‘Gladiator 2’ Debuts Epic Trailer at CinemaCon: Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington Bring Bloodshed, Brutality Back to the Colosseum

There was something fitting about the setting.

Paramount Pictures unveiled the first trailer from “Gladiator II” on the stage of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, a Las Vegas hotel that reimagines Ancient Rome in all its decadent splendor, albeit with a few more slot machines. Director Ridley Scott seems to be offering a bloodier version of that distant age, one that finds Paul Mescal entering the arena as a nobleman who has renounced his privilege and finds himself in a life-and-death struggle for the amusement of the Roman people.

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Based on the footage that Scott brought to Sin City to share with cinema owners, “Gladiator 2” recaptures the first film’s epic sprawl and shattering action sequences. The teaser saw Mescal face off against a charging rhino, a horde of vicious baboons, and Pedro Pascal, among other threats to his chiseled physique. There were also naval bombardments, political intrigue aplenty — and a pair of diabolical emperors who seem even crazier than Joaquin Phoenix’s unhinged monarch from the first film.

Manipulating everything is Denzel Washington’s shadowy operator. He seems to be pulling the strings, intending to use Mescal as a blunt instrument as he looks to steamroll over an empire that’s gone seriously off the rails. “Rome must fall,” he says at one point in the footage. “I need only to give it a push.”

The crowd of theater operators gave the big-budget film an enthusiastic thumbs up, but will audiences? One person seems to think so. “It is possibly even more extraordinary than the first,” Scott said in a video message. [It] is well worth the wait.”

Of course, it’s no small act to bring back “Gladiator.” The 2000 film won best picture at the Oscars and was a box office smash. It was hard to cook up a sequel, however, given that original star Russell Crowe’s character doesn’t make it past the final credits, nor does Phoenix’s character. But Connie Nielsen returns as Lucilla, the mother of Mescal’s Lucius, as does Derek Jacobi, playing a member of the Roman Senate. They are joined by an ensemble of heavyweights that includes Washington, who previously worked with Scott on “American Gangster,” and “The Mandalorian” star Pascal.

Fred Hechinger (“The White Lotus”) and Joseph Quinn (“Stranger Things”) play co-emperor Geta and co-emperor Caracalla, respectively. Wearing face paint and watching the whole spectacle from their imperial boxes, the duo seem to be treating the proceedings with scenery-chewing relish.

“Gladiator II” will open in the U.S. on Nov. 22, 2024. “What you’re going to see…is emotion, action, and spectacle on a scale unlike anything else in theaters this year,” Washington promised.

In other words, you will be entertained.

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