Movie-Hype (#713) -THE LAST LEGION
Watching a movie like THE LAST LEGION requires a certain attitude. An inebriated attitude. The film is billed as a mixture of Lord of the Rings meets King Arthur. (Maybe Fellowship of the King or Lord of the Sword. Oooh, I like that one!)
In reality, we have a film that somehow managed to get a terrific cast and then have no budget. You cannot make a Roman/Arthurian epic in 90 minutes. Well, not a good one.
But don't let that stop you from enjoying THE LAST LEGION.
The time period is four hundred something. (I'm sure there is an exact date, but bloody well look it up yourself, and while you do, learn something about the fall of the Roman Empire.)
The child Romulus Augustus (played by Thomas Sangster, the love-sick boy from LOVE ACTUALLY) has just been crowned Caesar, the last one as it turns out. Odoacer (pronounced Oh-Doh-aaaa-ker, and I tell you this because I feel you should know these things) attacks and conquers Rome after Romulus's dad won't cough up enough tribute.
THE LAST LEGION is one of those movies where Rome, the mightiest empire of all time until recently (with Palpatine and all) is guarded by approximately 12 people. I personally have no problem with this. I believe the entire Roman army was no bigger than the average college football team. (This is why they called their best soldiers "Centurions," to make them seem like more people.)
Romulus Caesar's mom and dad are killed by Wulfilia (played by Kevin McKidd of Rome, who is threatening to become the medieval Keanu Reeves, in the sense that he has one expression all the time: pissed). Wulfilia points out that by killing this last Caesar his royal blood will be wiped out forever. A totally sensible plan, but Odoacer of course rejects it and banishes Caesar to the isle of Capri.
("I could kill you now, but why ensure victory when I can let you live to raise up an army against me later?")
If you haven't already, at this point you will ask your neighbor in the theatre (or possibly ask the character directly up on screen), "Why would you do that?" It's a good question. The only way you can get through a movie like this is to have your answer at the ready:
"Because they're awesome, that's why!"
I'm not kidding. You have to say it, and you have to say it out loud. You may get some strange looks in the theatre, but trust me: by the end, you'll have everyone saying it, as there are plenty of chances. (Note: this also helps when trying to explain the actions of your favorite politicians.)
Aurelius, the surviving "general" (and I use that term to describe a man who commands the hoard of 12 people which is cut down to 4 after the attack), is played by Colin Firth, who does that scowly thing women seem to love so much. I've never figured out Colin's appeal. What is it that makes women think he's so great? Am I the only one who thinks Bridget Jones would have had more fun with the philandering Hugh Grant?
Anyway, Aurelius goes to the isle of Capri to rescue the young Caesar and his half-crazy old teacher Ambrosinus, played by Ben Kingsley. (How does Ben get roped into these things? And might he actually be Merlin? Hmmmmmmm.) Of the three other men in the army (and I use that number literally), one is young and impetuous, one an old battle-scarred man who's seen it all, and then there's a giant black man that everyone loves, because Lord knows you can't have an army without one of those guys around to lift things and make "large black man" jokes and such, and of course if memory serves the Romans were fairly famous for not looking down on anyone who wasn't Roman.
It was about at the half hour mark that I realized I had yet to see Aishwarya Rai, often proclaimed the most beautiful woman in the world. I should mention that along with the army there is an Indian assassin with the group (from the Eastern Empire for some reason), covered head to toe in a tunic and helmet. Sort of an Indian Ninja, or (copyright pending) Inja.™
What? You mean the incredible fighter from India is really a woman? How did I not see it coming? How on earth did they ever think of such an avant-garde plot twist?
Because they're awesome, that's why!
Aishwarya may be coming to America, and if so, it's about damn time. The woman is phenomenally beautiful, something that still pictures just don't capture. (You-Tube her and see for yourself.)
What's fascinating about her performance is that there is absolutely no overt sex appeal. (That isn't to say Aishwarya, or Ash, as her friends call her, isn't sexy; she is. It's just that they don't try to make her "look" sexy or "act" sexy in any way.)
When we first figure out that Ash is a woman Colin Firth sees her come out of a river. It's an incredible scene, but there was something odd about it. I realized that underneath Aishwarya's wet tunic I could see no silhouetted curves or nipply protrusions.
Kaida theorized that they must have had to tape her down and had her wearing rigid clothing underneath the tunic to hide that body. Why would they do this? (Is it because they're awesome?) Actually, my theory is that the producers are hoping THE LAST LEGION will be big in India, where it's not considered cool to show a woman in any state of undress.
(One only hopes that if Miss Rai makes her way to Hollywood she will start hanging out with no-talent actresses like Denise Richards and Amanda Peet who routinely take their clothes off, and that they will be a bad influence on her. Either way, she's worth the price of admission just to look at her clothed. And Kaida, if you're still reading, you're obviously sexier and more beautiful, but, uh, you're not Indian, and you know how I feel about promoting multi-culturalism.)
So where were we? Oh yes. Aurelius rescues Caesar and the crazy old man. The boy has managed to pull a sword out of Julius Caesar's tomb, and decides they should all go to Britain. Why?
Because he's awesome, that's why!
Of course Britain (or Britannia, as everyone is so fond of saying. I felt like I would be asked to buy some encyclopedias) is a long way off, but luckily a montage comes along and they manage to ride horses from the isle of Capri all the way across giant mountains to Britannia in a matter of seconds. (The mountains look so much like the scene in FELLOWSHIP that I spent a fair amount of time looking for Legolas.)
Once they get to Britannia, they find the "last legion" of Rome, which has now become a peaceful farming community that will one day raise mad cows. There is a new bad guy to get to know named Vortgyn, who desperately wants Romulus's sword, is scared of the old man, and who wears a mask for unexplained reasons. Why do all of these things take place, and why introduce the central bad guy with twenty minutes left?
Because they're awesome, that's why!
Soon all that's left is the giant battle. But wait!
I totally skipped the romance between Colin Firth's Aurelius and Aishwarya Rai's Mira. Now I know why they got him. For a while he holds out (to protect Romulus or some bullshit), but soon realizes that Caesars come and go, but female Inja are forever. Or something like that.
THEN there's the giant battle. I will say nothing about it other than to point out that Aurelius gets a Braveheart speech ("But they will never take…our Roman/British accents!"), AND Ben Kingsley starts shooting fireballs out of his hands.
It's pretty cool, but it leads one to wonder: why the hell didn't he do this earlier, say, when Romulus's parents and all of Rome were being slaughtered?
(You know why.)
(Because he's awesome, that's why!)
All that's left then is for the boy to toss the sword 900 feet to land in a rock, but you knew that already. (Wait. Does that mean that Romulus will become the father of…oh snap!)
I realize I have basically just given you the plot of THE LAST LEGION, but I'm doing you a favor. If you're not worried about what happens next you can concentrate on getting your Mystery Science Theatre Groove on. Because trust me: this is movie you want to make fun of with your friends.
There are so many bad moments that it's best to start early. The film is cheerfully bad, and that's my advice on how you should approach it. Why?
Because I'm awesome, that's why!