Arthur Started in Rome

The Last Legion

Taglined “Before King Arthur, There was Excalibur,” it has a lot of familiar faces. Colin Firth (King’s Speech, What a Girl Wants, Bridget Jones’ Diary) stars as Aurelius, Ben Kingsley (He was Nizam in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) is Ambrosinus, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (we just saw him as young Tristan in Tristan and Isolde) is Romulus, the last Caesar; and so many other faces that we’ve seen in historical and fantasy movies; and a lot apparently end up in Game of Thrones [I really need to see that show] While the movie starts in Rome (and I am horrible with Roman names, they all sound the same), it does end in Britain.

Ben Kingsley’s voice explains during the opening of the movie that years ago, legend has it a sword was forged for Julius Caesar, then hidden by his descendant Tiberius. Those who bear the sign of the pentangle guard its secret, searching for the righteous man to bear it. Rome lies in a precarious situation, a new emperor is due to be crowned and the Goths are demanding compensation for their work for the Empire. Romulus, who we think is just a boy running about the streets, is actually the new Emperor; he has Caesar’s blood running through him. His father is controlling and dismisses his teacher, Ambrosinus once Romulus is crowned. Aurelius is charged as the leader of the boys’ personal guard. The Goths attack and overrun Rome one evening. Most of Aurelius’s men are killed, as are Romulus’s parents. The boys is brought before the Goth’s leader and luckily Ambrosinus is able to make an argument to keep them alive.

Now Aurelius must first rescue his men, then his emperor. He has an ally with the Constantinople envoy, who sends one of his guards to help. Romulus will be granted sanctuary in the East. Aurelius is surprised to discover during a fight that the guard is actually a woman, Myrah. While on the island, Ambrosinus recognizes pentangles and sends Romulus after the sword. A plaque at a statue of Tiberius states “One edge to defend, one to defeat. In Britannia was I forged to fit the hand of he was born to rule.” Aurelius, Myrah, and a few loyal Romans rescue Romulus and Ambrosinus and meet up with the envoy, only to discover that everyone else has thrown their lot in with the Goths. There is no safe haven for the boy in the East. The small group manages to escape once again and head for Britain, hoping to find the lost ninth legion and gain allies. They’re followed by Wulfa and his men.

Hadrian’s Wall, a monument to Roman law and order is deserted. The remnants of the ninth legion have integrated with the Celts. They’re no longer soldiers, they’re farmers and have to contend with Vortigyn. Rome abandoned them, so they abandoned Rome. The Goths meet with Vortigyn, informing him of the sword. He is familiar with the blade; in exchange for the boy, Vortigyn gets the sword, and Ambrosinus (there’s a continued flashback of Vortigyn branding a younger Ambrosinus with the pentangle [fun fact: the young man is Ben Kingsely’s son]).
last legion

The Romans start to settle in with the others living at Hadrian’s Wall. Romulus becomes friends with a young Ygraine. A little family starts to develop between Myrah, Aurelius, and Romulus. Then Ygraine is grabbed by the Goths and watches a family (her family? Not terribly clear) die and sent back to the village to inform them that Vortigyn wants Romulus. It is decided there will be one last battle to decide the matter. Aurelius convinces some of the legion to join him and they fight under the Red Dragon banner. They’re vastly outnumbered but fight anyways, eventually reinforced by the rest of the ninth. Romulus decides it’s a fine time to wander about; I don’t think he was really prepared for the battle. Aurelius is wounded defending the boy, using Caesar’s sword. Romulus picks up the sword when it’s knocked away and stabs Wulfa for his parents’ deaths. Romulus charges Aurelius to live; he fought like a dragon. The man tells the boy that he fought like the son of a dragon. Romulus declares, no more blood; no more war, and throws the sword. It lands in a stone.

Years pass and an older Ambrosinus is walking with another young boy, telling him the story of the last legion’s battle. Romulus took on the name “Pendragon,” meaning son of a dragon; and he was raised by Aurelius and Myrah. Pendragon is the boy’s father and his mother is Ygraine. Ambrosinus took back his Celtic name, Merlin. Indeed, the boy is Arthur. The film closes on a close up of the sword, only the letters “E. S. CALIBVR” visible: Excalibur.

Some of the effects are painfully obvious C.G. Why is it that if there is a woman, there must be a relationship? Can she not simply be a female warrior, like a man? Overall, the movie is passable, nothing spectacular. I like how it was tied in with Rome; but the story is a British legend.

Up Next: King Arthur (2004)

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