What we do in life, echoes in eternity.
When I first saw Gladiator at the cinema I turned up late and had to sit right in the front row. I thought that I might be annoyed by this; what I hadn't expected was to be sucked into the opening battle scene! To say that the battle is great is an understatement. Ridley Scott seems to have become very proficient at producing amazing action sequences (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven).
The atmosphere of Germania is wonderfully shot thanks to cinematographer John Mathieson; you can completely imagine how the average soldier must feel; freezing cold standing around in mud for hours until General Maximus turns up. Maximus is a character who commands great respect among his army, a great warrior but Russell Crowe also allows him to be down to earth and to understand people; when Quintus says "People should know when they are conquered", Maximus replies "Would you, Quintus? Would I?"
Of course after this all hell is unleashed, and the battle commences. The action is brutal, bloody and downright spectacular; and being sat right at the front of the cinema made it all the more disorientating and confusing, which I can only imagine is what it might be like in the midst of such a battle.
While all this carnage is unfolding, another of Hans Zimmer's brilliant scores is playing (which hopefully you're listening to now). Taking enormous great wodges of inspiration from Holst's The Planets: Mars, the music is suitably dramatic for the battle; but given that Mars is the Bringer of War this is entirely appropriate.
Adding everything together produces a tremendously cinematic opening to a epic film.