95 minutes; Italian/English dub; dir. Iginio Straffi
This CGI-animated parody of a gladiator film was one of the biggest box office bombs in Italian cinema history. Produced by Rainbow SpA in Italy in 2012, it was released in the United States in 2014 by Paramount Pictures. The film, which was clearly inspired by Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), was in development for five years, cost about $50 million dollars to produce and earned about $10 million in total.
It tells the story of Timo, an orphan from Pompeii who is adopted by a general named Chirone and raised in a gladiatorial school in ancient Rome. Chirone is keen to train Timo in the gladiatorial arts, but Timo just wants to hang out with his friends, until he falls in love with Lucilla, Chirone’s daughter who has returned to Rome from Greece. Then, “through spells, crazy raids in the woods and the terrible trainings of a very personal lady trainer named Diana, Timo…transforms himself into the greatest gladiator of all time” and is able to outbattle Cassio, his rival for Lucilla’s love, in the arena.
The animation has a somewhat creepy aesthetic and the plot of the underdog-who-beats-the-odds is familiar to anyone who has ever watched a film from the 1980s (see Karate Kid, Rocky, etc.), but perhaps what is most disturbing about it is its extreme sanitization of the bloodsport of the arena for youthful audiences. Also the emperor Domitian makes an appearance?