So, whilst I’m stuck here for the time being I thought i might do something productive, you know, whilst I wait for the hypothetical train out of dodge. Seriously… It’s been severely delayed. My challenge is to watch almost the entirety of British history on film, or as much as is possible. Hopefully, by the end I will be able to say something about it, not least that an awful lot of people in British history look like Michael Caine.
The first thing to do was make the list and construct it based on what films are available, what goes where according to everything else, conflicting ideas etc…. In the end the result was a list of sixty films starting with ‘Centurion,’ set in AD 117, and finishing with ‘The Queen,’ in 1997.
So lets start at the very beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start.
- General Opinion: Overall, watchable. Starts off well but lags a little in the middle.
- Review: A fairly run of the mill action film with lots of blood and gore that tells the tale of the destruction of the ninth legion in 117 AD. The acting is good- Not poor, but not brilliant either as none of the characters really jumped out as individuals. In terms of overall plot it just about holds itself together. The use of epic scenery to set the scene is done particularly well. The credits, however look cheap and amateurish and mar the aspect of the film ever so slightly.
- Rating: 5/10- Not bad, but not good enough to keep my attention for it’s two hour run time.
#2 The Last Legion
- General Opinion: What… The… F**k?
- Review: Honestly… The whole idea of this film is great. The idea of the last Roman emperor going to Britain to find the previously decimated ninth legion in order to save the Roman empire is a good one and has potential. This film should be done on an epic scale with high pitched, raging battles and stunning landscapes… What we get instead is Colin Firth, who really doesn’t suit the role of a Roman general, Lucious Vorenus from the ‘Rome‘ TV series pulling silly faces for the entirety of the film, Ben Kingsley doing god knows what accent… and an Indian Ninja Woman… YEP… AN INDIAN NINJA WOMAN!
- The film is far too short and plot heavy to be done well. More time should have been spent setting up on the whole ‘Vortigern scenario’ rather simply cramming it into the last half an hour. The battles are far too short and any part of the film that could have been done an epic scale just isn’t. And the less said about historical accuracy the better.
Rating: 3/10- As Ben Kingsley says at the end- “We still need heroes… Don’t we?” This film definitely needs a hero to save it.
#3 Tristan and Isolde
- General Opinion: Looks good, especially when compared to The Last Legion
- Review: It has some of the epicness that the previous film lacked and the battles are much better (If still a little on the short side). The basic plot pre-dates that of the Arthurian romances and generally holds up for most of the film, probably because those medieval types knew how to tell a good story. Too bad the same can’t be said for the acting. The title characters (James Franco and Sophia Myles- AKA Harry Osborne and Madame Du Pompadour) have no chemistry whatsoever and most of the supporting characters do nothing but whinge throughout. The accents are all over the place as well. Like it’s predecessor, this film deserves better. The problem is that it just never seems to get off the ground and as such, by the end I didn’t really care what was happening.
- Rating: 4/10- Not an appalling film, but not a good one either. I’ve seen worse.
So far then, on this journey through British history, we have seen a legion decimated, an empire fall and a country in the grip of a dark age… Now we face a huge gap of about four hundred years. The next film ‘The Vikings‘ takes us into the medieval era. Let us only hope the standard of film gets better.