HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Gladiators of Rome
HTS Overall Score:60
The idea of gladiators and a kid’s movie seems to be an idea that’s at war with itself. I mean, how do you blend battle hardened warriors who fight to the death for the pleasure of the Roman Empire and a kid’s movie full of humor together? The end result tends to be just what you’d expect. A movie that seems to be at odds with itself most of the time as it’s too mature for many kids, yet it’s also too kiddy for the older ones to really enjoy as well. There’s a strange blend of really childish humor that would work for a younger crowd, then the next moment they’re dealing with themes or romance, betrayal and having to die in the arena the next, which makes the film feel as if it’s trying to target two different audiences and not really gaining traction with either demographic.
Timo (John Schwab) is a young boy who’s rescued at a young age by a gladiatorial trainer named Domiziano (Jonathon Keeble) after his mother loses her life in the great volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii in 79 A.D. Taking Timo back to his training arena, Domiziano raises Timo as his own son alongside his daughter, Lucilla (Laura Chiatti). Separated for 8 years, Timo stays at the Gladiator training academy whilst Lucialla goes off to school in Athens. After she leaves Timo tends to lose all interest in everything. He lets himself go physically, he lazes around his gladiator training, and pretty much becomes the person who takes the easy way out at every opportunity. When Lucilla arrives it’s almost too late for Timo, as not only is he a bit of a lazy slob, but she has been promised in marriage to Cassio (Tim Beckman), the Emperor’s son, who also happens to be the best gladiator in Rome. Frustrated at his own ability to win Lucilla as well as defeat anyone, Timo turns to a magic potion to bump up his strength and in the process gets kicked out for cheating.
Desperate and alone, he turns to a hermit gladiator trainer off in the wilderness to train him. This trainer turns out to not only be a bit of an eccentric trainer, but a stunningly beautiful woman named Diana (Flaminia Fegarotti), and if you’re also a mythology buff there’s more than enough hints along the way to figure out who she most likely really is. Her training turns out to tax Timo in more ways than one. He not only has to learn physical strength to be entered in the Coliseum tournament that is only months away, but he has to toughen his mind and his spirit and will.
I’m honestly really torn about “Gladiators of Rome”. There are parts of the movie that was really fun, but there was a lot of clashing styles that didn’t seem to work just right. On one hand we have a kiddie movie that feels like the Winx Club, which makes sense since the director happened to direct a ton of the Winx Club episodes, but when they tried to mix the mature scenarios in there they just seemed to butt heads with each other. It’s already hard enough to try and imagine a kiddy gladiator movie, and it’s really weird to see childish humor with one line and then discussing having to fight to the death the next. We have slapstick fart humor involving a horse named sparkles, babies that run around in gladiatorial gear and magic potions of strength mixed with someone’s arm getting chopped off in the arena (tastefully off screen, but still hinted at strongly) as well as scenes of romantic temptation and betrayal. It all felt strangely “off”. The first 45 minutes of the movie clashed so badly that I was almost ready to give up, but weirdly enough the movie caught its groove in the second half. Timo and Diana started meshing really well and the more childish stuff wasn’t as apparent (except for a few jokes and the toddlers running around as spies). I actually really enjoyed the interaction with the mountain lion and Bear during Timo’s training sessions, and there was several funny scenes with them salivating over our poor gladiator.
Rated PG for action violence, peril, some rude humor, language and mild sensuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38914[/img]“Gladiators of Rome” comes in a surprisingly theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio encoded with the standard MPEG2 codec for the DVD release and looks quite decent. The clarity and sharpness are impressive for a budget release and while there is some softness throughout you can see all the animated details quite well. The budget was very obviously minimal as the animation style is quite cheap (although not as cheap as many DTV animated films) and the motion looks a bit herky jerky sometimes and doesn’t lend itself to being wildly detailed. The discs itself seems quite decent and the colors are rather impressive, but the film is hampered by CGI that just doesn’t have the budget to be stellar.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38922[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital track does a decently solid job for the film, and tends to be a lot front heavy. Dialogue is excellent for the most part, but has some problems when the action sequences start up and the vocals get drowned out in the fray. During the majority of the film you don’t notice it because there isn’t a whole lot of effects, but when the excitement starts the score and the action to dominate and leave the vocals sounding a bit lost. Surround usage is minimal and relegated to the score and some ambient effects, but there are a couple scenes where I noticed the channel separation quite easily. What really surprised me was the excellent and heavy use of LFE. When the action starts up, that bass channel starts pounding and pounding QUITE nicely, something you don’t often see in a budget release.
“Gladiators of Rome” is very hard to recommend not because it’s an awful film, but because it doesn’t seem to know who it’s trying to reach. The jumbled up blend of adult and childlike doesn’t seem to be able to gain traction with either of the two demographics, and certainly isn’t subtle enough to be blended together in a way that BOTH markets can enjoy. It has decent audio and video, so if you’re honestly curious I would rent it first, otherwise skip it all together.
Starring: Tim Beckman, Laura Chiatti, Flaminia Fegarotti
Director: Iginio Straffi, Mario Costa
Written By: Iginio Straffi, Michael J. Wilson, Gian Palo Callegari, Giuseppe Mariani
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, French DD 5.1
Runtime: 94 Minutes
DVD Release Date: February 17th, 2015
Buy Gladiators of Rome DVD on Amazon
Recommendation: Tentative Rental
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