla and Maximus apparently have a bit of history together, but Commodus also fancies his own sister.
This transfer is in widescreen 2.35:1 (intended aspect ratio), and is 16x9 enhanced.
Given that the original R4 2-disc "Deluxe Collector's Edition" already had a superlative transfer, I was wondering how much better the Superbit transfer was going to be. After all, the film is two and a half hours long and the transfer on the 2-disc edition was on a separate disc from the extras anyway, so I doubt there was much opportunity to increase the video bit rate.
A comparison of the file sizes for Title 1 (containing the film) on both discs show that there is only an increase of 7.8% in the Superbit disc (7,194.8Mb vs 6,671.9Mb). Similarly running a bitrate analyser shows that the new transfer has an average video bitrate of 6.45Mb/s vs 5.98Mb/s.
Well, there are some differences, but most of them are fairly subtle. The edge enhancement present in the original transfer has been reduced to the point where it is barely noticeable (although I can still detect occasional slight haloing).
I also noticed subtle additional levels of detail. I kept noticing little details in the crowd scenes that I had never noticed before. Switching back to the original transfer, these details are there as well but not nearly as well defined.
Colour saturation is very similar to the original transfer, i.e. pretty much perfect. There are some scenes with a strong orange glow, and others with a blue cast, but I suspect these are intentional - depicting evening and early morning respectively.
However, I noticed at least two instances of video artefacts that seemed to be more prominent on the new transfer. There is a noticeable increase in the amount of Gibb's effect ringing during the opening titles around 1:02-1:35. Also, the scrolling end-titles seem to shimmer slightly more on the new transfer.
I also noticed a bad example of aliasing (potentially due to the player dropping from progressive into interlaced mode) as the birds fly across the Colisseum around 71:35-71:43. However, I was not able to duplicate this problem on subsequent replay.
There are a number of subtitle tracks, including English, Dutch, Hindi, and English for the Hearing Impaired. I turned on both English subtitle tracks briefly just to verify that they are there. The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle track doesn't really do dialogue attribution (except for off-screen dialogue), but it does try and place the dialogue adjacent to the speaking person. In addition, it also transcribes major Foley effects.
One of the great things about Superbit discs are the seamless layer changes for single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). This one occurs at Chapter 14 around 74:31 and is only detectable if you have a DVD player (like my Sony DVP-S336) with a layer indicator.
There are two audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and dts 5.1 (768Kb/s).
What can I say? These are both reference quality tracks and even now represent pretty much state-of-the-art as far as DVD soundtrack quality is concerned.
I am more than a bit disappointed that we don't get the Dolby Digital EX and dts ES tracks on the R1 release. These tracks appear identical to the R4 2-disc edition.
However, what we do get is simply sensational. Fabulous crystal clear dialogue, lush background music orchestration (original music score by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard with lots of Mediterranean influences), enveloping soundfield, subtle and carefully placed Foley effects, and good use of surround and subwoofer channels.
My slight preference is for the dts track, but the Dolby Digital track is pretty awesome as well (sounding a little louder as it was encoded with Dialog Normalization set to +4dB).
|Surround Channel Use|
Consistent with other Superbit titles, there are no extras on this disc.
16x9 enhanced and static
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
It's not fair to be comparing extras since we are talking about a Superbit title. I would have liked Columbia to include the second disc of extras in the 2-disc edition with this title (thus making it a Superbit Deluxe Edition) since that would not have compromised video quality.
The R1 version of this title has yet to be released, so R4 wins (for now).
Gladiator is the supreme historical epic that catapulted Russell Crowe to mega-fame as an actor.
The video and audio transfers for this Superbit edition are pretty much reference quality, as you would expect.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Denon DVD-2900, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Denon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)|
|Speakers||Front and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500|