Analysing revenge trailers:’Gladiator’…

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Media

Ok I would like to point out I am very annoyed…I did a whole analysis on Memento’s trailer and it was deleted…and the video has disappeared from the face of the Earth…So now I am moving onto Gladiator, a film I have seen and know quite well, and therefore I know it has big revenge themes within it…

The film, as most people know, stars Russell Crowe as Maximus, a Roman General whose wife and child is murdered and then he in turn is put into slavery. He is hell-bent on getting his vengeance on the Emperor who was responsible for killing his family, and will stop at nothing to get it…

Above, a promotional poster for the film, and below is the trailer I am analysing…


The biggest genres displayed in the trailer are clearly those of Action, historical and Revenge. Action is displayed to the audience through the constant clips we see which contain violent scenes such as fights to the death and tigers attacking people. Although most of the ‘gore’ or rougher parts of the fight scenes (which is in the film) is not actually shown it is implied to us through the use of characters brandishing weapons and looking like they are preparing for a hard battle ahead. Action is also implied because the trailer quickly turns out to have a very fast pace, as most trailers advertising action films do (because most action films themselves are fast paced). The historical genre I thought I’d mention because it is, quite obviously, set in a time way before our own. This is shown through locations, like colloseums, and the various outfits which the character’s are seen to wear in the trailer- this tells the audience the film is not set in a modern era and this will let them judge whether they will enjoy the film because of this. And lastly, revenge. Yes I think it is quite clear that the film here is about revenge because in the trailer it starts off slowly, like an equilibrium, and then gets faster as the disruption occurs. And it appears obvious to the audience when Maximus declares defiantly: ‘Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance.’ (it is a convention in revenge films, I’ve discovered, for protagonist’s to declare their vengeance. Like Sweeney Todd: ‘It’s Todd now, Sweeney Todd. And he will have his vengeance.’ and Dead Man’s Shoes: ‘God will forgive them. God will forgive them and allow them into heaven. I can’t live with that.’ I think I’ll try to remember that for later when I do my own trailer…) anyway, this is where it is made clear to the audience what disruption occurred and that they can expect this character to seek the ultimate revenge on whoever was responsible.


Well I think this is pretty basic. Right from the off the equilibrium is shortly lived, and the titles, combined clips of our protagonist also throughout the film, help the audience get an idea of the kind of stages or trials this character is going to go through throughout the film. And also I’d like to point out that the fact every title is about him at first it’s clear from the off he’s our protagonist and of course hero of the film. For example, we see he is first a ‘general’ which sounds like a very respectable and good job even nowadays. So then this is turned around when we see the words: ‘became a slave’ and this interests the audience: how did this happen? What disruption occurred for him to be stripped of his title and become a slave? Will he be able to get free? This naturally makes the audience want to watch the rest of the trailer to see if anything more is told to them about what happened. We’re then told he becomes a ‘gladiator’ this interests us as it looks as if the protagonist of the film will have a hard struggle when he tries to restore the equilibrium (which we presume is being freed or getting his revenge or maybe both) as he will have to fight many gruesome battles before this can happen. We wonder whether he will be able to survive all of these fights he id forced to go into and naturally audiences will want to see the action. The next title tells us our protagonist has much more in mind than just winning some fights and gaining freedom as it says that he: ‘defied an empire’ and this intrigues us and makes us wonder just what is happening and how this connects to his current predicament.  Having the emperor of Rome introduced to us links to the title and makes the audience think that maybe he is an important part to the plot. It makes them want to watch on to see what part he will play in the film and how he links in the he protagonist’s story. Then, of course, our protagonist Maximus reveals himself to the emperor (although at first he’s seen to be quite hesitant at doing so, which makes us wonder why) and he makes his big declare of vengeance due to the murders of his wife and son. This tells us a lot and reveals what the initial disruption was, but we still don’t know why they were killed and this makes us want to watch on. The emperor’s reaction says more than Maximus’ firm threat almost, as he appears shocked and a little scared- which makes us think he may have had something to do with the murder of Maximus’ wife and child- which also makes us want to watch on to see what he does to try and get rid of our protagonist. It’s clear Maximus is popular with the crowds as we hear his name chanted a lot in the trailer and this conveys to us that the emperor will struggle to get rid of our hero when his whole empire loves and cheers for him- so who will be victorious in getting rid of the other? It’s clear from violent scenes that the emperor will put up a big, desperate fight to try and stop Maximus get his revenge- but we are left not knowing whether the equilibrium is restored- and we want to know whether Maximus will get his revenge and the only way we can do this is to go and watch the actual film.


