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The Eagle

Now, bearing in mind that my taste in films tends towards films that are universally agreed to be terrible, you, dear reader, may not agree with me about 'The Eagle' film.    On the other hand, it doesn't have any explosions or giant monsters in it, so you can be confident at least that my passionate love of explosions and giant monsters has not swayed my opinion.   

I've loved The Eagle of the Ninth book since I was a child (though why exactly it is classed as a children's book I really do not know).   And I loved the film too. 

OK, it wasn't the plot from the book, exactly.   No Cottia, and no Cub - well, that could have been worse.  I was rather worried they might bump up Cottia's part and include her in the expedition North, which would have been a complete disaster : as it was, you can almost think that Cottia is just off-screen - though I'm not sure if Cottia would like the less sympathetic, indeed rather brutal and soldierly version of Marcus.  That was a bit of a shock - Marcus in the book is such a likeable person - but I can see that to a viewer who is coming to the story fresh, Marcus is after all a member of a fairly brutal invading army and you need time to get through that.  I think he could have been played a little less woodenly though. 

There is a lot of violence and I was a little surprised that a film with that number of graphic beheadings in it - including executions of children - had a 12A certificate.  I'm always baffled that sex seems to require so much more care for child watchers, than people chopping each other into chunks!   

Esca was mostly spot-on and stole the show. Gotta love Esca. Though I think making Marcus less sympathetic, more Roman, as a character made Esca's motivations somewhat unclear - why is his loyalty to Marcus quite so absolute?  In the book, Esca likes and respects Marcus well before he is put in any situation that actually tests that loyalty, whereas in the film, he seems to loathe him until after the decisive moment.  OK, Marcus saved his life, but since Esca has by then repaid the favour several times over, why does he go on and help him steal the Eagle?  

( I am sure there are lots of people who would answer that one with  'because he fancies the pants off him' - not that there is any obvious romance, but there's definitely a bit of a subtext -  but frankly that is not an explanation: fancying the pants off someone might be a reason to trek dourly round the Highlands preventing people from slitting his throat and flinging him in a ditch, but I'm not sure it's an explanation for murder and Eagle-theft)  

 But I can live with that.    And there were lots of deerhounds (? and some deerhound lurchers too I think.)  More films should have sighthounds in...

The overall feel of early Roman Britain was great.   I know some people have criticised the American accents for the Romans, but I'm not sure what accent I expect a Roman to have, so that actually worked quite well for me.  Perhaps the pacing was not quite right for a film and that was why it missed the 'totally fabulous' quality that it could have had.  That and the visuals are better inside my head.  But it was pretty damn good. 

Edited the next day : I'm not sure about the film ending.  Not to give it away, but it is rather more up-beat than the book.
But, this morning I woke up with the tune I hear to 'the girl I kissed at Clusium' in my ears, and that wasn't even in the film!  It made me happy.

Edited again, some days later

After I watched the film, I re-read the book. Then the story wouldn't go away for me, so I went back to the cinema and saw the film again, and picked up all sorts of tiny nice details I missed the first time.   And actually, I think I was a bit unkind to the guy that plays Marcus : on a second viewing he doesn't look anything like as wooden and does a pretty good job of conveying Marcus's changing views of the world (though I still can't quite see the 'heartthrob' angle... )
How many films do you go to see and you walk out with the whole audience smiling and the teenage couple behind you are deep in a discussion of historical slavery, and the people are all talking about what actually happened to the Ninth Legion, apart from the  elderly lady in front who is showing us all her best Roman shortsword moves? OK, film critics and people who don't care about history may not think much of this film, but who cares about them!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
9th Apr, 2011 16:10 (UTC)
I haven't seen it yet, and I'm not sure if I will, as by the time I come back from holiday, it'll probably be gone from our screens.

Thanks for this review - I fell in love as a child with the BBC version from the 1970s (and with Marcus!) so I'm not sure if I want to have the wonderful memories tainted by the new version. (The 'original' probably has a lot to answer for!)

A lot of the reviews I'm getting verge on the negative, so I don't think I'll be going out of my way to catch it. The thought of Romans with American accents kind of turns me off, too, though it's an interesting comparison between Ancient Rome & modern America in terms of imperialism, etc.
9th Apr, 2011 20:00 (UTC)
I would say, borrow the DVD & watch with someone who also cares about the books and/or period and you'll enjoy the detail and have a great time discussing how it could have been even better. The DVD is supposed to have an alternative ending, which I really want to see because the one in the film I saw is unadulterated CHEESE. Not that I dislike cheese, but...

I think a lot of the professional reviewers simply missed or misinterpreted a lot of the plot or were weirded out by the setting (the why is this not Roman Rome? problem) : the people who just went to see it that I've come across mostly seemed to like it more than the reviewers.

The American accent thing - I thought it was quite cleverly done, quite anti-American, and I was very amused the other day to come across an American reviewer who clearly felt the Romans were sympathetic because they were clean and correctly-accented, even though to my eyes, they are clearly also total bastards...
9th Apr, 2011 20:08 (UTC)
Then they got the Romans spot on - total bastards! (I eventually grew out of my Marcus fixation...)

One of my colleagues was deconstructing the film a couple of weeks ago and she conceded that she thought it felt more like Africa than Romano-British Scotland. I was getting cold feet at that stage... And I daresay the Celtic Scots will be getting cold everything if all they're wearing is woad and loincloths!!
9th Apr, 2011 20:19 (UTC)
I was about to boggle at that, but I think I've worked it out - the film's take on the Seal People could be seen as a bit African in appearance (though I think probably they were intended to be more Native American).

They look like this I'm afraid...:

The setting is definitely Scotland though, the Scottish bits were all filmed in the Highlands. It looks cold, it rains a lot...

The Southern Britain bits were filmed in Hungary and possibly look a bit too warm and European.

9th Apr, 2011 20:25 (UTC)
Re: Africa????
Okay! I've lost it! This looks more like Dances with Wolves meets Mad Max III.

I know Scotland was a wee bit of a backwater in the Iron Age, but... What's wrong with a bit of woad and a spikey white hairdo??? Humph. Grumble. Mutter...

9th Apr, 2011 20:43 (UTC)
The Brigantes have better hair...
Esca has a suitable tattoo and looks like this, if it compensates at all :-D

9th Apr, 2011 20:45 (UTC)
Re: The Brigantes have better hair...
He looks thoroughly Romanised, which figures, I suppose.

Must unearth book from my dad's house. Have picture of Anthony Higgins (Marcus) glued in front cover (cut out from Radio Times....)
17th Mar, 2016 02:08 (UTC)
I just wanted to say thank you, six years later, for the picture of the Esca tattoo. I'm working on a story involving Esca and the Seal Prince - I find him fascinating; he and Marcus are two sides of the same coin - and good pictures of that tattoo ar hard to come by. The film's not much help, even on super slow and freeze frame. Also, in sympathy with you, I feel the film did not sell Esca's absolute loyalty to (and friendship with) Marcus nearly as convincingly as the book, but that is a) a minor quibble given the rest; and b) such things are fanfiction built on, after all. Certainly I'm using it as a jumping off point. :/
17th Mar, 2016 08:15 (UTC)
I'm very pleased you find it useful - have you found awarrington 's graphics resource post? It's here : http://ninth-eagle.livejournal.com/51369.html

The story sounds very promising, I love a loyalty story, and the movie's Seal Prince is an intriguing character. Delighted to hear someone is still writing Eagle fic. Since you've read the book, can I wave http://sutcliff-swap.livejournal.com/ at you, as that is coming up next month!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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