The Last Legion
"Let's go measure our swords to see which one is bigger!" "Hey, this isn't Superbad, keep your sword to yourself."
For almost as long as there has been cinema, they've been making swashbuckling movies. Dudes with swords and damsels in distress, it's a genre that doesn't even necessitate dialogue because with a few key images we get the gist. The Last Legion is filmmaking at its most generic, and I don't mean that in a hip street slang sort of way. The genre is toga/sword action adventure and that's exactly what the movie delivers. While not a particularly original or artistic movie (and the last 20 minutes are a bit of a snooze), it is exactly the kind of grist in the mill that keeps Hollywood churning along and as a fan of the business of show, it seems pretentious to begrudge those involved with Legion their paychecks.
Scene: just before the fall of Rome. Thomas Sangster plays Romulus Augustus, the soon to be crowned Caesar of Rome. You may remember Sangster as the idealistic young romantic from Love Actually who wooed the Mariah Carey singing pre-teen by learning to play the drum set. Four years on, Sangster is a few heads taller but is just as earnest. He's like a hall monitor in sandals and a Roman skirt. Shortly after his coronation, Huns sack the city kidnapping Romulus and taking him to the natural water-bound prison of Capri.
Colin Firth is the Roman centurion Aurelius who leads the charge to save Romulus, while Sir Ben Kingsley plays Romulus's mysterious robe-wearing (that's how you know he's mystical) teacher. Poor Colin Firth, twelve long years have passed since the BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice but he's still pigeon holed as Darcy. Though being type cast as a little brusque and emotionally aloof, yet still dashingly hunky is hardly a tragedy. As his romantic foil, the filmmakers have gone surprisingly multi-culti casting the Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai as the warrior Mira, who predictably enough is introduced in a man's garb and then reveals her smokin' hot physique to Aurelius only after she's proven her battle skills.
On Capri, Romulus discovers a special sword forged for his ancestor Julius Caesar which contains special powers and with the instruction from Ambrosinus—who of course has been studying its mystical ways his entire life—Romi wrestles it from its hiding place. Unfortunately super sword or no, the Roman political tides have turned in support of the Hun invaders and our adventurers head North to find the last loyal warriors stationed in Britannia.
Blah blah blah, crossing the Alps. Blah blah blah, befriending the natives in their lush green Celtic paradise. Blah blah blah, appearance of evil Lord in Phantom of the Opera-ish golden mask who must be vanquished. Anyhoo! Full disclosure: somewhere in there I got up to use the restroom and completely lost the thread of the plot, so sue me. Regardless I will say, phalanxes are cool and even cooler is the opportunity to use that word in a review. Phalanx, phalanx, phalanx. One more thing before you go off to read all about phalanxes on Wikipedia, The Last Legion features a completely bizarre performance from Kevin McKidd, who previously was so wonderful on the HBO series Rome. Here he plays one of the evil Germanic guys and has the most ridiculous, yet strangely awesome, ginger-colored eyebrows and sideburns. When this movie hits basic cable, be sure to check those suckers out.
Oh by the way, the super sword? It was Excalibur. And Sir Ben the mystical teacher? Totally Merlin. Yup, it's a Roman legion/phalanx rockin'/Arthurian legend movie. Take that genre conventions! Booyah.