Lots here, it was a massive film and still is. Of course we have in the trailer, a mention of director Ridley Scott who is very famous in the film industry and directed other films such as  ‘Alien’ & ‘Hannibal’. Correct if I’m wrong but I think he’s well known for big Hollywood films with big budgets and big Hollywood stars so hearing that he directed the film in the trailer will immediately tell audiences something if they have  knowledge of this director’s usual techniques. Of course they can always tell if they’ve seen a few of his films and enjoyed them, but I have to say, I myself can’t see many similarities between ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Alien’. And then obviously we have a mention of big star Russell Crowe who is well known worldwide and has a hug fanbase- so hearing he’s gonna be in the film in the trailer will clearly make some audiences want to go and see it. He’s been in films such as ‘The Quick and the Dead’ & ‘Cinderella Man’ and I think anyone who enjoyed them films will want to see this one. And of course I have to mention Joaquin Phoenix as although I don’t think he’s actually mentioned in the trailer I think that villain roles can be very interesting for audiences as they want to see how actors play at villains (especially ones that have always been in the hero’s role’ and considering I can think of Joaquin starring as Johnny Cash in the film ‘Walk the Line’ I can really think of him playing another ‘big’ villain in a film, so I think his appearance in the trailer may interest audiences and make them want to go and see it.

Target Audience…

 I’d have to say probably men. Although it is hard to say that, because I like this film a lot, but obviously there’s going to be some exceptions aren’t there? Anyway, men would appear to be the biggest target audience because the characters we are introduced to in the trailer or see are mostly male. In fact I can only think of one female character in the film let alone the trailer itself, so it’s pretty male dominated to be honest. And that means men will be able to relate to and connect with most of the characters better than women audiences could. And stereotypically women aren’t supposed like action films with lots of fighting and dying and stuff like that so it appears to be more of a man’s film than a woman’s. But I suppose there are glimpses of hope for a woman being a small part of the film’s target audience in the trailer as we do see a little bit of romance between Maximus and the Emperor’s sister which may appeal to women more than men (although it may make women think the film has a lot of romance in I think it’s a bit misleading as what we see is literally all that happens in the film). And women may also like the fact Maximus is seeking revenge out of the love he has for his dead family- which they may find sweet or interesting or whatever make them feel that they might like the film. Anyway, age wise I’d about I dunno….17-18+ I’ve chosen that because of the main fact the film is set in the time of the Romans. And younger teens may be put off by this subject thinking it might bore them because it’s not modern and also I think the plot could confuse them and probably would bore them so a more mature approach is needed. Also, violence is implied so it may not be a good idea for younger children to watch the film as it may scare them or entice them into copying it. Which isn’t a good idea.


 Well strangely the trailer seems to take a different technique on music and makes it fast paced straight from the off instead of opening with quite slow background music. Firstly I think this catches the audience’s attention as soon as the trailer begins and also connotes that the film will be fast paced and full of action. The music seems to build up louder and faster as every title is revealed and I think this works well with the audience’s expectations of the film as they get the idea that something bad has happened and now the protagonist, Maximus, is going to get his revenge. The music seems to fade or quiet down when the Emperor first confronts Maximus and demands for his name, but Maximus doesn’t give it to him and simply says his name is ‘Gladiator’– music is not needed here in the trailer as audience’s need to hear this dialogue for more information on the film itself and it also helps to set the mood by having silence instead of background music. It adds to tension, making us wonder how the Emperor will react and what will happen to Maximus and why he is hiding his true identity. As Maximus reveals himself and talks about the murders of his wife and son, and also swears vengeance, the music builds again, and it is made clear now what Maximus wants revenge for and why, so this tension building music makes us want to watch the rest of the trailer to see if we get any more hints to what Maximus will do. The music then gets grander and louder as the clips get faster- indicating the film will be powerful and action packed. I also think the music sounds quite historical or war- like which can insinuate the genre of the film itself and help audiences think about whether they will enjoy the actual film or not. The music, at the end, seems to be drowned out by the crowd’s chants, indicating his power, popularity and making the audience wonder whether he will in fact be victorious and get his revenge on whoever was responsible for his wife and son’s deaths.

