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The Lost Legion? Whatever happened to The Last Legion!
Jahan Bakshi  [ Fri, Jun 22, 2007 ]
  • With her recent marriage to Abhishek Bachchan causing a virtual media and public frenzy, there's more interest in news of Aishwarya Rai's various temple visits and imminent public appearances (including one at Cannes this year) with her better half than her films. Still for all those who are interested, here's some dope on her previously much hyped Hollywood film, 'The Last Legion', also starring Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley and Thomas Sangster which was completed quite some time back, and has been largely unheard of ever since.

    The Last Legion is based on Valerio Massimo Manfredi's historical novel of the same name and is set in Roman times in which the Goths overrun Rome and a small band of loyal soldiers must protect the child Emperor Romulus Augustus and their empire. Rai plays Mira; a Byzantine warrior who joins the band of soldiers and plays love interest, of course to Colin Firth's Aurelius. Mira is not a character originally in the novel, but has been added to the film replacing the original female protagonist Livia. The reason behind this may have been to fit in Aishwarya, who could not have played the Italian Livia, and whose 'exotic' presence undeniably gave publicity and added to the film's buzz.

    The film which has been completed almost an year back now, and been acquired by The Weinstein Company still awaits the kick-off of its promotional campaign and does not seem to have any definite worldwide release plan yet. Only few posters and a trailer is out- which do not really impress at all.

    'The Last Legion' has been shown to sample audiences at test screenings, and the gauged reaction seems to be almost unanimously poor and unenthusiastic. Those who have seen it panned the film and struggled to find many good points in it- and word is fast getting out that it is a 'turkey'. The general word of mouth is that 'The Last Legion' is a cheesy, unspectacular epic with slipshod direction, goofy performances and poor production values by current Hollywood standards. And though all the men seem to agree that Ash is blazing hot, her acting has not come in for much praise either.

    A member of the test audience says- ". The most talked about aspect of the movie was, not surprisingly, Aishwarya Rai...She just is the hot fighting chick, and really does nothing in terms of plot. As her role is virtually useless, the female and more intellectual side of the group said there was no point in her role and it objectified women, and the boys thought she should have been naked throughout the whole film, so there was a back and forth about that, but generally it was agreed her role was unnecessary."

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  • The movie was also recently shown at a special screening at Abu Dhabi and though barely any critics have seen it, a few official reviews are out. James O'Ehley writes in The South Africa Movie & DVD Magazine: "Once you accept The Last Legion for what it is, namely a Saturday adventure matinee show aimed at impressionable 10-year-old boys, then you'll have a passable time at the cinema . . . Sort of."

    He further writes:" The screenplay is tepid and predictable - the bits in-between action sequences are just plain dull. The action sequences themselves aren't too badly staged, but in the age of the fantastic battles in the Lord of the Rings movies they come across as tame and small scale. The Last Legion never realizes that it is a bad movie and suffers for it. A more energetic and over-the-top approach would have served the film better. Instead we get a film that takes itself too seriously while we in the audience don't."

    The review is equally dismissive of Aishwarya: "Rai can't act at all, but it is fun to see her try at being an Angelina Jolie / Lara Croft style bad-ass action heroine. She's of course gorgeous to simply gawp at.

    Curiously enough, the film has been released in Russia after some heavy promotion on the 19th of April, where it has been dubbed in Russian. According to Box Office Mojo, the film has opened well there, debuting at No.1 position, with a decent $1,639,149 weekend gross. It is yet to be seen how it performs in the coming weeks.

    However, this is hardly an indication of the film's prospects at the worldwide BO, and the indefinite wait before the films general release and the odd strategy of release only in Russia only makes wonder about the film's future. Probably the makers- warned by the early reactions- are trying to do some damage-control and improve the film as far as possible before releasing it. But it is unlikely that a great product will miraculously spring out from the current version.

    Hope Aishwarya Rai's first real 'crossover' venture does not turn out to be an epic misadventure. Still, the lady doesn't really have much to worry about- with Junior B for hubby and films like Jodhaa-Akbar in tow, she sure has plenty in her dainty hands as of now!