Phoenix character just wasn't menacing. He was a whiny, spoiled little wimp.
Yes, Commodus was so f'ed up his father didn't name him king. Couldn't have had the movie with him being any other way.
Phoenix was great in that role. Everything you said about him made him a despicable character that was easy to hate. He had to kill his own father, threaten to kill his nephew, spend the whole movie trying to sleep with his sister and partially incapacitate the hero of the movie before fighting him to the death. How could we believe anyone other than a non-menacing, whiny, spoiled little wimp would do such things.
Maximus was the perfect foil because he was a loyal and honorable soldier who fought for Commodus' father while the punk was play fighting with his trainers & trying to sleep with his sister. Max actually fought his way to where he was and earned everything he got.
The non-menacing, whiny, spoiled little wimp took his family & his land, the only things he cared about, away. The rest of the movie is just righting the wrongs. Any decent human being would love such a simple story.
It has to do with PATHOS (Greek, suffering, experience, emotion, from paschein (aor. pathein) to experience, suffer; perhaps akin to Lithuanian kesti to suffer) and ETHOS (New Latin, from Greek ethos custom, character).
This post was edited on 1/27 at 11:13 pm