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Film / The Last Legion

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"One edge to defend, one to defeat. In Britannia was I forged to fit the hand of he who is destined to rule."

Rome is falling, crumbling into disrepair. In the last five years there have been five Caesars, and every one was murdered. Now the title of Caesar, highest office in Rome, must fall to the shoulders of a young boy, Romulus. Scared, naive, and unprepared, he is barely on the throne for hours when the dreaded Goths descend upon Rome. Deposed and exiled, Romulus is rescued by a small band of loyal warriors, but not before uncovering an ancient sword and the prophecy attached to it. Pursued by the Goths, the heroes are led by the prophecy to faraway lands where Romulus must find his destiny.

An action adventure movie made in 2007, staring Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai and that psychic kid from Doctor Who, loosely based off a novel of the same name by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

This film provides examples of:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The last Western Roman Emperor is a boy.
  • Action Girl: Mira. She plows through an entire army of Goths holding Romulus prisoner. Apparently she became her culture's equivalent of a black belt at age fourteen.
  • Anachronism Stew: So many that it makes any history buff's head implode: square scutum shields, leather armour, lorica segmentata, using stirrups, armoured legionaries, early Imperial helmets, ancient Greek kopides, Pagan religion while both Romans and Goths had been Christian for over a century, and, most of all, displaying Rome as still the capital of the Western Roman Empire while the historical capital by this time was Ravenna - just a few to mention. The katar dagger used by Mira was actually invented more than 1000 years after the setting, and similarly, her fighting style, the Kalaripayattu, wasn't invented until the 11th century (it did have antecedents, but they weren't named like that).
  • Ancient Rome: Technically still counts, though it covers (in a heavily fictional sense) the final events of its history.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Wulfila to Aurelius develop an ever increasing contempt and then hate toward each other throughout their clashes.
    • Vortgyn to Ambrosinus are sworn enemies since before the events of the film.
  • And This Is for...: When Romulus finally takes the sword of Caesar and puts it into Wulfilia, he mutters the "my parents" variant.
  • Artistic License – History: It's Very Loosely Based on a True Story since the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire was indeed a boy who did disappear from history. But then it ends up being a prequel to the Arthurian Legend. Beyond this, numerous details on the nature of the Roman Empire during its twilight years (and for that matter, its hereditary nature or lack thereof) are unapologetically wrong.
  • Because You Can Cope: Nestor tries to reason with Aurelius that both can simply cope with all the bad things around - killing kids for political reasons included. He is proven wrong by a sword thrusted into his body.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Wulflia greatly overestimates his chances against Romulus holding him at swordpoint.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The eponymous Last Legion.
  • Big Bad: It appears to be Odoacer the Goth, but he disappears from the plot after the heroes give up Rome as lost, and his erstwhile second-in-command Wulfila emerges as the true main villain of the movie.
  • The Big Guy: Batiatus might look it and he uses a big sword, but he's really a Gentle Giant and the best fighter among the heroes is Mira.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Mira's signature weapon is a modified katar dagger.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The movie seems to go out of its way to avoid showing blood being spilled, including some rather ugly Jump Cuts to other characters reacting to a death when a blow is hit, then back to the original (now dead) character.
  • The Captain: Aurelius.
  • The Cavalry: The Ninth saves the day by showing up for the final battle.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Romulus ends up marrying Igraine.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Within the Western Empire everyone is trying to balance between their own survival, survival of the state and protection of the emperor. Eventually most Romans decide to simply team up with the stronger side and drop their own agendas.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ambrosinus, by the sheer virtue of being Merlin.
  • Cool Sword: The sword of Julius Caesar. Serves as the MacGuffin. Eventually became Excalibur.
  • Cool Mask: Vortgyn.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: After the Ninth Legion joins the fry, the battle turns into a mop-up of Vortgyn's troops.
  • Dual Wielding: Demetrius uses a pair of swords.
  • Evil Overlord: Introduced late in the film - Vortgyn of Britannia.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After Rome falls to the Goths, the Senate and an official of the Eastern Roman Empire secretly send people to rescue Romulus and take him to Constantinople. But later they betray the heroes anyway after recognizing Odoacer as legitimate.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The original Latin form of the prophecy, which is never spoken as is:
    "Ad defendendum ensis ad profligandum quoque Britanniae incusus sum illi qui regnaturus".
  • Going Native: Upon finding a prophecy that leads them to Britain, the heroes look for the Ninth Legion, presumably the "last legion" loyal to Rome. But they've settled down as farmers. What Romulus does too in the end. He becomes King Arthur's father.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Ambrosinus has a scar on his chest shaped like a pentacle, which adds to his mysterious air. Vortgyn, who gave him that scar, hides his diseased or burned face behind a gold mask. Wulfila gets his face scarred after Aurelius slams it onto his own axe.
