One of the most eagerly awaited titles makes its debut on Blu-ray with Paramount's new brand—Sapphire Series—promising the pinnacle in both picture and sound. Unfortunately, Gladiator only fulfills half the promise—the audio is outstanding, but the video is a shameful example of using an older master not fit for HD release.

Even more disappointing, this is one of my favorite movies, and while it's an improvement over the DVD releases, the over-processed image is plagued with edge enhancement and too much digital manipulation. Normally in Ultimate Demos, I like to highlight the best of what Blu-ray brings to the table, but in this installment, I'll point out video scenes that are anything but ultimate, although I will also give kudos to the audio when warranted. Frankly, the studio should do the right thing and recall the disc like Sony did with the initial release of The Fifth Element.

Hell Unleashed – Part 1

  • Chapter 2, 0:07:33
  • Severe edge enhancement
  • Notice the severe ringing around the catapult, the soldiers helmets, and giant spears. High-definition doesn't require any digital manipulation to artificially sharpen the picture. In this case, it's plain to see that it only hampers the image.

Hell Unleashed – Part 2

  • Chapter 2, 0:08:18
  • Frequency response, surround imaging
  • Throughout this chapter, the surround imaging is exceptional and the frequency response is to die for. Listen for the swish of the arrows as they fly through the air, the pounding of the horses hooves as they rush through the forest, and the clang of metal as the soldiers meet on the field of battle.

Hell Unleashed – Part 3

  • Chapter 2, 0:08:57
  • Video noise reduction
  • If you pay close attention, you'll see arrows and fireballs disappear and then magically reappear a split second later due to the over processing of the image.

Into the arena

  • Chapter 11, 0:59:46
  • Surround imaging, frequency response
  • Listen to the mace encircle the room as the warrior swings it over his head. As soon as the slaves enter the arena, feel the impact as it makes contact.

Horns abounding

  • Chapter 15, 1:30:30
  • Frequency response, imaging
  • As the Emperor enters the Coliseum, several horn players are shown playing a fanfare. The sound of their horns were actually played by UAV Editor Scott Wilkinson.

If we stick together, we survive.

  • Chapter 15, 1:34:37
  • Frequency response, dynamic range, surround envelopment
  • Listen as the chariots round the stadium grounds and how the pans move seamlessly between speakers, feel the impact as they meet their eventual doom, all while Hans Zimmer’s score booms throughout the room.

Commodus enters the arena.

  • Chapter 15, 1:37:34
  • Severe edge enhancement
  • Here's another example of the over-processed image. Notice the halos around each of the men in the arena and how fuzzy they look on the long shot—this is not how high-definition should look.

Release Date: September 1, 2009
Studio: Paramount

Movie: 9/10
Picture: 5/10
Sound: 9/10