Gladiator 2 Trailer Reveals the Major Connection to the First Film

The long-awaited sequel to Gladiator gets its first trailer, including more details about Paul Mescal's character Lucius.

Gladiator doesn’t seem like the type of movie that demands a sequel. Sure, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and sure, director Ridley Scott is still going strong more than two decades later. But the story of Maximus had a definitive arc and ending. As portrayed by Russell Crowe, the general-turned-gladiator Maximus died after leading a revolt against Rome and the corrupt Emperor Commodus (a wild Joaquin Phoenix).

So what is the point of a sequel 20 years later? Yes, the empire limps on for a few more centuries, but that’s not enough to justify a direct sequel to a standalone story from the previous film.

Fortunately, the trailer for Gladiator II clarifies the connection between the first film and the sequel. The trailer opens with narration from Lucius (Paul Mescal), the nephew of Commodus in the original movie and former heir of the Empire before the death of his father. Lucius recalls watching Maximus’ revolt as a child (played back then by Spencer Treat Clark of Unbreakable fame), as depicted at the climax of Gladiator. Now as an adult, Lucius sees Maximus as an inspiration for his own resistance to the Empire after he is also imprisoned and forced to become a gladiator.

The trailer solidifies the connection with a scene featuring Lucius speaking with his mother Lucilla (once again played by Connie Nielsen), who became Maximus’ lover in the first film. Seeing the connection between her son and Maximus, she gives Lucius a ring with her former lover’s name on it.

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Beyond Mescal, the trailer also fleshes out roles for other favorite actors, including Stranger Things‘s Joseph Quinn as Geta and Fred Hechinger from White Lotus as Caracalla—the co-emperors of Rome—as well as Pedro Pascal as Maximus’ one-time protégé Marcus Acacius, and Denzel Washington as the duplicitous Macrinus.

Of the group, Macrinus gets the most attention. As an opportunist who looks for every chance to shore up more power, Marcinus takes notice of Lucius. Washington seems to be having a blast playing a malevolent character in the vein of his tyrannical cop from Training Day, flashing his million-dollar smile and letting loose with a chilling chuckle.

Pascal’s Marcus Acacius doesn’t get to do much beyond look handsome and wear gladiator armor which, honestly, is enough. Instead, the real standouts are Quinn and Hechinger as the dueling emperors. Phoenix gives an all-timer performance in the first movie, and the duo seems committed to taking it to another level. Quinn in particular seems to mug it up in the trailer, complete with a shock of red hair and bleached white face.

But the most shocking moment of the trailer doens’t involve any of the characters. Rather, its an image of an arena flooded with water with two ships battling one another in close quarters. Add in a bloody rhino and handsome internet boys flexing against one another, it’s clear that Scott is going all in for his crazed sequel.

After the historically inaccurate romance oddity that was Napoleon and the Alien prequels that played as theological meditations, no one should be surprised that Scott’s putting spectacle first, just like he did with the original Gladiator.

Gladiator II releases to theaters on Nov. 22.

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