Wednesday, May 8, 2013

'The Last Legion' (2007) movie review

From 'The Last Legion' Wikipedia page:

The Last Legion is a 2007 film directed by Doug Lefler. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and others, it is based on a 2003 Italian novel of the same name written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It stars Colin Firth along with Sir Ben Kingsley and Aishwarya Rai, and premiered in Abu Dhabi on April 6, 2007.

The film is loosely inspired by the events of 5th century European history, notably the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. This is coupled with other facts and legends from the history of Britain and fantastic elements from the legend of King Arthur to provide a basis for the Arthurian legend.


First it should be noted that this movie is much more along the lines of fantasy-history; and I liked it in that vein. I don't know how to review this without bouncing a back and forth between things that I liked and things that I thought were developed via "creative license" (i.e. "inaccurate"). I usually don't like to be so subjective, but I can't help it this time. It starts out in 460 AD Rome, during an unstable period during the late stages of the empire. This movie is strongly "pro-Rome." I realize that it may have been necessary to make it that way to keep it within the fantasy-lore genre that it fits into; so I turned a blind-eye to that part of it and just enjoyed it on that level. On a scale of four stars, I would give it an objective two to two-and-a-half-stars because it moved along nicely and would keep the audience's attention. I should add that the vast majority of movies about ancient Rome neither glorify nor condemn the empire.

This movie makes a very clear distinction between "good guys" and "bad guys." The Romans and their allies are "good"; and the Goths and their allies are "bad." The Romans usually wore red and brownish leather uniforms, short hair, and had that noble look about them; while the Goths wore black or dark colors, animal skins, long hair, and horned helmets... and looked bigger, meaner, and were more ill-intentioned than the Outlaws motorcycle club. The movie starts out with the ruler of the Goths demanding one-third of Italy (presumably the north) for having helped them... beyond what they had been promised. Shortly thereafter, the Goths attacked Rome and the imperial palace. I should add that the graphics, as far as the backgrounds featuring Roman architecture and the like, was very good.

The main protagonist was a twelve-year old boy who was the heir to the throne, named Romulus Augustulus. Without giving away anything, the milieu of "good guys" quickly develops around him as chaos ensues in the region. The eastern empire abandons them and they're left to fend for themselves. British actor Thomas Sangster played the role well and was believable, without overacting. His mentor was a Druidic wizard from Britannia named Ambrosinus, played by Ben Kingsley. I've never been that crazy about his acting, but he fit well into this role. Among the milieu of protagonists were the boys' guardian, a Roman general named Aurelios (Colin Firth); and a fantasy warrior-princess type of character from India named Mira (Aishwarya Rai). She was just dropping big burly Goths right and left, which sort've drove the point home.. "fantasy loosely based on history."

Much of the plot revolves around the prized "sword of Caesar"--Julius Caesar if I understood it correctly--a magical-prophetic sword crafted after Caesar's campaign in Britannia. I recall that the sword had a symbol on it called in the movie a "pentangle," a pentagram with a circle around it, but slightly within the outer points. It was portrayed as a Druidic symbol in the movie, and appeared in various forms in a number of points during the film. There was a scene later in the movie in northern Britannia, where a Druidic circle of tall lean standing stones was portrayed; and that particular pantangle was carved into the rocky surface inside of them. One of the ironies is that the Romans had destroyed the Druids and their culture in Britannia and Gaul. Although "Druidry" wasn't specifically mentioned I don't believe, dragon symbolism and the term "keepers of the faith" were tied to what appeared to be a type of priesthood.

Towards the end of the film, the activity shifts to northern Britannia at Hadrian's Wall, where the exiled group seeks out the lost ninth legion of the Roman army (called the "Dragon Legion" in the film) for support. Even though the wall itself is a clear symbol of Roman Imperialism, a theme of the inherent goodness of "Roman Law and Order" was portrayed against the evil forces of apparent anarchy in the form of the army of the warlord Vortigern. The group does find what is left of the ninth legion, and as the battle ensues as the familiar Goth crowd finally shows up on the scene. Aurelius even gives a "Braveheart speech" before the battle. Finally, without giving away too much, surprise happenings tie these events to later English history. I can't tell anymore without giving it all away. Basically, I liked it. It wasn't intended to be taken really seriously, and it flowed along quickly and smoothly.


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