  • Graceful Loser: Wulfilia nearly kills Aurelius in the final battle, but knows when to back off when Romulus points the sword of Caesar at his neck. He even takes the boy into his arms when the sword goes into his heart.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Happens to both Aurelius and the young Emperor Romulus.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Odoacer, king of the Goths.note  When Orestes seized power and illegally made his son Romulus emperor, Odoacer put down the rebellion and restored order. Odoacer then pardoned Romulus and sent him to live with his relatives with a comfortable pension.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Mira and Aurelius married after the film's events, as the final scene reveals.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Demetrius wields two kopides or makhairas, the curved cavalry saber of Ancient Greece that gave birth to kukris and falcatas.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: The guys spend a little too much time watching Mira tear through the opposition.
  • Ironic Name: Romulus the last Roman emperor was named after the founder of Rome. Truth in Television.
  • Keystone Army: The bad guys are easily routed once Ambrosinus waves the golden mask of Vortgyn at them.
  • Klingon Promotion: Odoacer becomes the ruler of Rome by force.
  • Lady of War: Mira, a female Indian warrior who's very elegant while beating every opponent she faces. She's also overall graceful and reserved.
  • Last of His Kind: Aurelius and three men are all that remain of their Legion.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The Ninth Legion appears in the movie, as the titular legion
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Vatrenus uses a sword and buckler.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It seems to be superstition, legends, and old cults, and maybe just a little bit of good luck. Romulus's mentor Ambrosinus is revealed to be Merlin in the last few minutes of the movie. Then again, his only magical act seems to be that he hasn't aged very much.
  • Oh, Crap!: At the crowning ceremony, Aurelius and his men are stunned to realize the "thief" they threw into a pool and nearly maimed at the start of the movie is their new emperor. Look closely and you can see Demetrius mouthing "we're dead."
  • Older Than They Look: Vortygn doesn't appear to have aged a bit since his first clash with a young Ambrosinus.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Aurelius goes by that name for most of the movie, until in one instance he reveals his full name is "Aurelianus Caius Antonius". Huh.
  • The Only One I Trust: After being betrayed by everyone, Aurelius declares that his small pack are the only people he still trusts.
  • Praetorian Guard: Aurelius is the general of the Emperor's bodyguard, comprising a legion. They're not actual Praetorians, though - those were disbanded centuries earlier.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: The night before the final battle, Mira goes to bed with Aurelius (probably thinking they might die on the next day).
  • The Prophecy: One attached to the sword of Julius Caesar. See the top quote. Originally it most likely wasn't a prophecy and just referred to him, but centuries later it is treated as one.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: For all that it matters, Mira could be a guy and it wouldn't change the plot at all. By having an Action Girl the film gains a lot of flair and swashbuckling vibe the book didn't have.
  • The Queen's Latin: The Romans and Ambrosinus speak with distinctive British accents as a way to represent use of Latin. Or because they are all played by British actors.
  • Race Lift: The Indian warrior Mira was an Italian named Livia Prisca in the original book. It seems like an excuse to cast Aishwarya Rai as an Action Girl in a historical epic.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Squad consist of what is left of troops loyal to the deposed emperor, said emperor and their two allies.
  • Rescue Arc: After Romulus' exile to Capri, Aurelius and his men are convinced to rescue him and provide safe passage to Constantinople.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The masked assassin they hire to bust out the last Romans? Aishwarya Rai.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Once Ambrosinus lets everyone know that he killed Vortgyn, his entire army runs away.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Mira gets into bed with Aurelius, then the scene fades out.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Vortgyn is better known as Vortigern.
  • Sword and Sandal: Technically counts, albeit it takes place at pretty much the tail end of the timespan that "Sword and Sandal" covers.
  • Token Minority: Mira is Indian, while Batiatus is black among otherwise all-Caucasian characters.
  • Token Romance: Aurelius and Mira. Their relationship stays in the background for the entire story, and could have been excised entirely without affecting the plot one whit. It doesn't make them any less cute, though, thanks to the adorable chemistry between actors Colin Firth and Aishwarya Rai.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The King Arthur connection is revealed immediately.
  • Translation Convention: All characters speak English and easily communicate with each other, regardless of their background and language they are supposed to use in that scene.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Mira is the only woman in The Squad and also the only person from far-away India.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Ambrosinus gives opening and closing narration, and this is invoked at the end, but probably just Played for Laughs.
    Ambrosinus aka Merlin: Arthur, Arthur, Arthur... Have I ever lied to you?
    Arthur: Every day.
    [Ambrosinus puts up a "okay, that's right" face]
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Aurelius and Mira have a lot of tension between them for most of the film. It gets resolved offscreen, and in the final voiceover.
  • Vestigial Empire: The film opens in literal final days of Western Roman Empire.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
  • You Killed My Father: Wulfila killed Romulus's parents.
  • Young Future Famous People: At the end, Ambrosinus is talking to Romulus's son who is the future King Arthur. Romulus also counts since he's basically Uther Pendragon.