Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal go into bloody battle in epic first 'Gladiator 2' footage

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LAS VEGAS – Are you not entertained? Well then, you haven't watched Paul Mescal battle vicious bloodthirsty apes and a charging rhino in a Roman arena yet.

The epic first footage from director Ridley Scott's sequel "Gladiator II" (in theaters Nov. 22) premiered Thursday during a Paramount presentation at CinemaCon – appropriately in the Colosseum at Caesars Palace – and didn't disappoint in terms of swords-and-sandals action and drama.

Mescal plays Lucius, a young slave who rises to become a champion, though Russell Crowe's Maximus (from 2001 best picture winner "Gladiator") is not forgotten, as Lucius views him as a hero. (Maximus' sword is even hung on a wall in his honor.) Denzel Washington co-stars as a power player who assigns gladiators to their fights, though has anti-authority leanings and digs Lucius' vibe. "Your rage is a gift," he tells Lucius.

Paul Mescal, seen here at the 2024 BAFTA Awards, headlines the anticipated sequel "Gladiator II."
Paul Mescal, seen here at the 2024 BAFTA Awards, headlines the anticipated sequel "Gladiator II."

Connie Nielsen returns as Lucila while Joseph Quinn ("Stranger Things") debuts as co-emperor Caracalla – an unhinged ruler who makes Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus seem sane and reasoning. The sneak peek showed Pedro Pascal as a conquering warrior returning after battle, and Caracalla wants to host some deadly gladiator games for his homecoming. But Pascal's character is weary of sacrificing young men to war, adding to a whiff of overall rebellion in the air.

In a video message, Scott promised the conference of theater owners that the sequel will be "well worth the wait. It’s possibly even more extraordinary than the first." Mescal, whose Lucius fights humans and wild animals alike, called working on the film "one of the standout moments in my life to date" and Washington added that it's got "emotion, action (and) spectacle unlike anything else on screen this year."

Coming soon: Edgar Wright's 'The Running Man,' G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover, new musical from 'South Park' creators and Kendrick Lamar

Chris Hemsworth and Brian Tyree Henry were on hand at CinemaCon to debut the first look at the animated "Transformers: One" (Sept. 13), which features Hemsworth and Henry as franchise faves Optimus Prime and Megatron in their early days before they were foes. (The cast also includes Scarlett Johansson and Keegan-Michael Key.)

Theater owners also got a sneak peek at "Sonic the Hedgehog 3" (Dec. 20), which features the debut of speedy new antagonist Shadow, and a freaky first trailer for the horror sequel "Smile 2" (Oct. 18), starring Naomi Scott ("Aladdin") as a popular pop star haunted by eerily grinning fans and friends alike.

Additionally, Paramount announced a bunch of projects in the works for release in 2025 and 2026:

◾ An untitled movie from director Damien Chazelle ("La La Land").

◾ A "Star Trek" origin adventure directed by Toby Haynes ("Andor") and produced by J.J. Abrams.

◾ A new take on "The Running Man" directed by Edgar Wright and featuring Glen Powell.

◾ A reboot of "The Naked Gun" starring Liam Neeson.

◾ A G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover movie.

◾ The musical "Better Man" by Michael Gracey ("The Greatest Showman").

◾ An R-rated, live-action adaptation of the graphic novel "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin."

◾ A new installment of the horror spoof "Scary Movie" franchise.

◾ An original musical by Kendrick Lamar and "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Gladiator 2' first footage: Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal get bloody