I know I might be kind of a hypocrite considering I said on last week’s “Sanctum” review that I “prefer walking into films as blindly and unbiased as I can possibly be.” But I admit that when I first saw a trailer for “The Eagle,” I was immediately thinking “Clash Of The Titans” merged with “Robin Hood” with Channing Tatum in the lead role. Following that supposition, I began to refer to the film throughout the week simply as I was going to review “Clash of the Tatum” or “Channing Of The Titans.” Actually having seen the movie, I found that it had much more in common with “Season of The Witch” from little over a month ago.
Don’t get me wrong. I think “The Eagle” actually has a few more original bones in its body than the previously mentioned meh-fests could hope to have. But having said that, there is not really anything remarkable about the film either. It promises a period action movie and that is essentially what it delivers. Tatum branches out a little bit from his typically “hunky hunk” screen persona, but still fails to find his niche as an actor.
Set in 140 AD, Tatum plays Marcus Aquila, a Roman centurion who wishes to bring honor back to his family’s name after his father led five thousand men in the Ninth Roman Legion astray, never to be heard from again. None of the English seem to believe in him as a capable leader or soldier, so he quickly abandons that tactic of gaining respect. So Aquila takes it upon himself to recover the Ninth’s eagle standard, which symbolizes Roman pride and was lost since his father’s expedition.
Marcus sets off with a young slave boy that he rescues called Esca (Jamie Bell), who is of very little words but supposedly holds information as to where the eagle might be. However, it is revealed later down the line that Esca’s knowledge and true intentions may stretch farther than Marcus probably wishes them to. The reason I compare this to “Season of The Witch” is because it is an extended expedition type of movie that also doubles as a buddy movie between Aquila and Esca by the end.
“The Eagle” is one of those movies that I found myself regularly zoning in, zoning out and then zoning back in again. That may say something about my capacity to pay attention and I would normally fault myself for it. But I realized that after each time session of zoning out, I had not missed anything crucial to the progression of the story. There may be dialogue and action taking place at the time, but does it really mean anything?
I cannot approximate what set of people will enjoy the film, but if you ask me, I say you could probably skip this one. Kevin Macdonald’s (“The Last King Of Scotland,” “State of Play”) direction is unimaginative, some of the action scenes are filmed with fervent rapidity but zero flair, Tatum is only alright and the script is hit-and-miss. Even the supporting roles by Donald Sutherland (who plays Marcus’s retired uncle) and Mark Strong (a person they encounter that divulges information on the whereabouts of the eagle) seem crowbarred. Like I said, not as bad as other period action efforts, but still kind of pointless. But hey, at least it ain’t in 3D.
Also, if I could say something to filmmakers in my parting words, explicating a film’s backstory in text form during the opening credits does not guarantee a true epic. Sure, “Star Wars” may have benefited from the iconic scrolling text design, but I think this concept is becoming more useless and outdated by the day. By no fault of the filmmakers themselves, it now even carries a sense of false pretension. Can we just go for a fully visual experience next time?