Camera Work…

 Well first the trailer opens up with a mid shot of Maximus, and this tells us he is likely to be the protagonist of the film as all of our attention is focused upon him. When he enters the Colosseum we have a long/low angle shot of him, indicating to us that even though he has become a slave who has to fight and kill to survive, he is still a powerful character. This makes us want to watch and see if the character survives. We then get a few more midshots- another of Maximus, now in less ‘glamorous’ clothing, insinuating his lifestyle has changed and this makes us want to know why and who’s fault it is. We then have a midshot of another character: the Emperor of Rome, and we wonder what part he could have to play in the film itself. A high angle shot looking down on Maximus and his fellow gladiator’s makes the audience feel like these characters are treated as less worthy and are in fact little more than entertainment for those at the colosseum. We then get a  reaction shot as the Emperor is watching Maximus fight, and we see he is impressed, but confused as to who he is because he is wearing a mask. This makes the audience think that perhaps Maximus has enemies and he does not wish to be recognized by them- but who? And why? A shot reverse shot then shows the Emperor confronting Maximus, and this shows they are having a conversation- they seem like they have never met, but Maximus’ strong posture and gaze makes us think that maybe the two characters have met each other before…As Maximus reveals his identity we see a few reaction shots of the Emperor and his guards, which indicates tot he audience that these two characters more than just know each other- but a deadly secret is held between them and we want to know just why Maximus swears his vengeance to him. And whether he will get it. The Emperor looks absolutely shocked and frightened, telling us that perhaps Maximus is a strong and fierce character who should not be messed with- which makes us wonder just what the Emperor did to enrage our protagonist. There are also reaction shots from the Emperor’s sister who looks upset and shocked too- like she thought Maximus was dead and now it is revealed he is alive, she wants to help him- indicating to us she will be a helper in the film itself. A low angle shot of Maximus behind bars as he speaks to a little boy is interesting as it conveys a big theme of the film to the audience: the act Maximus is behind bars does not mean he isn’t powerful, because the crowds of Rome love him, he is unstoppable no matter whether he is imprisoned or not. There is another very low angle shot looking up at Maximus as he has rose petals fall on him from the crowd and they chant his name. This indicates he is very popular with the crowds despite being just a slave who kills others to survive, so will he be freed? Will he get his vengeance? And if he does, how does he do it?


 Overall I think it’s a very fast paced trailer from start to finish. Of course an action packed film is going to have an action packed trailer, as it indicates to the audience what the film itself will be like without misleading them. But I think the pace gets faster at the point where the colosseum doors are opened- implying violence and action in the film. And also when Maximus swears his vengeance, which adds tension and makes us wonder whether and how he will succeed in getting it. After the little boy says he will cheer for Maximus the pace also seems to get faster, as thought here is a rush against time or things may not be going to plan- making audiences wonder just what confrontations are happening and who they are between. It then slows as the trailer comes to an end and Maximus stands int he colosseum as his name is chanted by thousands. This leaves us thinking about Maximus’ popularity with the Roman empire and whether it will be enough to save him or help him complete his quest. Then the film comes to a dramatic end- leaving us wondering just what is going to happen and whether the protagonist will get his vengeance.


Although I don’t think there was that much dialogue I thought the pieces they used were clever and probably the most important from the film itself- pieces that convey character types, relationships, important plot points (like the disruption of the Equilibrium) and genres/themes of the film. Here are the pieces used in the trailer:

‘Who is he?’- said by the Emperor, it implies mystery surrounding Maximus’ character and also that the Emperor is intrigued to discover who he is. This leads us to wonder whether maximus wants his identity revealed and who he is hiding from, if anybody, and why.

‘You will remove your helmet and tell me your name!’ – Said by the Emperor again as he confronts Maximus. It implies he is a powerful character as he is demanding something and this indicates he may be the villain of the film.

