Saturday, July 23, 2011

Video Review: "The Eagle"

This afternoon I had the good fortune to finally rent The Eagle (I had wanted to see it, but it was no longer playing by the time my birthday rolled around a short month later).  It stars one handsome Channing Tatum as Marcus Flavius Aquila and Jamie Bell (Billy Eliot all grown up!) as the Brigantean slave, Esca.  It's a bit of a slow-moving epic adventure that revolves around Marcus, a Roman soldier whose stationed at an out-post in the hostile Roman-occupied Britain.  When his fort is attacked by a local tribe and its Chieftain -- who may actually have been a Druid (that point isn't very clear) -- he and his men attack in turn in order to defend themselves.  Marcus is ultimately victorious and slaughters the Chieftain/ Druid, but is greatly injured when the Chieftain's chariot lands on top of him.  It is when he is recovering from his wounds that he meets a young Celtic slave name Esca whom he saves from a dishonorable death at the hands of an experienced Gladiator.

Marcus's uncle (played by Donald Sutherland) purchases Esca for his nephew; and, when the former Roman soldier realizes that he has been honorably dismissed from the legion on account of his injuries at such a young age, he contrives to head off into the wilds of northern Britain passed Hadrian's Wall in order to reclaim his families lost honor.  Marcus' father also served in Britain, and in a humiliating defeat the standard -- a golden eagle -- was lost, along with Marcus's family honor.  So, together the two set off in search of an artifact that had been lost over 20 years ago.

Along their travels, they forge a friendship, and eventually succeed in locating the Standard almost by happenstance when they engage a Scottish posing as a freed Celt with a his former master as his slave.  It is when they observe a Celtic warrior aristocratic initiation ritual that the Standard is brought out by the Chieftain/ Druid wearing an antlered head-dress and a golden mask with a feathered cloak.  It was this tribe who stole the Standard from the Ninth Legion and Marcus' father, and it was the Chieftain who took the life of Marcus father who was charged with the duty of leading the Legion further north.

Some of the good points of this film is the short scene early on when you get an eye-full of Channing's sculpted torso....sculpted simply to perfection!  Other than that, the settings of Iron Age Britain, as well as the Roman domiciles were breathtaking and almost flawless from the books I own dealing with Romano-Celtic archaeology depicting Romano-Celtic reconstructions.  However, the point that bothered me most egregiously was the fact that the film seemed to have sacrificed certain points of ethnographic accuracy for the sake of an easy film rating!  It is well known that the Celts' engaged in battle naked with tribal tattoos to give off a threatening appearance to their adversaries.  However, every single battle-engaged Celt was fully clothed.  This speculation was realized in a scene portraying some nude, headless and hanging bodies that dangled from a tree (likely a sacrifices to a Celtic sky-god!); as the camera panned the scene from various angles, the limbs of the otherwise barren tree were all seemingly strategically placed to obscure any sight of their posteriors.  And, I was watching the "unrated version"!

The film ends with Esca and Marcus traveling back from when they begun in Roman occupied Britain with the Standard; Esca having been freed.  As they walk out the hall of a Villa, their dialogue leaves one with the impression that this movie could easily have spun off into a television program, from the feel of it.  There were also a couple of troubling plot-holds in this film, such as the scene in which Marcus is fighting the Chieftain in order to secure his father's Standard.  he notices that he is wearing his father's ring and demands to know where he acquired it from.  The Chiftain immediately responds how he slaughtered Marcus father who was begging for his life.  However, if they did not speak the same language - which is why he brought Esca along as translator - than why did the Chieftain respond as though he knew what Marcus was saying?  There was also the fact that one of the young Roman politicians was an actor who's skill was simply abominable, as well as two well known Americans actors neither of whom seem to have even considered a dialect coach for this film!  I was also kind of bummed because the rumors over a homoerotic love scene between Tatum and Bell turned out to be fruitless.  Qu'elle domage...

Coda: When originally typing this review, I utterly forgot an early scene of interest to the Pagan viewer showing Marcus in his private quarters praying to Mithra before a bas-relief carving of the Parsee Savior-God (who was chiefly adopted by the Roman military) as he wafts and directs tendrils of smoldering incense over himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment