There are many, many films about Excalibur, the legendary sword of antiquity fortified with an invisible but potent layer of Caesar-y goodness, but only one with Aishwarya Rai as a sexy lady-warrior, a pint-sized, adorable li'l Caesar (Thomas Sangster), and Ben Kingsley running around with grayish-white hair, a staff, and long flowing white robes like a obsessive Gandalf fan at a third-rate comic-book convention. Though it's never wise to underestimate the power or universal appeal of Rai's cleavage and lustrous hair, that's about all that sets the doggedly mediocre The Last Legion apart from every other sword-and-sandal epic about the origins of Camelot.


Clearly biding his time unhappily between Bridget Jones sequels and more highbrow period epics, a disinterested Colin Firth stars as a Roman warrior charged with protecting child emperor Sangster. When barbarians invade and imprison Sangster alongside wise mentor/bootleg Gandalf Kingsley, Firth teams up with Rai and a multicultural Sexy Roman Adventure Squad to free him. The invasion renders Firth and his band of warrior outlaws without a country, so, Excalibur in tow, they sail to Britannia and continue to battle for the values of the Roman Empire.

Rai, one of Bollywood's biggest and most luminous icons, remains a ravishing object of desire for the camera and audiences alike, but her chemistry with Firth is nonexistent. When Rai and Firth stop feuding and crossing swords long enough to bed each other, they seem motivated by a perfunctory sense of obligation rather than passion. In its depiction of noble but outmatched Romans fighting a hiss-worthy barbarian horde, Legion faintly echoes 300, but without the comic-book élan and crowd-pleasing flair for stylish ultra-violence. If green-screen bloodbaths like 300 represent the future of adventure epics, then The Last Legion embodies a creaky, tradition-bound past whose passing it will be hard to mourn.