The Last Legion

The Last Legion (2007, PG-13) reveals the fall of Rome circa 460 AD and the birth of King Arthur’s mighty sword Excalibur, as one remaining legion of faithful soldiers attempts to gain victory and glory against all odds.

Swordfights, battles, sacrifice, loyalty and betrayal fuel The Last Legion, which tells the story of the last emperor of Rome: Romulus Augustus Caesar (Thomas Sangster), a 12-year-old boy who is a descendent of Julius Caesar. As invading barbarians besiege the crumbling Roman Empire that has seen the deaths of five emperors in five years, young Romulus is protected by Commander Aurelius (Colin Firth) and guided by the wizard Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley).

Another one of their entourage is female fighter Mira (Aishwarya Rai), who was raised in a warrior-family in India. Well-trained in martial arts and self-defense, she was recruited by the Spanish royalty and re-located to Constantinople. From there she was assigned to assist with the escape of Romulus from exile on the isle of Capri after his parents were killed.

Mira, Aurelius, and Ambrosinius along with a handful of loyal soldiers, were successful in the escape plan and deliver Romulus to Roman Senator Nestor. What the crew do not realize is that their task is not over yet, for Nestor is set to betray Romulus, leaving them with no alternative but to embark on a perilous voyage to Britannia to track down a fabled legion of supporters.

The majestic scene in which the small group is climbing over a high mountain pass will bring to mind The Lord of the Rings movie. After arriving in Britannia they are forced to confront a seemingly invincible Vortygn, whose main aim is to obtain a powerful sword – the legendary Excaliburnus. The end of the film portrays the events that lead up to the sword’s embedding in a rock, which makes it a prequel to the King Arthur legends.

The Last Legion movie was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, based on The Last Legion: A Novel by Italian historian Valerio Massimo Manfredi. I don’t really care that the movie isn’t historically accurate. It’s a historical fantasy meant to entertain, and as such it still gives a good feel for the time period. Filmed in Tunisia, Slovakia, and the UK, the gorgeous scenery is accompanied by a lavish symphonic score by Patrick Doyle, just like in the Eragon movie. As a fan of the Eragon soundtrack (I still enjoy listening to it, much better than the movie!), I was surprised to recognize a recurring melody, albeit brief, from Eragon playing in The Last Legion.

The characters in The Last Legion are interesting to watch, too, with Ben Kingsley looking a lot like Gandalf, and Colin Firth in a more action-oriented role than Pride & Prejudice. Aishwarya Rai, by the way, played the Elizabeth Bennet character in Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice. And if you’ve ever seen The Miracle of the Cards with Richard Thomas and Kirk Cameron, Thomas Sangster’s first movie role was the boy with the brain tumor.

Though The Last Legion wasn’t a blockbuster, it’s a fun movie to watch with suspenseful drama, action-packed fight scenes, innocent romance (no kissing or nudity), attractive period costumes, mild humor, and a relatively happy ending. This movie has a refreshing lack of overdone spectacle, magic, and CGI. I especially appreciate the fact that some scenes were purposely removed from the U.S. version of this film, so it would receive a family (PG-13) rating. (Although people are stabbed with swords and a bad guy gets his finger cut off.)

If you enjoy old-fashioned sword-and-sandal epics, and are intrigued by a mix of Imperial Rome and Arthurian England, you may find this an entertaining adventure…I certainly did!

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