Thursday night has been my night to hang out with the guys for I guess the last 16 years or so. Pretty much since I moved to Minnesota. For most of that time we've been a roleplaying group, but now that we've shrunk to just three people, we've been going to movies most weeks. This week we had a harder time than usual picking the movie.
Top of my list right now is The Bourne Ultimatum, but my pals have already seen it. And I wasn't that interested in the top couple of picks on their list. But even though it wasn't high on any of our lists, we were all intrigued by The Last Legion.
Not knowing anything about it except that -- like King Arthur, which I really enjoyed -- it apparently bridges Roman history with Arthurian legend, I checked out the trailer and decided that it was an action/fantasy flick rather than an historical epic. Good to know what box to put it in.
Wanting to know more, I read the IMDB Buzz on it where I learned that it was originally scheduled for release last January, but was delayed until now. According to IMDB, "the month of August is also known as the other month [January being the first one] during which studios may dump their supposed flops." They seem to think though that it is supposed to be an historical epic and compare it (unfavorably) to Kingdom of Heaven and Tristan + Isolde. Okay, so it's not supposed to be very good.
On to Rotten Tomatoes, where it's got an 18% fresh rating. Yikes! Out of curiosity, I read blurbs from the positive reviews and saw things like "Put yourself in the proper boy's-adventure mindset and The Last Legion's corny moments will just add to the charm" and "The many faults of The Last Legion give way to guilt-free popcorn thrills." Not high praise.
So, I figured, it's a bad movie, but enjoyable if that's the kind of thing you're expecting and looking forward to. And... my figuring was exactly right.
The Last Legion is horrible on so many levels. It sports a first rate cast what with Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, and someone who I thought the whole time was the kid from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but actually turned out to be the kid from Love Actually. Which makes perfect sense since Colin Firth was also in Love Actually and we kept joking about how we were going to have to watch for cameos by Hugh Grant and Renée Zellweger. Alas, Hugh and Renée didn't show, but we got the kid and we got Aishwarya Rai from Bride and Prejudice, so the romantic comedy contingent was well represented. Oh, and it also has Dr. Bashir from Deep Space Nine (who's apparently back to calling himself Alexander Siddig instead of Siddig El Fadil, which he'd switched to for a while). Correction: Mel Lowery from Siddig's Official Fan Site comments below that he originally went by Siddig El Fadil and then changed it to Alexander. She would know and I bow to her expertise. I guess I remembered incorrectly, which is entirely likely.
Anyway, unlikely cast or not, I couldn't have had more fun at this thing. Yes, a hearty band of heroes appear to walk from Italy to Britain in about a week without having so much as a parcel of elvish waybread to sustain them. Yes, the acting is mostly wooden, except for Kingsley who makes up for everyone else by overacting, especially in an hilarious scene in which he hugs, kisses, and all but makes love to British soil upon his return to that country. Yes, there's a scene in which a young girl reveals a crucial plot element by pointing dramatically at the camera and announcing, "It was... it was... HIM!" (That one had my brother-in-law and I rolling and laughing almost to the point of embarrassment, but really, the only people in that theater who should've been embarrassed were on the screen.) And, yes, as my other buddy said when a fuzzily CGIed villain fell from a cliff onto the rocks below, "The special effects really aren't that special." And, yes, Rome fell to the Goths because there were apparently only about twelve guys defending it at the time. And, yes, oh my God let's not even talk about the villain who gets points for choosing to cover his face with a mask, but zero for choosing one that looks like a frickin' faun.
If you're in the mood for a bad '80s fantasy flick in the style of Conan the Destroyer or Red Sonja (it didn't surprise me in the least to discover in the end credits that Last Legion was produced by Dino De Laurentiis; in fact, the world suddenly made a lot more sense), this is your movie. It's not Dungeons and Dragons bad. There are redeeming qualities to it. The fights aren't inspiring, but they're cool enough. And Aishwarya Rai sure is pretty. And... okay, that's about it. But damn did we ever have fun watching it.
Even if we have banned Ben Kingsley flicks now from Thursday Night Movies.