I Just Saw Paul Mescal Fight A Rhinoceros For Gladiator 2, And I Couldn't Be More Hyped For Ridley Scott's Sequel

If we are being completely honest, CinemaCon 2024 has been very light on teases. We have seen footage from upcoming movies that have shown a lot of what we expect to come. But only movies like the John Wick spinoff Ballerina and the planned musical biopic for Michael Jackson brought any never-before-seen footage that got the audience in the Coliseum at Caesar’s excited. That was until Paramount Pictures closed out its panel presentation with five minutes of exclusive, first look footage from Sir Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2, and it looks more epic than we even could have anticipated. 

There are several callbacks to Scott’s original Gladiator throughout the footage, which makes sense. Even though the initial film came out in 2000, the legacy extends far, being one of the most successful collaborations between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. No, we never see Crowe in the footage for Gladiator 2 – his character, Maximus, dies at the end of the movie. But we did get a shot of a hand glancing over the top of fields of wheat… and it made me wonder if we might somehow get Crowe back from the afterlife. That was Scott’s original plan for the sequel, after all. I’m still holding out hope.

Maximus is referenced early in the footage by Lucius (Paul Mescal), the nephew of Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus who will follow a similar path through the Gladiator ring. Lucius claims to think about Maximus daily, about how a humble man could challenge the powerful through the Gladiator competition. 

But, per the footage that we managed to see, the challenges in the ring are increasing exponentially. Mescal matches Crowe’s physicality and rage. But he’s going to face off against hulking adversaries, and animals. ANIMALS! There was a fight scene where the gladiators fought feral, ferocious apes. And in another, Mescal faced off against a gladiator riding on the back of a rhino, whose horn had been bloodied by the corpses of his prey. It was so sick!

Ridley Scott already informed us that Mescal’s Lucius has lost touch with his mother (Connie Nielsen, returning to her role), and that for all she knows, he might be dead. She still runs in the elite circles, which this time out will be portrayed by Joseph Quinn and Pedro Pascal. Quinn, in particular, seems to be taking his performance cues from Joaquin Phoenix in the first movie, playing spoiled and psychotic. There’s even a shot of Quinn’s character, Emperor Caracalla, giving the thumbs down. 

Joaquin Phoenix giving thumbs up in Gladiator

(Image credit: Dreamworks Pictures)

The final major character introduced in the footage is played by Denzel Washington. He will be Mescal’s mentor in the movie, someone who coaches him on what is important to the powerful Roman rulers, and schools him on how to manipulate the games to possibly bring them down. It becomes clear as the footage goes on that Washington’s character is using Mescal’s Lucius for ulterior motives, but they are unclear in this footage.

Everything that we saw in the footage was massive in scale and scope. One of the Colosseum battles featured two ships IN THE FLOODED ARENA as they went head to head in battle. The sight of Mescal facing a rhino is unforgettable. And the last bit suggested an expansion of war, as Pedro Pascal’s character appears to escalate the battle, leading to a face off in the ring with Lucius.

All signs point to Gladiator 2 being a worthy follow up to the original. It will be in theaters beginning on November 22.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.