King Arthur is half-Roman in this half-baked epic wannabe.
By Ned Jordan
The Last Legion is a fanciful take on the origins of the sword Excalibur and the Arthurian legends. I use the word "fanciful' because it doesn't have much regard for historical accuracy or staying true to the original sagas. In this vision of the story the last emperor of Rome, a preteen Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster), is crowned emperor the day before Rome is sacked by barbarians. He manages to escape the palace but is captured and banished to the island fortress of Capri with his tutor (Ben Kingsley). Luckily for them the loyal general Aurelius (Colin Firth) and his ragtag gang of former legionaries manage to rescue them despite the efforts of the barbarian guards. From there they set off to Britannia in search of the last of Rome's legions in the hope that they can march on Rome and restore the young Romulus to the throne.
Whether or not you'll enjoy The Last Legion will depend a lot on how you approach the film. It's about on par with those Saturday afternoon movies primarily shown on small local TV stations and watched by kids stuck inside on a rainy day. Watch it with a group of ten to twelve year olds and it will probably get a favorable reception (in spite of the PG-13 rating, the film is bloodless and sexless and really deserves a PG rating).
If you try to watch the movie through a critical eye, then you can't help but be at least somewhat disappointed with it. Sangster's Romulus is so devoid of personality and utterly lacking in leadership potential it makes you wonder why anyone would bother risking his life for him. The camaraderie between the legionnaires feels forced and unnatural, as do the movie's poorly choreographed fight scenes. The film's supposedly epic moments are all quite underwhelming, such as the sacking of Rome by dozens of extras wearing furs who simply come running out of the woods. The script is not very well-written and the few plot twists in the film and the revelations at the film's close won't surprise anyone. If you're looking for an interesting take on the Arthurian legends, spend your time with Excalibur instead.