Make Nick Cave's Gladiator 2 Script, You Cowards

When it was announced that a sequel to Ridley Scott's 2000 epic "Gladiator" was actually going to be a thing, there was only one thing on my mind: What was it going to be about? I mean, Maximus (Russell Crowe) died at the end of the original, so what would a continuation even look like? As it turns out, it will center around the character of Lucius (Paul Mescal), now a grown man who remembers being saved by Maximus all those years ago.

Hm. While it's always cool to see Scott back in the director's chair once more, it's hard not to feel a little underwhelmed by this premise. Of course, we don't know the exact details of the plot, but it feels pretty elementary and in line with other legacy sequels that have preceded it. This is especially true when you remember that a very different and bonkers version of "Gladiator 2" exists, penned by legendary musician Nick Cave. According to the man himself on Marc Maron's WTF podcast in 2013, he was tasked with bringing Maximus back somehow at the behest of Crowe. As a result, he concocted quite a mythical plotline involving ancient gods, the underworld, and the slaying of Christ himself.

Unfortunately, Crowe ended up hating the script, and several years later, we're getting a more audience-friendly script penned by David Scarpa ("All the Money in the World"). Even though it's unclear whether Cave's script would have actually made for a good movie, we can't help but mourn what could have been.

Find him, and kill him

In Cave's version of "Gladiator 2," unofficially subtitled "Christ Killer," Maximus would have found himself in a purgatorial afterlife. At the start of the script, he's greeted by a man named Mordecai, presumably named after the peacekeeper discussed in the biblical Book of Esther. Mordecai tells Maximus that upon his death at the end of the first film, he has been chosen by the ancient Gods for an important task: Return to Earth as a reincarnation of his former self to kill a Christ-like figure named Hephaestos whose mere existence is a threat to the gods.

After Maximus agrees to hunt down this figure, he returns to Earth in the body of a dying man. Being able to get to Haphaestos and his followers is a difficult task full of danger and treachery, but eventually, the task ends up being done. Hephaestos is killed at the hands of Maximus, only for it to be revealed that he was Maximus' son the entire time. If you may recall, the name of Maximus's deceased son was never actually given in "Gladiator," so this twist would probably be more effective than one might expect now. "Gladiator 2: Christ Killer" then ends with Maximus cursed to live for eternity through humanity's armed conflicts, including the Crusades and the Vietnam War. Oh, and Lucius in this film would have essentially been Commodus 2.0 before dying at the end.

If you're morbidly curious, you can find the whole script here. It's actually pretty intriguing, even if the internet has oversold its bizarre qualities a little bit.

Seeing the heavens tumbling down

As previously mentioned, this was a pretty out-there idea and might not have actually resulted in the best film. After all, it's hard to judge a movie solely based on its script. However, what we can't deny is the fact that Cave's idea for a "Gladiator" sequel was full of thought-provoking themes and genuine passion behind it. If you are familiar with his work, you'll understand that religion and mortality are among Cave's most prominent influences, so their prominence in this script is far from surprising.

Ultimately, this is why the idea that "Gladiator 2" will be going into comparatively familiar sequel territory is disappointing. Despite the flaws in Cave's script, it was truly something unique. The legacy sequel has proliferated throughout Hollywood in recent years, often seeming more concerned with upholding a classic film's status than actually creating a compelling narrative continuation. While outliers such as "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" certainly exist, there are just as many that fail to amount to anything other than a recognizable character telling the audience, "Hey, you remember this, don't you?" In our nostalgia-obsessed landscape, being able to tell a uniquely well-crafted story isn't as important as riding the coattails of a pre-existing one.

I'm sure "Gladiator 2" will be fine when it comes out, and I believe that Mescal deserves a big headlining role in a major movie. But if the sequel ultimately isn't as big and bold as what Cave envisioned, we'll always end up wondering what could have been.