A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this ancient Rome-set action movie includes lots of bloody fighting and several instances in which a child (the film's 12-year-old hero) is threatened. Battle scenes are loud and chaotic, with stabbing, kicking, pushing, and spearing (the boy sees his parents speared and axed). The rough melees use lots of handheld and close-up camerawork to convey turmoil. Other fights include martial arts-style fighting, with kicking, chopping, and apparent bone-breaking. There are a few brief allusions to sexual attraction and desire: Mira and Aurelius gaze at each other's bodies (hers is partly revealed when she rises from a lake in a wet tunic), and they lie in bed together. No real language (one "damn," one "hell") or drinking.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
"The legend begins beneath these dark hills." That would be the oft-told legend of Excalibur. After his parents are killed, 12-year-old Emperor Romulus Augustus is imprisoned on the island of Capri, along with his former teacher, Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley). Aurelius (Colin Firth), Romulus' new teacher, Batiatus (Nonso Anozie), Demetrius (Rupert Friend), and Mira (Aishwarya Rai) help them escape, and they journey to Britain to find the 9th legion.
Is it any good?
The leaps of faith required for this brutally bloody film are many. But once you've already made one or two of 'em, it's easy enough to accept that Bollywood superstar Rai is as likely to a super-lethal fighter as Mr. Darcy. Both Aurelius and Mira suffer betrayal by their leaders, which prompts their decisions to cut ties with the past and throw their lot in with the boy, the apparent future of Rome.
The question of country -- of borders that need defending and serve as markers for identity -- remains mostly unresolved. The fact that the titular legion has been abandoned by foundering Rome and now waits for a mission in Britannia suggests that the whole empire thing isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about Arthur, Merlin, and Excalibur hold such fascination. What is it about legends and myths that continues to appeal to -- and inspire us -- for so many hundreds of years? Do you think filmmakers try to make movies like this one as accurate as possible, or do they care more about how the movie looks and the reaction it gets from an audience? Families can also discuss leadership and loyalty; how are both portrayed in this film?
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