I guess there’s always hope for a renaissance within the Western tradition as long as there is a market for big-screen films about ancient Rome, not to mention other spectacles like the HBO miniseries of a few years ago. Sure, these Hollywood products often get a lot wrong–I still laugh at all the talk in Gladiator about “restoring the republic” in the late 2nd century A.D.–but they just as often succeed in capturing the imagination and sparking interest in the real thing.
I’m optimistic about The Eagle, which was released last week in the U.S., because it’s based on a classic novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe (1920-1992) called The Eagle of the Ninth (1954). Sutcliffe wrote numerous novels for young readers, including adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey. I don’t remember reading any of these as a child (surprisingly, since my mother has a master’s degree in Latin and is devoted to the classics), but I liked The Wandering of Odysseus so much when I checked it out from the library for my son that I splurged on the nice Folio Society edition of The Eagle of the Ninth. It doesn’t disappoint.
The studio behind The Eagle is apparently the same one doing the Jane Eyre film due out later this year. I have no idea who the two stars are (showing my age, I guess), but they were able to get Donald Sutherland into the cast, so I suppose it’s not a fly-by-night operation. Here’s hoping they do justice to their source material. If anyone has had a chance to see this film, please post your opinion of it in the comment section below. Apparently, Roger Ebert likes it, and I guess that’s a good sign.