So I’ve liked previous films by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) but I have to admit I was not expecting much from this thing, another retelling of the old disappearance-of-the-Ninth-Legion story.
I could go into it, but you could write the summary by yourself. The 9th gets wiped out, there are Picts and they act like the barbarians in every movie ever, the main villain is a girl, which I guess is unusual, the heroes are a misfit band of soldier caricatures, one of them is secretly a bad guy, etc., etc. The “Romans” are ethnically diverse (which would probably not be true of a legion per se but was certainly true of the Roman army), but this seems to be just so that they can have minorities to kill off first. The hero falls in love with a local girl, blah de blah de blah. It’s not really bad — the use of the landscape in particular is very effective, really making you feel how weird and isolated it must have been for the Romans, and some of the fights are fun — but it’s very who-gives-a-shit.
You know, I swear I’m not trying to have Picts be a theme here, but this is the third week in a row with them. No Picts next week, I swear.
Every director that gets called out on being not historically accurate for their Pict movie says that it’s just a movie, not a history lesson, which is fair enough. But if we’re making action thrillers and not history lessons, could we maybe think of something a little more exciting to have happened to the Ninth Legion? “Got killed off by the barbarians” is one of the two or three most popular explanations among historians. But if we’re not trying to tell a historical story, they could have been transported to the future. They could have been abducted by aliens! They could have descended into the Hollow Earth to battle the Mole Men — hell, they could still be there now!
Hollywood, I await your call.
Oh, also, Hollywood movie makers: stop having shit in the past be on fire all the time. At one point, they shoot a guy in the head with a fire arrow. What, they saw him and decided to shoot him, then paused to light the arrow on fire and shoot it? Why?! When the Picts ambush the Romans, they do it with those big flaming balls of brush like in Spartacus.
If you must light things on fire, how about pigs? Here’s an excerpt from Polyaenus’s Stratagems:
At the siege of Megara, Antigonus brought his elephants into the attack; but the Megarians daubed some swine with pitch, set fire to it, and let them loose among the elephants. The pigs grunted and shrieked under the torture of the fire, and sprang forwards as hard as they could among the elephants, who broke their ranks in confusion and fright, and ran off in different directions. From this time onwards, Antigonus ordered the Indians, when they trained up their elephants, to bring up swine among them; so that the elephants might thus become accustomed to the sight of them, and to their noise.
You can even buy miniature figures of them! Check it out!