The Last Legion (2007)

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Released 30-Apr-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer-(02:06) 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0
Deleted Scenes-(18:35) 2.35:1, no enhancement, Dolby igital 2.0
Featurette-Making Of-(20:43) Good interviews with cast.
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(11:22) Fight Scene Choreography - rehearsal footage
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 97:22
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Doug Lefler
Studio
Distributor
Dino De Laurentiis
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Colin Firth
Thomas Sangster
Ben Kingsley
Aishwarya Rai
Rupert Friend
Peter Mullan
Kevin McKidd
John Hannah
Nonso Anozie
Case ?
RPI $32.95 Music Patrick Doyle


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

   

 "At the end of an empire a new legend will be born." 

    When it was released at the end of 2007, reviewers were generally unkind to The Last Legion, a Dino di Laurentiis production which blends history and legend into a potent piece of escapist adventure. More akin to Rudyard Kipling than the grandiose ancient history epic, such as Troy and Alexander, this is a film which entertains and exhilarates with its story of noble warriors, a young boy emperor's flight from ravaging invaders, and the birth of King Arthur's legendary sword, Excalibur. This is a good old fashioned film adventure.

   The time is 460 A.D. and the glory that was Rome is in its last days. Marcus Aurelius (Colin Firth) has been recalled to a threatened and failing Rome, made commander of the Imperial Guard and is resentful of his "soft" appointment. A young lad (Thomas Sangster) steals into Marcus's tent and is found fingering the warrior's sword. The boy is humiliated by the seasoned soldier, and is then rescued by Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), the narrator of the tale and tutor/mentor to the boy. We learn that the boy is Romulus, the twelve year-old who is about to be crowned Romulus Augustus Caesar, the last Emperor of the western half of the Roman Empire. It is the sworn duty of Marcus to defend the life of the young emperor.

    In an attack by the Goths, led by Odacer (Peter Mullan), the parents of the young Caesar are killed, and the boy and Ambrosinus are banished by Odacer to Capri where they are to be detained and guarded by Wulfila (Kevin McKidd). Aurelius journeys to release his charge, aided by a small band of supporters, one of whom is an Indian warrior, Mira (Aishwarya Rai). In a spectacular assault the small band free the two captives and rendezvous with senator Nestor (John Hannah) who is to assist them. Instead Nestor betrays the band to the Goths, and the band has no alternative but to flee to Britannia. There they are forced to confront a seemingly invincible Vortygn (Harry Van Gorkum) who has past dealings with Ambrosinus involving a powerful, fabled sword.

    Colin Firth is an excellent choice for Aurelius. At first it may be disconcerting to see the urbane Firth in Roman gear, but he gives a refreshing lightness to his dialogue and credibility to his dramatic moments. He is also extremely able in the physical demands of the role, and a potent partner for the romance with the very beautiful Aishwarya Rai. Miss Rai is admirable in the fight scenes and handles her dialogue very well. Ben Kingsley is powerful as the mentor/narrator and there is good support also from the final members of the brave band,  Nonso Anozie as Batiatus, and  Rupert Friend, a young man to watch, as his comrade Demetrius. As the young emperor, Thomas Sangster who was so impressive in Nanny McPhee, is excellent.

    Critics of the film have deplored the lack of CGI effects, but five hundred real humans battling away on screen are more dramatic than five thousand computer generated ant-like beings. I actually read one critic who lamented the fact that we don't see the spears and axes actually entering the bodies! I, for one, am sick of this "clever" depiction of violence. My reaction is just that, "Wasn't that clever!" I found the less graphic slayings in The Last Legion far more dramatic than the blood baths we have become accustomed to. Also interesting was the detailed depiction of the various assault weaponry used in the battle scenes. The makers have undoubtedly de-emphasised sex and violence with an eye to gaining a family friendly rating  and in this case it has been a commendable decision.

    Based in part on the novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, the screenplay by brothers Jez and Tom Butterworth is fast moving, literate, dramatic and  humorous. The ultimate blending of the historical and the legendary aspects of the tale are dramatically and emotionally satisfying. Dialogue avoids the stilted pitfalls of many ancient history epics, and hits a nicely positioned ground between "classic" and contemporary speech. Director Doug Lefler seems to have worked almost exclusively on TV series and here he handles the widescreen canvas of his tale unerringly, delivering exciting action sequences and telling intimate moments with equal dexterity. Technically the film looks and sounds tremendous with great European locations, authentic looking costumes, meticulous attention to detail, beautiful colour, great camera work by Marco Pontecorvo and an exciting majestic musical score by Patrick Doyle.

    The Last Legion is by no means a great film nor is it a reliable history lesson. It is a "good yarn" told with style and intelligence, in the old adventure tradition of Kim and Captains Courageous. Twelve-year old boys would love it - as would anyone who responds to a story of brave individuals embarking on a worthy but hazardous adventure.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is excellent.
    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
    The transfer is extremely sharp and clear throughout. Detail is excellent and shadow detail very good. There is no low level noise.
    Colour is quite magnificent, the subdued colours of the clothing and the glorious European scenery all beautifully captured.
    Skin tones are flawless.
    There were no MPEG or film artefacts.
    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles were sampled and were found to be excellent.
    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 74:23, between Chapters 13 and 14. The change is undetectable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is an excellent audio transfer.
    There are two audio tracks, English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.
    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand, except for the very last line of the movie. Spoken by Ben Kingsley, I had to play the line twice and still couldn't catch it. Finally I had to resort to the subtitles. Perhaps this was an aberration on my part, but this line escaped me.
    There was no problem with audio sync with the transfer.
    Patrick Doyle's musical score sounds magnificent - powerful, lush and rich, utilising the full surround capabilities.
    The surround channels were aggressively utilised for the entire film. Providing an enveloping ambience of sound, there was also extensive use of the surrounds for special effects, particularly in the battle scenes.
    The subwoofer was kept busy during the action scenes, and provided an excellent bottom to the auditory experience.
    
    

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

Menu

    The Main Menu is presented 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It is an imaginative montage of scenes from the film, all in sepia tones and accompanied by Patrick Doyle's stirring score.

Theatrical Trailer : (02:06) 
    Excellent quality trailer, with same image as feature but only Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 224 Kbps. There is one interesting line included which is not in the cut of the complete movie - spoken by Thomas Sangster as he watches his rescuers jump into the sea from the Capri battlements.

Deleted Scenes: (18:35)
    This is a collection of scenes of varying interest, presented letter boxed without enhancement, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 224 Kbps.


The Making of the Last Legion : (20:43)
    
 
    This is a better than average behind the scenes glimpse, with many actual "behind camera" views of scenes being shot, the tracking shots being exceptionally interesting. There is also some very good commentary from talking heads Colin Firth, Aishwarya Rai, Ben Kingsley and young Thomas Sangster, a lad who continues to impress.

Fight Scene Choreography : (11:22)
    
This is of very limited interest. Included is raw, uncostumed rehearsal footage in various settings, outdoors, in a rehearsal space and on set. The footage is presented 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 224 Kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of The Last Legion has these additional extras :

        Spanish subtitles;
        Deleted Scenes has an optional commentary by the director;
        Featurette : From the Director's Sketchbook : A Storyboard-to-Film Comparison;
        Feature optional commentary by director, Doug Lefler.

Summary

    The Last Legion is a throwback to former action/adventure classics from a simpler more idealistic time, executed with enthusiastic style and intelligence. The characters are interesting and the plot engrossing, with its mix of history and legend. Good solid entertainment that can be enjoyed by most family members. The entire film looks and sounds magnificent.
    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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