Principles of Management / film review

This movie Gladiator is a Roman classical tale of the life and challenges of Maximus Decimus. Maximus is an Army General in the Roman Empire. He earned this title through sheer hard work and tenacity.

As the movie starts, it is clear to notice these traits as he leads his Army in battle against the barbarians – who are a Germanic tribe that have consistently attacked the Roman Empire for a number of years. In fact, Maximus’ performance in battle is so great that it impresses his Emperor – Marcus Aurelius. The Emperor has a daughter (Lucilla) and a son (Commodus). Custom dictates that his son should inherit the title of Emperor after his father’s death. However, the Emperor had someone else in mind that is Maximus.

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Marcus believes that it is only fair for Rome to go back to a Roman Republic through the senate and this would be achieved through Maximus’ efforts. Furthermore, he thinks of the General as one of his own and deeply trusts him. However, Maximus is very reserved about accepting this offer because he has no political ambitions. All he really wanted was to reunite with his family back in Spain.

On the other hand, Commodus who is now the defunct heir to the throne throws a fit after learning from his father that he will not become Emperor to the kingdom. In fact, he is so enraged that he murders his father.

Thereafter, he declares himself leader of the Empire and forces the true heir to submit to his leadership. However, Maximus is dismayed by the death of his father and rejects Commodus’ leadership. Commodus then orders his men to arrest the General.

Maximus manages to escape despite the fact that he is deeply wounded. He soon realises that his family must be in trouble and rushes to Spain to rescue them. But he was too late because he finds his wife and son dead. What is even worse is that they were killed in the most dishonourable way. Commodus’ men crucified them and burnt them. These images are too much for Maximus to bear and he loses consciousness as result.

Slave traders from North Africa soon visit Maximus’ location and they capture him while he is still unconscious. Eventually, he is bought by a manager to a gladiator school called Proximo.

Maximus is forced to fight for his life as a gladiator and quickly takes to this role. He socialises with Hagen and Juba; a barbarian and an African respectively. These three friends talk about their values and the beliefs. But deep in Maximus’ heart, all he really wants is to avenge his family’s death and prospects of doing this become quite clear when they are all sent to Rome.

When all the fighters get to Rome, they are taken into the Colosseum. Their first challenge is quite difficult because instead of fighting in pairs, they are required to fight in groups. It is obviously clear that Maximus’ team is disadvantaged. They have fewer armouries and appear to be losing.

However, this hero takes on the lead and causes his team to reverse those roles. Eventually, the home team loses to Proximo’s gladiators who immediately win approval from the large crowd. Emperor Commodus then enters the Colosseum to congratulate the victors. Maximus then removes his helmet and reveals his true identity.

As a result, Commodus is appalled and immediately wants to kill Maximus. However, his nephew Lucius gets in the way and prevents him from doing so. The crowd is always the one that decides the person who will leave the arena and the one who will die so Maximus is put back in. He then fights one of the greatest gladiators of his time called Tigris.

Until that time, no one had ever defeated this gladiator in battle. Eventually, Maximus defeats him and is even required to kill him. However, Maximus lets him go and thus wins great admiration from the crowd. Commodus gets even more jealous of Maximus and plans to kill him.

Commodus’ sister Lucilla and the Senator Gracchus meet Maximus and tell him that he still has the support of his former Army. They plot to get Commodus out of power through his Army and a loyal servant to Maximus called Cicero. Lucilla and Maximus had a romantic relationship in the past and this further contributes to the intrigue in the movie.

However, Commodus starts suspecting something and blackmails Lucilla to give away the details of the plot by threatening to kill her son Lucius. She tells Commodus everything and he then causes Maximus to walk into a trap. Cicero, Hagen and Proximo are all killed during this attack by Commodus’ people. Maximus is now captured and under Commodus’ control.

They are taken to the arena to meet head to head. However, Commodus stubs him on his side to weaken him. Despite this tremendous disadvantage, Maximus still manages to outdo Commodus in battle by dropping his sword. The Emperor asks for another but the loyal guards do not oblige. Eventually, he realises that he is on his own. He gets out a dagger but Maximus still outmanoeuvres him and manages to kill him.

Shortly after, Maximus succumbs to his wounds and starts to slip into unconsciousness. At this point, he now holds power in his answer and is immediately awakened by Graccus who wants to know what his wishes are for the Empire.

He asserts that power should be returned back to Rome and he also asserts that all the captured gladiators from Proximo’s group should be released. He then dies and joins his wife and son in the afterlife. At the end of the movie, Juba takes figurines of his wife and son and buries them alongside Maximus’ body.

Why I chose the movie

This movie was a major blockbuster. It caused a resurgence of interest in ancient tales and the Roman Empire in general. Most movie goers had positive comments about it and it won so many awards. Therefore, such a critically acclaimed production would definitely be a good place to do management analysis.

What is most important though is that this movie is a depiction of the complexities of leadership and people. It clearly presents conflicts, interests and values prevalent whenever one has to deal with people. Power struggles and administrative challenges are all issues that characterise the workplace. Consequently, this movie would be a great for the assignment.

