Wanna see Maximus surf the internet? You get to in Gladiator 2 (no, I’m serious!)
Premise: Maximus is brought back to life to stop a nasty henchmen from killing all the Christians in Rome.
About: This script has become famous (or infamous) based on the fact that it got written in the first place. Many people who have read it have used superlatives such as, “Crazy!” “Ridiculous!” and “Bananas!” I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but they’re not using the most accurate superlative, which would be: “Bad!” The script was written by Nick Cave, who’s best known as a musician, but who occasionally dabbles in screenwriting. He wrote 2012’s “Lawless,” and he’s credited as the screenwriter for the upcoming remake of The Crow. Apparently his pitch beat out every other writer in town, which is why he got to write this. Which has led to the pinnacle of this script’s 15 year journey – a Scriptshadow review.
Writer: Nick Cave
Details: 102 pages (in a weird font that may be obscuring the page count)
I was never the biggest Gladiator fan when it came out. These were pre-obsessed-with-screenwriting days and all I remember thinking was, “This really wants to be Braveheart but isn’t.”
However, in retrospect, I see why so many people loved it. It has the ultimate main character. Not only is he an underdog (AUDIENCES ALWAYS LOVE UNDERDOGS) but he’s the most badass underdog in cinema history.
There is a problem with the movie that doesn’t make it ideal for a sequel though. The main character kind of dies. Why then, would you even bother writing a sequel? The answer is simple.
A tub of popcorn.
Hollywood needs you to buy more tubs of popcorn. So if a movie makes money – ANY movie – there will be an attempt to sequelize it, no matter what. They’ve had meetings about a sequel to Titanic. Don’t buy the lies. They’ve had meetings about a sequel to Rogue One. If it’s within the realm of possibility, they will explore it.
Which is why they paid Nick Cave to write this script. It’s a tiny investment for a potentially huge payoff. If the script is amazing, the studio could get Crowe back onboard and make hundreds of millions of dollars. If not, it’s 300 grand you can shave off of profit participation. Let’s find out if Maximus and his breastplate are any good this time around.
So Maximus is buzzard-food.
That is until the ghostly Mordecai wakes him up and tells him he’s in some kind of informal afterlife. While Mordecai tries to tell Maximus about the rules of this world, Maximus screams a lot that he wants to see his son and wife. But alas, those two are in a DIFFERENT afterlife.
Maximus is pissed and travels across the desert to find a man who can help him find that afterlife, but this ugly selfish bastard tells him he needs a favor first. There’s this really bad dude named Lucius who kills Christians for sport and he’s on his way to Rome. Maximus’s new friend wants him to get to Rome first and warn a Christian named Cassian that Lucius is coming.
In a stroke of luck (or screenwriting coincidence), Maximus’s wife made a deal with an afterlifer to go to a THIRD afterlife if her son could live again. Which means Maximus’s son is alive. And get this: Cassian is his new father!
So Maximus goes to Rome, his old stomping grounds, and keeps running into people who are like, “Didn’t you die?” And Maximus is all, “Yeah, you got a problem with that?” Strangely, they don’t.
Once Lucius gets to Rome, he goes all Hitler on the Christians, who are being very disruptive with their “Jesus Loves” bumper sticker mentality. And the Christians can’t even fight back! Cause that goes against the teachings of their leader. That makes things pretty easy for Lucius.
Until Maximus intervenes. You see, his son, Marius, is one of Christ’s followers. So if Max doesn’t teach him and his buddies to brawl, it’s going to be lights out for all of them. And that’s what Maximus does. He puts together a little mini-army, teaches them how to shoot flame-arrows, then beats Lucius’s ass.
Then he finds out he can’t die. So we just keep cutting to war after war, with Maximus fighting away, until we’re finally in the present, and Maximus is in the Pentagon, full vampire status, diddling away on Firefox. The End.
I mean, do I really have to analyze this?
There’s an accepted belief that if you put 10,000 hours into something, you’ve mastered it. Well, I have a new belief. If you make 10,000 bad choices in a screenplay, you need to go back and start your hours over again.
Of the many issues this script had, a lack of spectacle was the most obvious. The first 50 pages follow Maximus walking. That’s it. He walks. The only variety we get is when he passes either a) a poor woman or b) a dirty boy and they give him a lingering look as he walks by. That happened like 90 times.
The only action we received outside of the third act was implied rather than shown. For example, the king talks about flooding the Colosseum and using alligators. Cool, right? Yeah, we don’t get to see that.
In the entire script, there’s only one memorable scene, and that’s when Lucius busts in on a Cassian lecture and convinces everyone in the room to murder Cassian… WITH THEIR PENS! So they all charge Cassian and stab him to death with their pens. There’s some, like, irony in there and shit. Cool.
The underlying conflict was built around this notion that the Christians won’t fight. Marius, Maximus’s son, personified this. Which is why Maximus had to get involved.
What would’ve worked better, in my opinion, is if Maximus was the one who refused violence, not Marius. It makes sense from a character point of view since Maximus led an entire life dedicated to violence and look where it got him. Here in the next life, it’d make sense for him to refuse to fight anymore.
Then the third act comes around where violence is the only way to solve the problem and Maximus finally gets on board, does what he does best, and initiates the fall of Rome – bloodbath style. YEAH BABY!
But alas, we get him checking ESPN.COM instead. Who knew Maximus played Fantasy Football?
Was there anything better in this than the first film? I’d say Lucius. He was a better villain. I like a villain who’s unapologetically nasty and Lucius fits the bill. I never liked that the big villain in the first film was a giant weasel. I wasn’t afraid of him like I was afraid of this guy.
Gladiator 2 doesn’t get going until its second half. And even then, there’s not much to get excited about. Maximus is neutered. His son is boring. And there aren’t enough set pieces to appease us between the boringness. I can see why they nixed the green light on this one. Even though I think, some day, they will make another Gladiator movie.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Want your next script idea? Find that thing in history that people today CANNOT BELIEVE used to happen, then build a story around that. A civilized society used to send people into a ring TO DIE FOR ENTERTAINMENT. How crazy is that? The same principle is what makes the Holocaust a hotbed for storytelling. We can’t believe that used to happen. There are hundreds of things in history they used to do that we can’t fathom were once “okay.” Find them. They might be your next movie.