The Last Legion
Directed by Doug Lefler. Starring Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai, Thomas Sangster, Peter Mullan, Kevin McKidd, Rupert Friend. (2007, PG-13, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 24, 2007
It has been too long since Dino De Laurentiis has managed a producerial credit on a truly epic film. You have to go back to Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness in 1992 to find the famed, occasionally reviled, Italian mogul's last, semigreat cinematic outing and all the way to 1982's Conan the Barbarian to trump Bruce Campbell's war against the Deadites. So perhaps it can be forgiven if The Last Legion's cruddy CGI-designed vision of Rome in AD426 looks like it could have been better served by a few decent matte paintings and miniatures. It's been a long time in the wilderness since the man behind Mario Bava's arch, pop-art Danger: Diabolik and the infamous sci-fi wig-out Barbarella affixed his family name anything remotely resembling a masterpiece, pulp or otherwise. The Last Legion is a wannabe sword-and-sandals saga that purports to be the kinda-sorta true story behind Rome's final Caesar, 10-year-old Romulus Augustus (Sangster), and his initiation into the blood and thunder of a dying empire via an extremely skewed reimagining. The script is pulpy enough to merit placement in an old copy of The Boys Big Book of Brawn or Thrilling He-Man Expositionary Tales. The film is furthermore saddled with a brace of stupifying casting choices – whose idea was it to cast Brit Firth as Caesar's pint-sized, sword-wielding savior, and why haven't they been pilloried yet? – that boggle the mind. Granted, The Last Legion offers guilty-pleasure fun in a cheesy, very De Laurentiis way (much like 1976's Mandingo rip-off, Drum), but, in the end, it's just not a very inspired or well-conceived film, despite Kingsley's strangely endearing turn as the proto-Merlin. You want a classic Dino De Laurentiis Co.-style epic? Then you've got to shop smart: You've got to shop S-Mart, baby.