Gladiator II trailer: Rage monster Paul Mescal fights a rhino and his own bloodlust for revenge

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Australian TV Exclusive: Paul Mescal chats to Sunrise about taking over from Russell Crowe in the year’s most anticipated movie, Gladiator II.

It’s wild to think that Ridley Scott watched Normal People and saw Paul Mescal’s performance as the laconic, sensitive and interior Connor and thought the Irish actor would be perfect as his rage monster in Gladiator II.

The swords-and-sandals sequel has revealed its first trailer and, oh boy, Mescal’s character is just so angry. He is oozing hostility and resentment from his every pore. Those veins, they’re popping.

Mescal plays Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), who, as a child, saw Maximus defeat Commodus in the original Gladiator.

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According to the backstory (or the in-between story that takes place between the 2000 movie and this one), Lucius is sent away and grows up in Numidia, where he has built a life with a wife and child.

Numidia is attacked by a Roman conquest led by a general, Acacius (Pedro Pascal). There’s a shot of Lucius cradling a dead woman, so we may assume that is his wife, which sets him on his path of bloody vengeance.

He is captured and taken back to Rome to be human fodder in the gladiatorial arena, because in the time he’s been a nepo-baby-in-exile, the combat-as-entertainment has only grown more raucous and outlandish, led by two vitamin D-deficient brothers who rule as joint emperors (Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger).

The first film had a tiger, so how do you one-up that? By pitting poor, hapless humans against a charging rhino.

While Lucius is hell-bent on revenge against Acacius — he is asked whose head “would satisfy your fury?” to which he replies, “The entire Roman army’s, the general’s would do” — there’s a hint that the slimy, lushly robed powerbroker played by Denzel Washington might be the real villain.

Anyone who sees a grieving man and exploits him by telling him, “Rage is your gift” is up to no good.

Gladiator II is in cinemas on November 14.
Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal in Gladiator II. Credit: Paramount

Meanwhile, we know that Acacius might be in Lucius’s sights, but we see him expressing nobler sentiments, such as reminding the emperors that Rome has many subjects that need to be fed (“They can eat war,” one of them callously replies) and his frustrations at seeing a generation of young men being wasted for someone else’s vanity.

See? He’s a good guy. Surely.

And perhaps after all of Lucius’ yelling, eye-popping and sword-pointing at Acacius, they might realise they’re allies who need each other if they are to save Rome from the rotting empire it has become.

Trailers really give away a lot, don’t they?

Gladiator II is in cinemas on November 14

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