Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Last Legion

I found out on Thursday that my brother Jake was getting married on Friday. I guess it was a surprise for everybody, but not that much of a surprise. When I called my other brother Ryan on Friday afternoon to tell him about it, it was news to him too. So obviously I missed the wedding and the reception. I guess I was feeling like a party of my own, so I went to another movie.

This time it was The Last Legion, a film about the last boy-emperor of Rome, who fled to Britannia when the Goths sacked Rome. He fled in seach of the Ninth Legion - the one bit of the Roman army that might still be loyal to Caesar. I knew going in that it was a King Arthur prequel, with a character who turns out to be Merlin and a sword that turns out to be Excalibur, so the surprise twist at the end didn't surprise me. The rest of the movie was fun-for-the-whole-family fun. Neither a great historical film nor a jaw-dropping spectacle of hewing and cleaving, it was just a pretty-good adventure movie with a plot that wouldn't be out of place in the young readers' fiction I review for Mugglenet. Likeable, but not great.

The cast was all right, though. Ben Kingsley was effective as the young emperor's teacher, a philosopher who is also on a quest to find the sword of Julius Caesar which is prophesied to be invincible in the hands of a true king. Thomas Sangster is all right as the boy emperor Romulus, and his chemistry with Colin Firth is a given because they have worked together before(Remember the miserable Nanny McPhee?). Unfortunately, Colin Firth can't seem to put romantic comedy behind him. Maybe he took this job because the word "Roman" is in "romantic comedy." The way he acts in this movie makes it all but impossible to take him seriously as a tough old campaigner. I tried, I really did, but I was thwarted by the way the actor constantly reverted to a look either of good-natured imbecility, tongue-tied astonishment, or (whenever the leading lady was in sight) telling himself, "I'll never be good enough for her." Egads! Were there no manly actors who would have taken this role?

All right, calm down. Cast. I was talking about the cast. Well, there is eye candy for everybody, with the butt-kicking beauty Aishwarya Rai playing a female soldier of fortune from India and the stupefyingly handsome Rupert Friend splashing around in a fountain with his shirt off. Other familiar faces include John Hannah (of the late Mummy movies), Iain Glen (who played Richard the Lion-Heart in Kingdom of Heaven), Kevin McKidd (also of Kingdom of Heaven, though I always remember him as John Browdie in Nicholas Nickleby) and Alexander Siddig (who is doing more than any other ex-Star Trek cast member to put the Final Frontier behind him). Now Kevin McKidd would have done well with the role they gave to Colin Firth...I know. Let it go.

Hey, I just remembered: Siddig was in Kingdom of Heaven too. This must have been like a class reunion!

IMAGES: The principal players, including Sangster, Firth, Rai, Kingsley, Friend, and Nonso Anozie; Firth and Rai having a romantic-comedy moment while scaling the walls of Capri; McKidd looking like somebody you wouldn't want to mess with (but not as he appears in this movie).

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