‘My name is gladiator.’ – Maximus’ cold answer tells us he is definitely the hero of the film- he does not give in to the Emperor’s demands (well not at first) and this tells us he is a strong and brave character and likely hero of the film. It also tells us he is hiding his true identity and we wonder why he is doing so.

‘Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance. ‘ – Now he has revealed his identity, Maximus begins to get very very angry- venting his anger towards the Emperor and declaring his vengeance for what happened to his wife and child’s murders. Oh the Emperor is in big trouble. He has made a powerful enemy. But will Maximus get his vengeance? Well, we hope so, but we have to watch on if we want to see more hints as to whether he does.

‘Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the emperor of Rome.’ – This here is the Emperor’s sister. We can’t see who she’s talking to but it seems like she is speaking to Maximus, who despite revealing his true identity to big enemies, seems to still be alive. So who’s on his side? Why is he more powerful than the Emperor? We want to know…

‘They said you were a giant, I will cheer for you.’ – Said by the Emperor’s nephew to Maximus. This hints to us that the reason Maximus is powerful is because he has the whole of Rome on his side. The people love Maximus, so the Emperor can’t touch him, because if he does kill him the people will turn against him and he won’t be able to rule over unhappy people. So what will the Emperor dot o try and stop Maximus getting his vengeance? Will he be successful?

‘At my signal, unleash hell.’ – said by Maximus, I think, cleverly, at the start of the film but put in the middle of the trailer. Thsi indicates action and violence in the film but also that Maximus has a long fight ahead if he wants to get his vengeance ont he Emperor, so will he be victorious? 

‘AM I NOT MERCIFUL??!’ – Well, I don’t know what to say about this one really. It’s said by the Emperor…maybe a sign he’s getting stressed out by Maximus’ threat and popularity?? I don’t know but that seems the only explanation…I suppose it indicates confrontation and heightens tension in the audience.

‘What we do in life, echoes in eternity.’ – Well I think this is interesting. It appears in the film a lot that Maximus talks about being reunited with his dead wife and child in the afterlife…so talking about life and eternity seems to portray this to the audience before they have even started watching the film itself. I think it is a very bold statement as it indicates that whatever the characters do in life it will live with them forever. It gives a kind of denotation of guilt and vengeance I think….so good enough for a revenge film.

large crowd chanting ‘Maximus’ – this indicates Maximus’ popularity, which is his source of power over the Emperor- but will it be enough for him to get his revenge? We don’t know, but we want to watch the film to find out.

Voice Over…

 No. I don’t think there was one.

Special Effects…

 Well I think there were quite a few special effects featured in the trailer- like fight scenes and fires and tigers attacking people etc which tells the audience that the film promoted here will have likely to have had a big budget- which is usually shown by a lot of special effects in the trailer. This lets audiences judge whether this will make them want or not want to see the film, depending ont heir preference of big budget or low budget films. I suppose it oculd indicate that the special effects of the film got more of the budget than the plot and storyline did but that’s just an insinuation. Nevertheless, special effects connotes more than anything, action and violence within the film.

Credits & Intertitles…

I have to say, I loved the titles. They were much more helpful than a cheesy voiceover so usually chosen by big budget trailers and helped build tension, give info on the plot and also, the character of Maximus:

‘The General’…. ‘Who Became a slave’ –white on black background makes the title stick out and the audience focus their attention upon it. This also gives insight into the plot: how did the general become a slave? What happened to him? Will he escape or be freed?

‘The slave’ ….’Who became a Gladiator’:-This seems like the protagonist is fighting back. But will he get his freedom? Or, more appropriately, what is he fighting back for?

‘The Gladiator’…. ‘Who defied and Empire’- Now this makes the character seems like he has gotten back his power, and that he is unstoppable. But for what purpose is he seeking power? What does he want?

‘From Director Ridley Scott’- Of course, a USP. Telling us a bit about those behind the film will make audiences more likely to watch it.

‘Russell Crowe’ – Another USP. Big stars names in the trailer are likely to capture audience interest and make them want to see the film itself (if they recognize or like the actor).

‘Gladiator’- Finally the name of the film. Written in big, orange letters, different from the rest of the titles so that it is made clear that this is the title of the film and not just another intertitle. The colour makes it seems old and legendary, perhaps connoting the fact the film is historical and deals with a legend-like hero.


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