It’s only fitting that Ridley Scott’s gargantuan Roman epic, about a wronged general (Russell Crowe) whose road to revenge against the evil emperor (Joaquin Phoenix) lands him in the violence-as-entertainment biz, would be housed on two discs, and there’s not a single millimeter of wasted space. The first disc of this DreamWorks Signature Selection contains the terrific feature film, looking and sounding spectacular; I imagine it is even more sonically stunning in its DTS track (alas, I am not properly equipped). Scott, editor Pietro Scalia, and director of photography John Mathieson provide a running commentary track that nicely balances technical details with comments on the superb cast and the general production. None of the three are the most rousing of speakers, the information they impart is interesting enough that the point is moot.
The bulk of the bonus material is reserved for the second disc. Not one, but two television specials providing a behind-the-scenes look are included. The shorter of the two is a usual bit of business that alternates between real insight and promo huckstering, but the other, Gladiator Games, is, as its Learning Channel-pedigree would imply, a genuinely informative look at the history of the ancient Roman gladiator business; only a small fraction of its one-hour running time is devoted to blatant movie marketing. However, there is one huge miscalculation in this program, and that is the ample use of very cheap reenactments of the Colosseum scene; if anything, they do amplify the appreciation for Scott’s battle recreations in the feature film.
But where other discs generally stop with the production info, this one continues. Included separately from the other two featurettes is a fairly extensive look at Hans Zimmer’s score, a piece produced expressly for this DVD edition. In addition to a wealth of production and behind-the-scenes stills, there is also a large gallery of storyboards and concept art; going even one step farther, all of these are neatly organized into specific categories. Lest there be any thoughts that there’s only eye candy, viewers can use their reading skills to plow through a lengthy production diary written by actor Spencer Treat Clark, who plays the emperor’s young nephew (though an occasional photo breaks up the textual monotony).
The standard supplements are also in evidence: the film’s theatrical trailers and TV spots; complete production notes; cast and crew biographies and filmographies; deleted scenes. As far as these cut scenes go, viewable with or without commentary by Scott, most of which are throwaway bits, but in keeping with the package’s “go the extra mile” attitude, also included is a seven-minute montage of unused shots assembled especially for the disc by Scalia. Cut to an excerpt of Zimmer’s score, this lovely piece of work is a fittingly elegant capper to a marvelously produced DVD set.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English DTS; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; English subtitles.