Gladiator Commodus Analysis

Gladiator’s Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is without doubt the best character in the movie Gladiator, an antagonist that is both understandable and yet extremely easy to hate. Herein, the character Commodus from the film Gladiator will be analysed and discussed.

Gladiator Commodus

Commodus’ General Characteristics

Commodus is essentially lacking in any real noble or honourable personality traits, but has a degree of intelligence and cunning. This intelligence and cunning are particularly related to politics and are not truly found in the historical figure on which Commodus was based. He also seems to have a fairly adequate swordsmanship, shown training earlier in the film and later fighting Maximus, albeit a wounded Maximus, with some competency.

Commodus and his Father

Commodus’ personality is without a doubt most influenced by his relationship with his father, Marcus Aurelius. Commodus appears to truly love his father and is quite desperate for praise from him. His father, however, clearly does not particularly like his son. It is particularly interesting that his father’s vision for Rome, with the senate having more power, is in direct opposition to Commodus’ vision, with the senate having significantly less power.

Ultimately, Commodus’s father tells him that he will not be emperor and that he intends to pass his powers to Maximus, Commodus kills his father. Basically, Maximus is the son Commodus would have liked to have and Commodus is what he has to put up with. On stating that Maximus would receive his power, it was to Commodus the ultimate betrayal. Subsequently, he commits patricide and becomes emperor before Commodus can officially pass his power to Maximus. This is particularly interesting when examining from the Oedipus complex perspective, or the perspective that all men have subconscious desires to have sex with their mother and kill their father. Thus, Commodus could be said to have followed his subconscious desires to be rid of his father so that he would be free to advance on his mother or a figure resembling her, namely his sister.

Commodus and his Sister

Commodus has a strange, romantic attraction to his sister that is most probably due to her being one of the few people who love him, perhaps the only one. This results in Commodus intensifying his feelings towards her to the point of romantic attraction. When she goes on to betray him in favor of Maximus, it seems him into a particularly vicious rage in which he threatens the life of her son if she does not love him as he does her. All of this suggests that she has taken a somewhat nurturing role in regards to Commodus, almost as though she was his mother. This can potentially be seen as another example of the Oedipus complex.

Commodus and Maximus

Commodus has a jealousy of Maximus from the beginning, as his father loves Maximus whereas he does not love Commodus. In terms of personality, the main difference between the two is that Maximus has an intrinsic sense of morality, whereas Commodus only feigns it. This can be seen in the scene where Maximus intends on stabbing Commodus but ultimately decides not to while his family is around him.

Commodus and Rome

Commodus pursues his search for love from Rome, with an intention to make Rome love him through victories and battle in the Colosseum. He does this with no intention of actually dealing with important matters such as sanitation, instead preferring to go ahead with his dream in order to make Rome an extension of himself. Furthermore, in order to make Rome an extension of himself he largely destroys the senate. Ultimately, this all fails as Rome begins to prefer Maximus to him and thus even the people he commands refuse to love him.

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