Rage Is Paul Mescal’s Gift in the Trailer for Gladiator II

Are you ready to go back to the arena? It’s gotten fancier since 2000’s Gladiator—now there’s a whole ship battle on its flooded floor. Twenty-four years after the Oscar-winning, Russell Crowe-starring Gladiator, director Ridley Scott has returned to the Colosseum for Gladiator II, which tells the story of Lucius, who was just a boy (played by Spencer Treat Clark) in the original film.

The trailer is very aware that we might not remember the details of young Lucius’ life, so it starts there, with faded flashbacks: The boy is the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and was the nephew of Joaquin Phoenix’s Emperor Commodus. But he didn’t grow up on Rome’s clearly dramatic streets, as the synopsis explains:

Years after witnessing the death of revered hero Maximus at the hands of his uncle, Lucius (Paul Mescal) is forced to enter the Colosseum after his home is conquered by the tyrannical Emperors who now lead Rome with an iron fist. With rage in his heart and the future of the Empire at stake, Lucius must look to his past to find strength and honor to return the glory of Rome to its people.

Lucius, Variety explains, was sent to “the northern African region of Numidia, where he was sent by his mother as a child as it was just outside the reach of the Roman Empire.” But now he’s back, and he’s very angry (understandably) about injustice. He becomes the instrument of Denzel Washington’s Macrinus, who has his own very strong (understandable) feelings about the Roman Empire.

This trailer is full of cliches—the woman who dies so the hero can be (further) motivated; the handing over of a meaningful ring; the villains coded as effeminate—that make it seem as if this movie were actually made at least 24 years ago, hot on the heels of the original. And while Scott certainly knows how to stage an epic battle, the movie’s set pieces have been (probably wisely) held back so that we only get a taste of the fights.

Pedro Pascal plays General Marcus Acacius; Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger play Rome’s twin emperors, who seem no better than Commodus (one gleefully shouts “They can eat war!” when Marcus Acacius points out that Rome has hungry people). Moon Knight‘s May Calamawy is here (possibly as the archer Lucius is mourning?) and so, somehow, is Matt Lucas. Game of Thrones’ Rory McCann—the Hound—being in this cast makes a perfect sort of sense.

Gladiator II is based on characters created by David Franzoni, who wrote the story for the original film. The story for this one is by Peter Craig (co-writer of The Batman) and David Scarpa; Scarpa (who also wrote Ridley Scott’s Napoleon) wrote the screenplay. Hans Zimmer returns to score the sequel.

Watch it in theaters on November 22nd. icon-paragraph-end

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