The 2010s in film have obviously been characterised by sequels and reboots, and it looks like the 2020s are going to be very similar. Literally any film that was remotely popular in the past is in line for a reboot or sequel. We have lost count of the number of Halloween sequels (and reboots), and Eddie Murphy looks suddenly busy again (albeit we are excited for Beverly Hills Cop 4). We recently saw a list of 120+ mooted reboots and sequels for the next couple of years. Incredible.
However, one film that never really looked ripe for a sequel was Ridley Scott’s sword and sandals epic Gladiator. The film ended pretty definitively; don’t you think? Main protagonist (dead), main antagonist (dead), protagonist’s wife and child (dead). It just seems a bit, well, inorganic.
But a Gladiator sequel seems to be on the cards, and, in fairness, producer Walter F. Parkes did stress the following, “That’s one we wouldn’t touch unless we felt in a way to do it was legitimate. We’re working with an amazing writer as well.”.
Film set 25 years after original
The film is said to be set about 25-30 years after the events of Gladiator, and will focus on the fortunes of Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), in the original. Ridley Scott is not going to attach his name to a dud (not intentionally, anyway), and there is some top talent involved in the script writing. Still, we remain a bit sceptical.
While Gladiator isn’t an historically accurate film, that’s despite having some real-life characters, it certainly feels like a historical film. And that’s one of the reasons this writer has difficulty in seeing it as a sequel. It’s as if Oliver Stone was to release a film called “Clinton”, and term it as a sequel to JFK. That might be a bit of a stretch as an analogy, but it serves to show how loose of an idea a Gladiator sequel might be.
The circle that’s difficult to square is that despite winning an Oscar and having huge success at the box-office, Gladiator doesn’t really enjoy the fandom of other epics. It’s very thin on merchandising, and the best we could find in terms of popular media is the official Gladiator slot at MansionCasino.com – a popular British gaming site. The point is that there isn’t the auxiliary world of fandom or pop culture referencing that can sometimes drive the call for a sequel.
Scant details of movie so far
If we haven’t been too forthcoming with plot details of the movie, it’s because we don’t have a clue. The producers have been very tight-lipped about everything. Ridley Scott is signed up to direct, but the film will not be produced by DreamWorks. Peter Craig (The Town, Hunger Games) is in as screenwriter, and that should give fans hope of something decent.
Is it fair to pan a film when we know so little about it? Well, we aren’t exactly dismissing Gladiator 2. It could turn out to be a masterpiece for all we know. But we have seen so many times before where a movie gets lost in the referencing of its past. Are we going to see Lucius battle in the gladiator arena? Probably, and that might be a visual treat delivered by Scott, but do we really need the same parallel story told again?
Of course, they might go in a completely different direction, simply setting the story of Lucius in the Gladiator extended universe (GEU?). That’s desirable and more interesting. But calling that a sequel seems like a bit of a stretch