I know, I know. The deck was stacked against it from the beginning, but I had hope somewhere deep down inside that it would still be kind of cool. The Last Legion doesn’t deliver the goods. I knew it wouldn’t be on the same level as something like Gladiator, or even the much lamented Rome from HBO. But I was hoping for something as entertaining as King Arthur ( a film that the makers of the Last Legion seem to have been excessively inspired by) and this movie just doesn’t measure up to even that pedestrian level.
Most of the problem has to do with the script, which positively oozes velveeta. I’m talking straight cheddar, pure cheese. I think the writer was going for the sort of grand adventure you might expect from a story about how the ancient Romans brought the sword Excalibur to Britain. At best, the Last Legion is lighthearted adventure B-movie that you wouldn’t mind laying out on the couch and falling asleep to on a Sunday afternoon. The production values are just barely enough to squeak by and carry it the Last Legion at least a little higher than the old Hercules series (which while not without a certain charm, was not feature film quality). It lacks the grit and the gravitas that made King Arthur stand out.
The story revolves around Aurelius, played by slumming Colin Firth. Aurelius is kind of a Maximus-lite, who finds his curiously multicultural detachment of Roman soldiers assigned to protect young Romulus, the boy Emperor of Rome. That is one strike against the movie. No sooner does his pre-pubescent butt touch the throne then the hairy Goths strike and take over the entire Roman Empire overnight. Aurelius is forced to rescue the boy and his mentor, an even more slumming-it Ben Kingsley, and help them flee to Brittania. Along the way they make friends, share a few laughs, kill some Goths and discover the ancient weapon Excalibur which was apparently forged by Julius Caesar. This is the type of movie where we are supposed to be surprised when a bad-ass Turkish warrior who is small and has been fully masked for about five minutes takes of her helmets and reveals a woman’s body. Spoiler! If You’re an idiot! Then, in case you didn’t get it, the Last Legion repeats the scene and changes the watchers from our hero to his loyal platoon. Will anyone be able to bed this wildwoman and develop a love interest with her before the final battle? Our man Aurelius just might be up to the task. She actually kind of hilariously throws herself at our British-Roman hero who seems oblivious, until he doesn’t. Do they get it on?
I won’t spoil it for you.
The special effects are suspect and the action manages to be both bloodless and excessive. Things move forward fast enough that you aren’t bored, but things fall by the wayside. On their way to Brittania, our wayward heroes go from seeking asylum to wanting to find the titular military force. Presumably, they wanted to use the Last Legion to fight back against the Goths and retake the capital city of Rome. But in the last act, a new villain surfaces who had pretty much nothing to do with anything that came before. The Last Legion goes on to fight this ridiculously and inexplicably masked villain and totally forgets about going back to Rome. I can’t blame them.
Maybe some day when this movie is haunting the afternoon line-up of cable channels you might want to give it a view, just to see the ending which is truly retard-culous. If there’s no golf on. And you want to take a nap anyway. But until those things happen, let it go.