The Last Legion (2007)

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The man above is the reason I watched The Last Legion. I adore him. Almost as much as I love Shammi. I didn’t expect much from the movie itself, and was not pleasantly surprised. Colin Firth injected some badly needed tongue-in-cheek humor, and was his usual eye-candy self; the film, I am sad to say, was predictable, melodramatic, cliched and really, really bad. But it had one—no two!—things besides Colin’s presence that I enjoyed, including—Aishwarya! She totally kicked ass.

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Once again (after Jodhaa Akbar) she proves herself to be good at action, eminently gorgeous to look at and very watchable with limited dialogue to deliver. The boy who plays the young Emperor (Thomas Sangster) is cute as a button too, although given more than his fair share of cheesy groan-worthy lines.

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Oh yes, and the sets and costumes were very good too. There was a lot of wasted potential here, mostly due to the abysmal direction. My sister pointed out that she would have liked to see what someone like Ang Lee could have done with it all. Me too!

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That is pretty much everything positive I have to say about the movie.

The story follows the newly crowned 11-year-old Emperor Romulus Augustus Caesar as he is ousted from his throne and imprisoned on the island of Capri by Goths. His personal bodyguard Aurelius (Colin Firth) goes to his rescue accompanied by a mysterious warrior lent to him by Rome’s allies in Constantinople.

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On the way, they rescue Aurelius’ men who were captured. All are astonished at the fighting prowess of the masked Turk. Of course “he” is really Mira (Aishwarya Rai), as Aurelius discovers the next day as she bathes (and emerges from the water in clinging—but opaque! clothing).

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She procures a boat for them all to use as transportation to Capri. Meanwhile, Ambrosius (Ben Kingsley), who is Romulus’ mentor and a magician to boot, is with Romulus in his fortress prison.

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It was built by the Emperor’s ancestor, Tiberius. Ambrosius is strung up to hang by his hands by a sadistic Goth captor. From this height he sees a pentangle (star symbol) and realizes that the sword Tiberius had hidden must be hidden here. He tells Romulus to look for it in the chapel.

Meanwhile, Aurelius, Mira and the men have arrived below the fortress. Aurelius and Mira climb the steep rock wall towards the fortress while his men take the longer traditional road. Aishwarya is a good “straight man” for Colin, being always very serious. She tells him on the way up that she is from Kerala and learned to fight in a traditional south Indian method of martial arts (could not catch the name).

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Ambrosius, still hanging from his tied wrists, sees them climbing and realizes help is on the way. He manages to free himself and knocks out the two guards on duty by the wall. Romulus has found the sword Excaliber (yes, the very same that King Arthur yanks out of a rock several centuries later). The Goths are tackled by Mira and Aurelius until all the others arrive. They are amazed to see how many people Mira has done away with on her own (not very enlightened perhaps but it WAS only the 5th century BC).

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Anyway, they eventually escape the Goths and make their way to where a Roman Senator named Orestes (John Hannah) is waiting to escort young Romulus to Constantinople. But Orestes, along with Mira’s commander, has betrayed them, and the Romans turn on our little band. More fighting, blah blah. Once this lot is vanquished, Aurelius and Ambrosius decide to head for Britannia, where the Ninth Legion of Roman soldiers is headquartered. All the local Legions have been defeated and scattered by the Goths. They hope that the Ninth Legion will be able to help them regain Rome. Off they go, across Europe!

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Alas, another old enemy of Ambrosius—who longs to possess Excalibur—awaits them. The Roman Legion no longer rules Britannia. Can they overcome the odds?

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Well, you will have to watch it to find out if they succeed. It’s a classic fantasy-quest plot. I couldn’t help comparing it to The Beastmaster, which I love. That movie—by no means good—has a cult following for the simple reason that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The hackneyed dialogue isn’t so difficult to take because you know it’s all in fun. That’s not the case here, unfortunately.

Either the director of Last Legion was asleep most of the time, or he didn’t know what he was doing (possibly both, but I suspect the latter). I tortured myself further with the “Making Of” feature, where he explained that his vision was to “ground” the historical legend of the last Emperor of Rome in “personal stories.” But oops! if those stories were ever there, they were completely edited out. There is very little in the way of anything personal. It’s almost impossible to hear a great deal of the dialogue and the plot skitters along at a breakneck speed, making it very difficult for the viewer to invest much if anything in any of the characters or feel more than a passing moment of tension. It’s disappointing.

But Colin and Aishwarya are….pretty. Verrrrrry pretty.

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12 Comments to “The Last Legion (2007)”

  1. Maybe I caught the movie at the wrong times- I saw pieces of it as I did chores, and therefore maybe missed crucial aish scenes- cos my opinion varies from you in that I found her v wooden! No doubt I had walked away from the TV when she was belting it all out :S

  2. You must have caught her delivering dialogue, not fighting. She was great when she was fighting :-)

  3. You’re looking… green, very green.

    Was the martial arts Kalarippayattu?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalarippayattu

  4. Yes! Thank you, I believe that was it :-)

  5. I see only one good reason for watching this film: Aish and Colin… :)

  6. thats it! i watched the movie for aish, and every time she opened her mouth i wanted to kill myself- should have sat thru the whole thing with patience. ah well…

  7. If I ever watch it again, I will fast forward through everything except Colin :-) He is so dreamy.

  8. good post…didn’t watch the film..I guess I will have to now for aish…she looks fab in those snaps :P

  9. Yes, I have to agree that Ash kicked ass – her acting for me was totally unremarkable, but her fighting rocked! (and of course she looked lovely)…. As for the film itself, all I can say is that there are few crimes more heinous than wasting Colin Firth’s phenomenal err… ‘Colin-ness’ (hotness doesn’t quite cut it, he’s better than hot) on a crappy, eminently forgettable production, and I am still mad at the film-makers for doing so! (for I do so love him). I guess I should direct my anger towards Mr. Firth for doing this film, but I can’t help but think he expected things to turn out better.

  10. Memsaab, Aishwarya does look gorgeous in these photos. I think she comes into her own playing historical/mythical roles. The martial arts form from Kerala is kalari.

  11. I think Colin Firth did expect it to be better, and it so easily could have been. Alas!

    But I have no quibble with the cinematographer, and Aishwarya certainly should’t either :-)

  12. Hi Memsaab,

    It is amazing, isn’t it, that we can watch a film only for the fleeting features of one or two representatives of the human race (out of 6 billion), features for which we would be rather embarrassed to say what actually distinguishes them from the rest of humanity…
    I have become more and more sensitive to that contradiction, and I must say that a few unwatched Aishwarya movies still lie in my DVD boxes because of this. Why should I spend another three hours looking at that gorgeous face – again – if the story’s really not going to be anthing more than a showcase for her face? Well, frankly, what’s amazing is that even though I have no answer to that question, the trouble is one day, I know I will watch those movies. That’s how we are!
    cheers!

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