Taking a stab at the legend of Excalibur, this production misses

The Last Legion

on August 17, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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Set in 476 A.D., The Last Legion opens as the Roman Empire is on the brink of collapse. Just as 12-year-old Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster), the last in Caesar's bloodline, is about to ascend the throne, the Goths demand recompense for their support of the Roman legions in the east. When they are refused, they attack Rome and banish the boy emperor to the island prison of Capri. Up until this point, the events depicted in the film are purportedly based on fact; from here on Jez and Tom Butterworth's script takes extreme license.

Aurelius (Colin Firth) and the surviving men of the fourth legion set out to rescue their adolescent leader and, when the Byzantine Empire rescinds their offer of sanctuary, head north toward the ninth legion, the last still loyal to the Empire, stationed in Brittania. Also along for the adventure are Romulus' shaman mentor Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley) and an Eastern warrior who, in the first of the film's many, many clichés, turns out to be the sexy Mira (Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai).

It's this non-relationship—at least in any real sense onscreen—that's most guilty of falling back on the familiar. With grrl power role models like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias ' Sydney Bristow and the upcoming Bionic Woman commanding their own network television shows, it's no longer eyebrow-raising to encounter a woman who can kick a little ass. Nor is sparring-as-seduction something we haven't seen a million times before.

This unoriginal picture also suffers from uninspired dialogue uttered by actors who are better than this and a jokey tone that would work if we hadn't already heard all the same lines in director Doug Lefler's television work in Hercules and Xena (another fatal femme, come to think of it). The battle scenes are unimaginatively filmed, sanitized—no death blow, albeit bloodless, is actually shown—and at times downright nonsensical.

Meanwhile, at the center of the tale is a mythical sword forged to “fit the hand of he who is destined to rule.” Sound familiar? It should. Once the little band makes its last stand in Brittania, their original mission is apparently abandoned in favor of the filmmakers' own take on the Arthurian legend—a stretch taken too far.
Distributor: MGM/Weinstein
Cast: Colin Firth, Sir Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai, Peter Mullan, Kevin McKidd, John Hannah, Thomas Sangster, Iain Glen, Rupert Friend and Nonso Anozie
Director: Doug Lefler
Screenwriters: Jez & Tom Butterworth
Producers: Martha De Laurentiis, Raffaella De Laurentiis and Tarak Ben Ammar
Genre: Period adventure
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence
Running time: 101 min.
Release date: August 17, 2007
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