The movie is based on a book that was written in the 1950s that creates a fictional backstory to the 9th Roman Legion that apparently disappears from the history books sometime around the construction of Hadrian’s Wall on Britannia. In the film, the unit is believed to have been obliterated by the northern Scottish tribes. Its emblem, a gold eagle, is believed to be lost or captured.
The son of the unit’s commander grows up to become a legionnaire himself, and after an injury that secures his discharge, he decides to take along a slave from the highlands to cross over Hadrian’s wall into the land of the barbarians to recover the lost eagle and restore honor to his family name and to Rome.
The PG-13 rating is definitely a good determination of age appropriateness. The film is definitely too dark and violent for younger audiences who think pirates and gladiators are the good guys. Although the film lacks much of the gore and graphic images that we’ve come to expect from movies like Gladiator and Apocalypto, there are plenty of violent killings and throats being slit (including that of a young boy).
The main character, Maximus, played by Channing Tatum, was not portrayed as well as the supporting character, Esca, played by Jamie Bell, who I liked much better. Esca had personality, whereas Maximus never seems to develop beyond the tough-guy/soldier stereotype.
Still the movie had some high points, such as Maximus’ compassion for his men and Esca’s loyalty to Maximus. The movie also highlights hypocrisy in both the Roman and tribal concepts of barbarianism and reminds viewers that our culture may be just as barbarous as those we consider to be barbarians.