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My only thought about Gladiator 2: For god’s sake Ridley Scott, please don’t screw this up

Updated Jul 9th, 2024 12:01PM EDT
Russell Crowe in Gladiator
Image: Universal/Getty Images

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There was a time I could quote probably 90% of director Ridley Scott’s 2000 masterpiece Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, thanks to having watched the film too many times to count and loving it so much. When I heard that a sequel was in the works, though, I was instantly skeptical. Gladiator definitely did not need a sequel — but, at the same time, we all know how things work at this point. Hollywood is gonna do its thing. And leaving well enough alone is just not something that’s in its vocabulary.

The Gladiator sequel is just months away now — and while I remain unconvinced that the original, one of the most iconic movies of the 21st century, needed a sequel at all, we’ve got a new sneak peek (as well as a first trailer, which you can check out below) that’s left me at least mildly intrigued.

First-look images from Gladiator 2 have been released via Vanity Fair, giving us a preview of characters played by Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal, Joseph Quinn, and Denzel Washington.

Gladiator 2 is set for a November 22 release, and as a reminder of what it’s about — in addition to it being a sequel taking place years after the events of the first movie, the central figure appears to be Mescal’s Lucius. He’s the son of Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla from the original Gladiator.

In the new movie, Lucius hadn’t been seen for more than a decade, and he emerges a gladiator like his father (a former general who, of course, was forced into that life after displeasing Joaquin Phoenix’s emperor Commodus). “Decades have passed,” VF explains, “and Lucius has come of age far away from his mother. While he was still a child, Lucilla sent him to the northern coast of Africa, to a region called Numidia that was (at that point) just outside the reach of the Roman Empire. He never fully understood why, and as he grew stronger, so did his resentment — even if his mother’s reasons had been pure.”

Lucius lives in peace in his adopted homeland until Roman conquerors materialize. Pascal, meanwhile, plays Marcus Acacius — a Roman general who trained as a junior officer under Maximus (though we obviously didn’t see him in the original). As for some other major characters: Quinn and Fred Hechinger play brothers who rule Rome as co-emperors, while Washington is on hand as a power-broker who provides the armies in Europe with supplies like wine, steel, and various weapons.

Take a look at the just-released new trailer below, meanwhile, and it’s clear that Washington’s character is the new Proximo (“Ooooh, you should see the Colosseum, Spaniard”), while Lucius is the new Maximus, and Pascal’s General Acacius seems like he’s playing a sort of Commodus character who Lucius will direct his ire against.

Two final thoughts: Spectacle-wise, Gladiator 2 looks like it’s going to be a jaw-droppingly fantastic watch. This time, for example, they’re going to fill the Colosseum with water to facilitate water-based combat. There’s a guy riding a huge, bloody rhino. The battles look bigger and nastier than ever. Having said that, I also think this movie might have been well-served to choose a different name, rather than going with Gladiator 2 — which I feel like is almost like saying this one is a continuation of (and as good as) the original. I’m still going to watch it all the same, of course.

Gladiators: We, who aren’t exactly about to die of anticipation, salute you.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.