Movie Reviews

Russell Crowe's Maximus Only Has 1 Way To Return In Gladiator 2

Russell Crowe’s Maximus was one of the best things about Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, but despite his popularity, Gladiator 2 is fairly limited in the ways it can bring his character back to the screen. Maximus died at the end of the first movie, finally finding peace and reunion with his son and wife in the afterlife. Some original scripts for the sequel featured Maximus being reincarnated at various points throughout history. The newest version of the movie will focus instead on Lucius; he was the son of Lucilla, Maximus’ ally and the sister of the mad Emperor Commodus.

Gladiator was notable for how convincingly it brought the world of ancient Rome to life. Even though Gladiator took some liberties with historical accuracy, it showed important parts of Roman life. Despite these deviations, it was still grounded in reality rather than in supernatural or mystical elements. This was one of the movie’s key appeals, but one that also imposes some notable limitations on what is physically possible within this particular cinematic world. Gladiator remains a very popular movie, but even so, there is only so much its successor can do to capitalize on the original’s success.

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It makes sense Maximus would potentially appear in a dream sequence of Lucius in Gladiator 2. Throughout Gladiator, the boy expressed significant appreciation and admiration for Maximus, a man who exceeded anyone’s expectations as a gladiator. Though Lucius didn’t know the full extent of the gladiator’s relationship with his family, he was clearly inspired by his success in the arena. Their relationship was also complicated because Maximus was the one responsible for killing his uncle (although Gladiator didn’t show how Commodus really died), with whom Lucius also shared a bond. A dream sequence would give Lucius a chance to work through some of these complicated feelings about his idol.

Maximus appearing to Lucius in a dream would accomplish a number of important feats for Gladiator 2. It would provide a useful narrative bridge between the first movie and its sequel. It has been over two decades since the first movie premiered, and Maximus would be a good point of departure for both fans of the original and for those who are coming into the franchise with fresh eyes. A dream sequence would also give Maximus a chance to give his symbolic blessing to Lucius and to the movie series, which has to find a way of moving beyond his story arc.

There is still the possibility Gladiator 2 sees Maximus come back to life. However, this would be a major mistake. It would move the sequel from the realm of reality into something far campier, and it would be difficult to take this move seriously. It would also have the unpleasant impact of making Maximus, an important heroic figure of early 21st-century movies, into something far more challenging to take seriously. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which bringing him back from the dead wouldn’t be ridiculous rather than dignified.

Details about Gladiator 2 are still very sparse, but it’s already clear how much of a presence Russell Crowe’s Maximus will remain in the series. It will be a difficult thing to hit just right since the end of Gladiator was thought to kill franchise plans. It would be rewarding to see him return in some capacity, as long as the screenplay ensures that he remains a figure audiences can cheer and celebrate rather than mock. Armed with a good story and a strong cast, there’s no reason the sequel can’t become as much of a success as its predecessor and show once again the power of ancient Rome to entertain the modern masses.

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