Movie Songs

What’s the Song in the Gladiator II Trailer?

July 9, 20242 Mins Read

“No Church in the Wild” deservedly topped the charts upon its original release, and has more than earned its legacy as a hallowed piece of 21st century pop music. It’s also hard to begrudge the “Gladiator II” marketing for going back to the song so long after its heyday, especially since it should theoretically work for the sequel. The dark, haunting lyrics allude to empires in decline and mere mortals forced to survive in a world where the institutions of faith and religion have failed them — themes that Scott has gone back to over and over in his films, and looks to revisit once more here.

Would that the “Gladiator II” trailer actually tried to tap into any of that. Instead, it singles out lines like “Blood stains the Colosseum doors,” which is undeniably applicable on a superficial level, but it’s also so on-the-nose that it mostly just makes you want to groan. The rest of the song simply feels like it’s been laid on top of the footage to make it seem “cool” to studio execs convinced they know how to court Gen-Z for Scott’s historical treatise, as opposed to being creatively integrated with the footage to bring out fresh meaning and richer emotions (like the “Logan” teaser memorably did with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” cover).

Weirder still, the trailer for a completely different Denzel Washington movie, Daniel Espinosa’s 2012 action-thriller “Safe House,” did a far better job of using “No Church in the Wild” over a decade ago. Period pieces are a difficult sell, no doubt about it, but this just isn’t the solution.

“Gladiator II” opens in theaters on November 22, 2024.

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