Gladiator 2 footage stuns CinemaCon with ‘ripped’ Paul Mescal and ‘sinister’ Joseph Quinn

Gladiator 2 footage stuns CinemaCon with ‘ripped’ Paul Mescal and ‘sinister’ Joseph Quinn

The reactions are in after the first footage of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sequel starring Paul Mescal aired behind closed doors at CinemaCon on Thursday (11 April).

Scott’s highly anticipated follow-up to the 2000 classic starring Russell Crowe will tell the story of Lucius (Mescal), the son of Lucilla (portrayed by Connie Nielsen). Lucilla was the lover of Crowe’s soldier Maximus, who came to his demise at the end of the first film.

“It is possibly even more extraordinary than the first,” Scott said in a video message at the annual event attended by cinema exhibitors in Las Vegas. “[It] is well worth the wait.”

According to Variety, the CinemaCon trailer showed Mescal “face off against a charging rhino, a horde of vicious baboons, and Pedro Pascal, among other threats to his chiseled physique”.

Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus) and Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things) play co-emperors Geta and Caracalla, respectively, while Denzel Washington plays a former slave seeking revenge.

On Twitter/X, members of the media who were in attendance at CinemaCon reacted in awe at the debut footage.

Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’ (2000) (Jaap Buitendijk/Dreamworks/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’ (2000) (Jaap Buitendijk/Dreamworks/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock)

“First look at GLADIATOR II: five mins of seriously ripped Paul Mescal, spit-talking Joseph Quinn taking over Joaquin Phoenix bad-guy duties, Pedro Pascal as reluctant authority figure, Denzel in mentor role, plus gladiators fighting sharks, rabid baboons, even a rhino,” summated The Globe and Mail film editor Barry Hertz.

“Joseph Quinn is truly vile and sinister in Gladiator II footage. We are not ready,” producer and host of The Movie Podcast, Daniel Baptista, wrote.

“First footage of GLADIATOR 2 is bloody and violent. Think original movie but put to 11. Denzel Washington looks fierce in it,” added Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio.

“Well, the first #Gladiator 2 footage was instantly the best thing I've seen so far at #CinemaCon. Every bit as epic and bloody as you're expecting. Just massive,” wrote Gizmodo reporter Germain Lussier.

Earlier this week, CinemaCon attendees spotted the poster for the film, which confirmed its title was indeed Gladiator II.

Its official tagline is a quote spoken by Maximus in the original film: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Gladiator followed Crowe’s Roman general, who ended up in slavery after the murder of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). The film received 12 Oscar nominations, eventually winning in five categories, including Best Picture.

Crowe, who won an Academy Award for the film, has debunked the claim he will appear in a flashback scene in the film, and admitted to feeling “jealous” about Mescal’s experience, stating: “I was a much younger man, obviously, and it was a huge experience in my life. It’s something that changed my life, really. It changed the way people regarded me and what I do for a living.”

Gladiator II will be released on 22 November.