IT'S BEEN a helluva a week. Helluva week, and it's only Wednesday. One of those weeks when all the small stuff just kinda piles up together, more or less all at once, so that dealing with the everyday details while juggling with unexpected minor emergencies makes it nigh on impossible to get anything done, or, more importantly, to feel
like you're getting anything done, which is a feeling so dispiriting, so demoralizing, as to make it impossible to get anything done. So today I decided lunch would be something painfully simple. Just Ramen. No eggs, no onions, no soy or hot sauce. Just a bowl of noodles and broth. Amen.
(The water in the bottle isn't even genuine Crackwater(TM). Just a leftover bottle used for consumption. As I realized years ago, the reason I like bottled water is really that I like drinking water from a bottle. It appeals to my Roman nature: I like things in large quantities. When I drink water, I like to take it in deep swallows, large, wet gulps. I can't seem to do that as well with a glass as I can from the apperture of a bottle. Which, oddly, reminds me:
"Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth;
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind."
Wallace Stevens. He's been coming up alot of late.
Which brings us to the film of the day.
I tried this thing a couple of times before, having caught it a half hour or better into the running time, and immediately getting ham-strung by one silly detail or another. Today, though, the stars were aligned: this started right after something else I had been watching was over, so I clicked in right at the opening shot. Now, I am on record as not having alot of tolerance for things that play ducks and drakes with history, but from the get-go, it was pretty clear that this film-- and, I am guessing, the Italian novel it's based on-- takes five and a half pieces of well-known facts about the Roman empire, slings them into an envelope of time between the fall of the empire and the beginning of the dark ages, name-checks Constantinople, assumes a can-opener, and, with that, is off and running. The Wikipedia article on it opens up with three-- three!!!-- of their oh-so-adorable "Wait! This article might not accurately reflect the actual historic record!" warnings. Ya gonna watch this thing? Huh? Ya Gonna? Ever? Then stop reading now.
The middle warning-- nah, wait. Let's start with the other two, which are actually more adorable. The top one suggests this article could use more sources. Sources on what? Sources on the validity of fictitious bullshit? Who, Umberto Ecco?* The third one actually suggests that the article might benefit from the attentions of those schooled deeply in military history, which is mind-boggling ridiculous. This thing is less militarily reflective that Braveheart
. (Which sucks. Yes, it really does. None
of that bullshit happened. NONE. AT ALL.
But the middle one actually has the temerity to suggest that the article might benefit from the scrutiny of those scholars engaged in Wikipedia's ongoing King Arthur project.
You got that? Roman legions? King Arthur? Wait for it. It's totally worth it.
So the flick opens up with a big exegesis explaining that the empire is in troubled times and this legion and its legionairres have been called back to Rome for the coronation of Romulus Augustus. (Don't bother. Ain't worth it.) We then cut to Colin Firth and his warriors tidying up after their return from the vast regions where they have been battling to safeguard the empire's boundries. My early temptation was to start this by referring to Firth as the working man's Liam Neeson, which might or might not be fair, depending largely on how Colin feels about Liam. (I happen to think he's a ham who got lucky, but that's just me.) We then get young Thomas Sangster-- The Sangster!-- as the young Emperor Romulus, first seen mistaken as a common street urchin-- delicious with nori, by the way-- accused to attempting to steal Aurealius's sword-- that's Firth's characters name, Aurelius-- Aurelius!!!
-- at which point Aurelius catches him and bounces him off a guy I almost thought was Robert Sean Leonard. It wasn't, but for a moment there is was reeeeeeeeeeealy cute to think that Robert Sean Leonard (AKA that kid from Dead Poet's Society
, e.g. that guy from House
) could score this kind of role, y'know, 2nd Roman Warrior. Before Bad Black Leroy Roman gets a chance to chop the kid's hand off for stealing (which, Aurelius-- Aurelius!!!
-- takes pains to make clear they don't do in civilized Rome), he's saved by Ben Kinglsey.
(Typo: Ken Kingsley. I was damned tempted to assert right then and there that Ben Kingsley has an evil twin who does things like secure roles in movies like this and/or Sneakers
. Too easy. Too obvious.)
So Ben Kingsley shows up wearing rumpled Jesus robes and doing magic tricks with a mysterious pentagram-shaped scar on his chest. In his opening reveal, he almost moves to hid this under his robes, which are just PRECISELY cut to show off the scar, which seemed a very weird choice indeed. Anyways, the second he showed up, before he even did the magic trick, I went "This guy's Merlin. Guy's fuckin' Merlin
And I was right.
The next thing we know, Romulus is made emperor, the barbarians are at the gate, Rome is under seiege, the main Barbarian baddie kills both the father and the mother of the new emperor, and Aurelius, Not Robert Sean Leonard, Leroy Roman and the rest are trying to stop the seige while protecting the emperor-boy-king, whom they have sworn to protect "To the last breath." Theirs, not the emperors, one assumes.
Maxwell house boy-king! Delicious to the last breath!
After that there'a bunch or traipsing about, being captured, escaping, awaiting word from Constantinople, and then a masked warrior FROM Constantinople who had been volunteered to act as decoy/secret weapon in one of the rescue schemes turns out to be a hot chick.
You had me at Constantinople!
Meanwhile, Noble Friend, played by Edie's brother from The Mummy
-- sorry. Played by John Hannah, a fine Scottish actor whose talents are put to fine use here. Anyways, Nobel Friend, who procured the Constantine warrior who turns out to be a hot chick, and is also the one through whom they are negotiating for sanctuary in Constantinople, turns out to have betrayed the Rome Steady crew, and is killed about halfway through the flick by Aurelius. And, dammit, in the scene where Colin Firth runs him though, the fine Scottish actor John Hannah seemed greatful
Now THAT's what I call breaking the fourth wall.
"They lose me right after the bunker scene."
Alright. Time for some real synopsizing. They make their way to Britain where they follow Hadrian's Wall to the last vestige of Roman empirization where they try to convince the last members of the last legion to join them in turning back the hoardes. A few volunteer, the hoardes show up, the rest of the legionizers joins in, Not Robert Sean Leonard cradles Big Black Leroy Roman while he SLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOWLY dies of a chest trauma the size of his forearm (and then, apparently, decides to not die), the hordes are defeated, Rumulus refuses Aurelius the right to die, so HE lives. Then Romulus throws the sword of Caesar-- oh, did I not mention that? Ben Kingsley is, among other things, the guardian of the Sword of Caesar, which is vaguely magical and was forged in Brittain for narrative reasons-- Romulus throws the Sword of Caesar so high in the air that when it falls to earth, tip-down, it embeds itself two-thirds of the way to its hilt in a stone outcropping.
Revealing only the last part of its Latin inscription: EX CALIBUR.
No, I am not kidding. And then Colin Firth marries Hot Chick, they change their name to Pendragon, Romulus becomes their son Luther, and then it turns out that Merlin is telling this whole story to his son-- do I even have to say it?-- his son Arthur.
That's right. Arthur Dent is the son of Romulus, last emperor of Rome.
I kid. They don't go that far, but I thought it was a funny thing to say.
So the conclusion is: sometimes, riding something like this out can be utterly rewarding. There is not an iota of worth to this film, but it's well worth the watching. No historical figures were harmed in the making of this film. And if you ever wanted to watch Mr. Darcy swing a sword and kick some ass, well, here's your chance.
Do I recommend it? Have some gaddammed noodles.
*And if you got that reference and know who the guy is, congratulations. I got nothin' more to say about that.
Labels: Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry