The Last Legion (2007)
Directed by: Doug Lefler
Premise: In the final hours of the Roman Empire, Roman military leader Aurelias (Colin Firth) leads a mission to protect the preteen Caesar Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster) and combine forces with the last remaining Roman legion to make their final stand.
What Works: At its best, The Last Legion is a fun, swashbuckling adventure like Jason and the Argonauts or the original Pirates of the Caribbean. The characters are mostly likable, especially Ben Kingsley as Ambrosinus, the mentor of the young Augustus. He brings humor and wisdom to the role in much the same way Alec Guinness did in the original Star Wars. Also likeable are Colin Firth as Aurelias and Aishwarya Rai as Mira, and the two have a very nice, PG-rated romantic subplot. The action scenes are full of bloodless carnage that is made to be exciting rather than revolting and in general the film does not take itself too seriously, pausing along the way to deliver some welcome laughs.
What Doesn’t: The Last Legion is confused about whether it is attempting to be a serious historical piece like Braveheart or Gladiator or a light fantasy entertainment like Pirates of the Caribbean. The film keeps shifting from one to the other, and does so very ungracefully. The conclusion of the film completely disrupts the narrative, attempting to link the end of the film to the future adventures of King Arthur. Despite a promising opening, the young Caesar is never given opportunities for growth as a leader and he is constantly relegated to the sidelines. No character in the film emerges as an interesting protagonist, just an ensemble of mildly amusing warriors. The Last Legion also suffers from a lack of a coherent antagonist. The film keeps introducing new villains in every act of the story and most come off more as professional wrestlers than villainous warlords of the early Dark Ages. As a period piece, The Last Legion does not look very good either. The beards on the men look do-it-yourself Halloween makeup, the costumes are not very convincing, and the sets lack scope.
Bottom Line: For better or worse, The Last Legion is very reminiscent of 2004’s King Arthur in style and in quality. A few might be amused by the action and adventure, especially those who enjoyed films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but there is too much that is sub par in The Last Legion to recommend it.
Episode: #154 (August 26, 2007)