Sunday, November 17, 2013

the last legion - 2007

the last legion
starring colin firth, ben kingsley

i'm a sucker for a good old-fashioned historical epic and in a pinch i have been known to settle for a somewhat mediocre historical epic. which is about where i'd rank the last legion, a five-year-old movie that i was not even aware of until it aired on ifc recently. nor was i aware that it was a film that tackled certain aspects of the arthurian legend, a fact that only became gradually apparent as i was watching.

in some ways the last legion resembles king arthur, which predated it by about two years and both movies kind of resemble war movies that deal with conflicts that came along many centuries later. the resemblance is mainly in the fact that a motley band of warriors have gathered together to tackle one last big mission.

in the case of the last legion the motley band are the personal guard of the young roman emperor, romulus augustulus. the group is led by aurelius (colin firth) and not long after the emperor is sworn in (or whatever the correct term is) the goths decide to overrun rome and sack and pillage and do all those things that the goths apparently did so well.

while the goth leader is quite keen to bump off the young emperor he's persuaded that to do so would make him a martyr and would thus be a mistake. so he exiles him and his mentor ambrosinus (ben kingsley) to a nearly impregnable island fortress - the key words here being "nearly impregnable." because, of course, any motley band of warriors worth their salt can easily make mincemeat out a paltry challenge such as this.

at which point the gang find that they've essentially been sold out by the roman senate and they determine that their best course of action is to go to britain and try to hook up with that last legion mentioned in the film's title. of course, they're followed by a contingent of goths who are not so happy that the boy emperor and ambrosinus have been spirited away.

it's not really a spoiler to reveal that aurelius and the boys, with the help of that last legion, combine to kick the asses of the enemy, but i won't reveal what any of this has to do with the arthurian legend. i will say that it's probably not any more farfetched than some of other theories having to do with said legend.

i'll also say that the last legion probably wasn't a particularly good movie, but since i'm kind of fond of this sort of thing i might not be as objective as i could be. i can't exactly pin down what i didn't like about it although the kickass indian warrior woman who joins up with firth and the boys seemed particularly farfetched and gratuitous. i guess what i'd pin it down to is that the film had something of a modern-day action movie sensibility with all of the trappings of the early dark ages draped over it, if that makes any sense.

while i wouldn't go so far as to steer anyone away from the last legion i'd remind you that there are probably better choices in this subgenre, including the aforementioned king arthur and of course the granddaddy of all arthur movies - excalibur.