The Last Legion
DIRECTOR: Doug Lefler | WRITERS: Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth, Carlo Carlei, Peter Rader, Valerio Manfredi | CAST: Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Thomas Sangster, Aishwarya Rai, Peter Mullan, John Hannah, Rupert Friend | UK
The Last Legion is a thoroughly silly De Laurentiis historical fantasy-adventure flick of a type common in my childhood but which are now seen almost exclusively on television. The story here attempts to establish King Arthur as a direct descendant of Julius Caesar by way of Romulus Augustulus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Anachronisms abound, the geography is seriously loopy, the sets and costumes and general feel of the movie are reminiscent of Xena: Warrior Princess, and the casting is wildly improbable: Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy as Roman general, Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai is a ninja from Kerala in the employ of the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire but she acts like a Bond Girl, Ben Kingsley is Willie Nelson. Doug Lefler is credited with directing the film because I suppose someone did, not that you’d know it, and the screenplay feels as if it had been similarly thrown together. I especially enjoyed the nods to everything from Shakespeare’s Henry V to Planet of the Apes and, most thrilling of all, to that masterpiece Zardoz. Just as “Zardoz” derives from the half-erased title The Wizard of Oz, so too does the sword Excalibur derive its name from half-obscured words engraved on Julius Caesar’s sword, for wouldn’t you know it, Excalibur is Julius Caesar’s own sword forged in Britannia.
But who cares? The movie is a harmless bit of fluff.