Concepts from the course that are found in the movie

This movie covers all the four functions of management. There is something about planning. Managers often need to have goals in an organisation and they need to direct resources towards achievement of those goals. This was something that has been covered in the movie through Maximus’ plot to overthrow Commodus.

It was poor planning that eventually led to a failed coup. He should have realised that Commodus had the ability to permeate into their network and extract their information. Consequently, they should have covered this aspect in planning. Similarly, managers need to realise that planning is quite a complicated function that should always allow for external factors from one side or the other.

In the film, some aspects on organisation have also been highlighted. For instance, Maximus had to organise the rest of the gladiators when they had first entered the colosseum so that he could defeat the stronger team. He also had to exercise organisation skills when leading his Army during the battle against the barbarians at the beginning of the movie.

There were clear lines of authority in this Army and each person needed to know their responsibility for victory to occur. Likewise, managers in the workplace need to realise that setting goals is not enough; they need to organise resources well so as to achieve this. They need to clarify the lines of authority early enough so as to ensure greater success in their endeavours.

Perhaps the most important issue covered about management in this film is leadership. Maximus is a powerful leader; he is able to command respect and loyalty from a group of Army men who had been placed under another authority. He had the capacity to inspire other members of the gladiator school to defeat a seemingly stronger team.

Conversely, Commodus was lacking in strong leadership qualities. He forced himself into power and commanded minimal loyalty from his people. This can be seen in the last battle scene when he confronts Maximus. After Maximus drops his sword, Commodus asks his guards for another one but they defy his orders. This individual therefore lacked influence in his empire.

Similarly, managers need to realise that employers will never do much if they are not inspired and persuaded by their leaders. Managers can do this by setting their own example and also by fostering great communication between themselves and their subordinates.

In the movie the function of controlling has also been assessed. Emperor Marcus evaluated his empire and realised that they seriously needed to mend their ties with Rome.

He realised that this goal had not been achieved and that some corrective actions needed to be implemented by selecting someone other than his son to be heir to his throne. Managers can learn from this leader by realising that poor monitoring will always undermine the achievement of goals. Lastly, ‘Gladiator’ also illustrates that decision making is a crucial aspect in leadership.

The movie is laden with a series of crises and disturbances. There are plots to oust Emperor Marcus and Emperor Commodus, attacks from the barbarians, invasion by slave traders and many more. These disturbances required prompt and efficient decision making. To this end, managers can learn from their counterparts in the movie.

They need to handle crises, discontentment from their employees, conflicts with unions and other interest groups. It is a delicate balance to manage all these issues but once one is aware of them then one can work towards them and results will always be easily achievable.

However, it should be noted that this scriptwriter did not just have one view point. At one point, it is as though he held the view of scientific management where he simply focuses on the tasks at hand. In this regard, leaders are determined by the positions they hold and their work should be to ensure things get done.

In the movie, the citizens of this Empire were not involved in leadership selection. Theirs was to accept and follow what they had been told by their Emperor. On the other hand, the director contradicts this aspect when the guards refuse to obey their emperor Commodus in battle.

Maximus influences Commodus; men to support him in a plot to overthrow their ruler. Also, the crowd in the collosuem appears to hold some degree of power since they prevented Commodus from killing Maximus immediately. This view is symptomatic of the behavioural management theory which holds that employees need to be motivated in order to perform.

How well the director presents his perspective

The director did a good job of presenting his view of management. He does this by making his hero very endearing to the public. Maximus is supposed to be the rightful heir of the throne and the trials and tribulations that he goes through are indicative of what other human beings go through.

This implies that one is likely to agree with this viewpoint. However, because the hero eventually dies in the movie, one realises that there are more powerful forces than Maximus.

Authority was something that he was so close to getting but he never really did. If I was remaking this movie, I would eliminate the part about joining his wife in the afterlife because this seems like a consolation prize to the hero for missing out on the actual goal of leading his nation

Whether I agree with this view of human behaviour

I agree with this view of human behaviour because it is quite complex. There is no clear good buy or bad guy in the movie. Although Maximus is the hero, he is still driven by revenge. Also, although Commodus is supposed to be the villain, he still gives Commodus a chance to defend himself in the arena. I think others would agree because movie goers prefer realistic depictions of their heroes.

Moral issues

The author addresses the issues of jealousy and disloyalty in Commodus by causing him to die. He also deals with the dangerous issues of vengeance by eventually allowing the death of the main character of the movie. He did not however address the conflict between loyalty to a past love and loyalty to one’s child as undergone by Lucilla. He therefore punishes his characters for a flaw in the character.

Contemporary work

If this was a contemporary work, it is likely that much would not have changed in the plot of the movie. This movie was made in 2000 which is just eleven years ago. Audiences have not changed too much from back then. On the other hand, it is likely that scenes such as the afterlife will be changed so that the movie can be more realistic.


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