Gladiator II trailer: Paul Mescal muscles his way in with biff, bang and ouch

The Maynooth actor is all muscle amid the sieges, riots and killer rhinos as he channels Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s epic sequel

Paul Mescal in Gladiator II, directed by Ridley Scott. Photograph: Paramount Pictures

Wait! What? They are actually going with Gladiator II as a title? Most of us assumed the sequel to Ridley Scott’s millennial Oscar winner, which stars Paul Mescal, would end up as something like Gladiator II: Wrath of Anger or Gladiator II: Treachery of Betrayal. It really does seem as if they’re sticking with the plain square root of four (in Roman numerals, to be fair). Chatter suggests the budget ran to more than $250 million. You’d think they could have afforded a few words after the colon.

At any rate, a fair portion of that money is on the screen for this first trailer with Mescal featuring heavily.

The Romans themselves knew how to get the budget before audiences. It is said that Emperor Scottus Ridlium really did flood the Colosseum to restage sea battles and his contemporary descendant has, with the assistance of CGI, repeated the trick for an absurdly lavish centrepiece. We also get sieges, riots, killer rhinos and actual sea battles in actual seas.

The money shots most are eager to savour are, however, those that skirt Mescal’s well-covered ribs. Fret not. The muscles are all real. Most of us first got to know the Maynooth man as the sensitive, bookish hero of the TV series Normal People. He did get to show some physical aggression on the GAA field, but nothing there suggested that, just four years later, we would see him strain leather armour that would have hung loosely on Kirk Douglas or Charlton Heston.


“He got so strong,” Pedro Pascal, playing his main antagonist, said of him. “I would rather be thrown from a building than have to fight him again.” (Mescal V Pascal?)

Wisely, the trailer doesn’t spend much time outlining the plot. But we already know that Mescal plays Lucius Verus, former heir to the empire and son to Lucilla, a role from the first film reprised here by Connie Nielsen. Denzel Washington, taking a rare supporting part, plays a ruthless money juggler who, the Frank Warren of his day, runs a posse of sweaty gladiators.

Russell Crowe’s Maximus is, of course, dead. Or is he? The clips of Mescal find him talking in a similar neutral accent – gruffly juggling generic English and all-purpose Celt – with which the New Zealand-born Australian puzzled us all in 2000.

Scott and his team have, however, focused mostly on biff, bang and ouch in the first trailer. After much gossip about budget overages and production delays, the promo seems to have worked magic on deafened first viewers. Gladiator II opens in Ireland on November 15th. There is a lot riding on it.