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The Last Legion


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Link to our thread on King Arthur (2004), which begins with dozens of posts on other Arthurian movies too.

My review will come later; for now I'm just wondering if anyone can help me fact-check-wise.

This story takes place in "460 A.D." (should I just give up and accept that the illiterates have won the day and no one will ever make a movie set in A.D. 460 ever again?) but has some spectacular anachronisms. An evil Britannic tyrant lives in a castle that HAS to come from some later medieval period. And the Roman characters seem to come straight out of the 1st century: a significant character is a member of the Roman Senate (which, according to Wikipedia, did survive until the late 500s, but evidently wasn't very important at this point in history), and the young lad (played by Thomas Sangster of Love Actually, Nanny McPhee and Tristan + Isolde) who is crowned Caesar is told he is joining "the immortals" and so he asks whether he is now a boy or a "god" -- but wasn't Rome essentially Christian at this point? (The only REMOTEST hint of Christianity in this film is the tiny cross on the crown that the Sangster character wears at his coronation.)

Just for the record, the main Romans are played by Englishmen; the captain of the imperial guard is played by Colin Firth, who also co-starred with Sangster in Love Actually and Nanny McPhee, and the "philosopher" who pretends to be a magician/wizard is played by Ben Kingsley. And the main barbarian Goths are all played by Scotsmen (Peter Mullan, Kevin McKidd and, I think, James Cosmo). And the emissary from Constantinople is played by the half-British, half-Sudanese Alexander Siddig. Were the Romans and Constantinopolians -- which is to say, Greeks -- really so ethnically distinct in this period? Come to that, what exactly was the relationship between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires at this point? In this film, they appear to be completely separate political entities.

Incidentally, I got a kick out of seeing Pride & Prejudice star Colin Firth together with Bride & Prejudice star Aishwarya Rai, who plays a female Indian warrior who joins this merry crew. The first time he really sees her is when she rises out of a river. And I think I have heard that Firth was introduced in P&P rising out of the water too, no?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This story takes place in "460 A.D." (should I just give up and accept that the illiterates have won the day and no one will ever make a movie set in A.D. 460 ever again?)
Perhaps they could use 460 CE.
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Incidentally, I got a kick out of seeing Pride & Prejudice star Colin Firth together with Bride & Prejudice star Aishwarya Rai, who plays a female Indian warrior who joins this merry crew. The first time he really sees her is when she rises out of a river. And I think I have heard that Firth was introduced in P&P rising out of the water too, no?

This is why God made Peter Chattaway. So he could notice things like this, point them out, and leave me sitting here wide-eyed and bewildered at his powers of observation and recall.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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: And I think I have heard that Firth was introduced in P&P

: rising out of the water too, no?

Not really. That famous scene is fairly near the end, it's the first time we see him on his home turf and probably the moment that the camera first casts a romantic eye on Firth's Darcy. It's not technically Lizzie Bennett's PoV, but symbolically it sorta is. But she and we have met Darcy on several prior occasions.

Are you the only bloke in the world whose wife doesn't love this?

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Are you the only bloke in the world whose wife doesn't love this?

Dude, just because I bought the DVD for my wife's birthday (or was it Christmas? they're less than a month apart) doesn't mean that I myself have watched it!

Anyway, a search for "colin firth wet shirt" does turn up a few sites, regardless of where in the film this scene comes. :)

Darrel Manson wrote:

: Perhaps they could use 460 CE.

That would have the virtue of being consistent with the intended usage, at least! Even if there are no Jews or (apparently) Christians in the film for the era to be "common" to.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, one other thing: What are the odds that a Goth could read a Latin inscription?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh my goodness.

I've been having a blast skimming Wikipedia articles on these characters -- noting places where the film deviates from history (how can it take place in "Rome -- 460 A.D." when the teenaged Romulus Augustus actually reigned in Ravenna in A.D. 475-476? how can there be a Roman legion, even a "last legion", in Britannia at this late date when the Romans withdrew from that island in A.D. 410?), but also places where the film has at least an underpinning of history (the Goths demanding one third of Italy, the Eastern Roman / Byzantine emperor recognizing Odoacer as his viceroy instead of the Western Roman emperor that was deposed by Odoacer, etc.).

And now I discover that the historical Odoacer was an Arian! Which is to say, he was a Christian, albeit a heretical one (though according to at least one site that I found, he did not interfere with the workings of the Roman Church even after he conquered that territory). Wowzers. If even the "barbarians" had been Christianized by the time this film takes place, then it is all the stranger that the film never acknowledges the Christianization of the "civilized" Romans (let alone the Byzantines).

It would probably be interesting to contrast this film with King Arthur, which, according to the plot synopses I recently skimmed (I haven't seen the film since it came out three years ago, so my memory of it is a little dim), also takes place in the A.D. 460s and not only gives the Catholic church a substantial role in the story -- apparently even ascribing more temporal power to the Bishop of Rome than he would have had at the time -- but makes its title character a Pelagian heretic. (Incidentally, that film ALSO depicts Roman soldiers stationed at Hadrian's Wall in the A.D. 460s ... more than five decades after the Empire had withdrawn from the British Isles.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Apparently this film hasn't been screened for critics in the States -- though I saw it six days ago here in Vancouver. (There are currently only two reviews linked at Rotten Tomates.) I have seen this sort of discrepancy with at least one other European film whose North American rights were acquired by the Weinstein Co. Hmmm. Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
MattPage wrote:

: Are you the only bloke in the world whose wife doesn't love this?

Dude, just because I bought the DVD for my wife's birthday (or was it Christmas? they're less than a month apart) doesn't mean that I myself have watched it!

Hmmm, you mean you don't frequently return from being out to find the video is playing it for the 403rd time such that even though you've only watched it in it's enitity once or twice you still know the whole thing practically by heart? Weird.

Matt

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  • 3 months later...

FWIW, my review.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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  • 1 year later...
FWIW, my review.

Thanks, Darryl. I finally got around to watching this on DVD. Since I update my movie list for my Medieval lit. and Arthurian legends courses, I feel duty-bound to see stuff like this, even if it's not great (I drew the line at the Zemeckis/Gaiman Beowulf, however). As you, PTC & others have pointed out, the historical elements are wacky, but the stars are outstanding and the one-on-one scenes and some of the fights are quite good--Rai surprised me! I couldn't decide whether it was young Thomas Sangster's performance or if his character was "just written that way," but near the end, I was hoping young Romulus A. would turn out NOT to be the destined ruler, since Colin Firth's character was clearly worth 20 of him. The moral of the story: never work with children or dogs. Could have been better, no doubt.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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I couldn't decide whether it was young Thomas Sangster's performance or if his character was "just written that way," but near the end, I was hoping young Romulus A. would turn out NOT to be the destined ruler, since Colin Firth's character was clearly worth 20 of him.

Heh... Probably a little of both. It wasn't terrible, but just over a year later, most of the plot and characters have already escaped my memory...

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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