Posted on 5/10/11 08:32 AM
Written by Jeremy Brock, scribe of 2006's 'Last King of Scotland' and directed by Kevin Macdonald, director of the same; 'The Eagle' is an ill-conceived, mess of a film that fails to capture the grandeur and excitement of a 2nd century adventure epic. This film has flashes of brilliance, however the script is rather inconsistent and the film fails to capture any sort of climatic buzz, making its viewing a non-worthwhile experience.
Featuring a career effort from Channing Tatum (which really doesn't mean much), and an above average performance from co-star Jamie Bell, 'The Eagle' focuses principally on the relationship these share as they venture together in search of a lost golden emblem- the Eagle of the Ninth Legion. This relationship starts off fractured as Bell's Esca is saved from death by Tatum's Marcus and is purchased to be Marcus' slave; but the two eventually reconcile and, literally, walk off into the sunset.
The films basic premise, or the 'story' is actually an interesting one, but the film itself is just not that compelling- and there are several reasons for this:
Lack of character dimension Static lead performance Cliched moral premise
What became immediately evident through the films first few plot turns is just how one dimensional Marcus and Esca are as characters- dimensions of course being inner character conflicts that drive action forward. For the entire film Marcus (Tatum) is obsessed with finding the missing eagle and bringing honor back to his family's shamed name. Great character motivation, but not a dimension. He is stubborn in his pursuit of redemption but has no character traits that conflict or get in the way of his desires. This results in a bland film where the stakes are never raised nor does anything adversarial occur. Who knew Channing Tatum could be so boring?
Piggybacking on the last part, Channing Tatum was, again, the weakest part of a Channing Tatum film. He doesn't understand how to convey emotions, and no spaced-out, talentless, over-hyped movie star doesn't count. But because a film is generally the story of a character, it is hard for the audience to connect with the film if the protagonist is lifeless. (Let's aside for a moment- Tatum is a terrible actor, obviously, but from his first on screen role in the Amanda Bynes comedy 'She's the Man,' he has improved by leaps and bounds. He has improved so much that I think there will be a time when he is in a movie that isn't terrible, or maybe that is just wishful thinking.
Cliched moral premise? Who even cares? The audience cares, though they might not realize it while watching. All films have moral meanings- it is the entire point of film, to send a message through an entertaining, not outwardly critical visual medium. Therefore every film starts with a message but it is only the great films that effectively incorporate the message into the story. I will not go into to specifics because this could easily be another post altogether. In 'The Eagle' the moral message is somewhere along the lines of following one's dreams, which has to be the most cliched phrase in the history of the world- utilized at every high school and college graduation speech since the beginning of time. Yes, cliches carry some inherent truth but they also make for static films that cause us, the audience, to see into the future of the film and know how it ends. Something that is bad for obvious reasons.
'The Eagle' is a frayed, historical bore, leaving me somewhat disappointed (its what I get for expecting big things from a Channing Tatum movie). One of my favorite genres of film, great historical epics have become few and far between these days, possibly spawned from the American public's lacking desire for films with educational substance. On the flip side, if these films are going to be this poorly made, I say bring on the comic book films. I just hope this doesn't come back to haunt me.