Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

‘Eagle’ Doesn’t Soar

film_eagleHistorical action lacks depth, conviction in 'The Eagle'
It's big and shiny and carved out of bronze. But it's true value is its symbolism, standing for both the glory of the Roman Empire and the brutality of conquest (depending on one's viewpoint). It's the Eagle of the Ninth Legion, the standard carried into battle by a company of Roman Legionnaires who vanished into the murky mists of northern Britain in 120 A.D. And most of the historical action film, The Eagle, is devoted to trying to convince us—without much success—that this object is worth a lot of bloody slaughter.

The film is based on Rosemary Sutcliff's popular 1954 historical young adult novel, “The Eagle of the Ninth.” Its YA origins are evident in the film's straightforward action plot, simplified relationships, and the high degree of palaver about the "honor" of Rome while running riot over the indigenous tribes of Britain—who are (surprise!) inspired to respond with equal savagery. One hopes the reason director Kevin Macdonald and scriptwriter Jeremy Brock (they also collaborated on The Last King of Scotland) are resurrecting this material now is to draw parallels to our modern age of reckless adventuring in foreign lands. But The Eagle never gains the level of complexity that would make its story profound.

Instead, we get a youth on a typical hero's journey to avenge his family name. Twenty years after the Ninth Legion disappeared, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives from Rome to take command of a small garrison on Hadrian's Wall, the barrier erected by the Romans across the northernmost outpost of Roman Britain to keep out the natives (in what is now Scotland) after the Ninth vanished. Marcus' father was the commander of the lost Ninth, and Marcus has come to find out what happened to his father and restore the family's lost honor.

Viewed by the hardy veterans under his command as an untested boy (or, worse, a "bad omen"), Marcus proves himself in battle against the Britons (in one of the sneak attacks they periodically launch against the garrison in hopes of driving off the Roman invaders). Badly wounded, he's sent to the nearby villa of his uncle (Donald Sutherland) to recover—where he impulsively saves the life of the captive Briton, Esca (the always watchable Jamie Bell), who is given to him as a slave. Honorably discharged from the Legion, Marcus hears that the Eagle of the Ninth has been seen among the warrior tribesmen; with Esca as his guide, he ventures into the wilds of the north to recover the eagle for Rome.

The complicated relationship between Marcus and Esca ought to be the heart of the movie, and sometimes it is. Marcus' campfire rhapsody that the eagle represents the "pride of Rome" is countered by Esca's description of Roman invaders slaughtering his entire family. ("That too is Rome.") When they're discovered by the fierce, painted, Mohawk-haired Seal People, Esca cagily passes off the Roman Marcus as his slave. But more often, their bond is merely explained to the audience, rather than playing out in any convincing way. (As when Esca tells Marcus "I despise everything you stand for," but says he'll loyally serve the man who saved his life—and that's the end of that.)

Happily, we're no longer in the bygone Hollywood era where ancient people depicted onscreen always spoke in tony British accents, but still, the flat American vernacular of most of the speaking parts can be jarring. ("We had it coming," grumbles one warrior, describing an epic battle.) But things really go awry in the final showdown. Murder is involved in reclaiming the lost Eagle, a fact unaltered by the ruthlessness of the posse that gives chase to get it back. And after debunking the whole notion of 'honor" and "glory" associated with any war of conquest, the film sets up a final battle whose entire purpose is to allow participants the chance to die with honor. Talk about a hollow victory. By this time, it would have meant more had Marcus (and the film) been less obsessed with whether his father died bravely, and spared a thought for how many Britons had to die bravely defending their homes and families.

THE EAGLE ★★

With Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland. Written by Jeremy Brock. From the novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. A Focus Features release. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes.
Watch film trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.