Another Roman Epic Hits the Big Screen

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.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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3 Responses to Another Roman Epic Hits the Big Screen

  1. Fred Jewell says:

    Based on the review in the Democrat-Gazette it (like the novel it’s based on) has about as much historical authenticity as The 300 or Braveheart. What can you say about a movie which invents out of thin air an entire race/culture in Scotland — the Seal People. What? The real Scots or proto-Scots weren’t colorful enough?

    • Dr. J says:

      I think creating the fictional culture within the overall milieu is better than misrepresenting actual cultures or figures, which is what happened to some degree in the other films you mention. This film doesn’t purport to be history; it’s clearly labeled as a work of imagination and deserves more slack as a result.

  2. Pingback: “The Eagle” May Actually Get it Right | The Western Tradition

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