Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Carlo Carlei and Peter Rader
Jez and Tom Butterworth
Dino De Laurentiis Company, Ingenious Film Partners, Quinta Communications, Zephyr Films Ltd.
Harry Van Gorkum:
In general, when authors and American producers deal with themes far from their own culture they risk creating the classical, stereotyped, American movie; well, with The Last Legion that's just what they've managed to do, and furthermore, with the help of the French and the British (but that was purely to avoid the established quota by the European TV sans frontieres Directive) and with the precious contribution of two Italian authors and two British screenwriters (amongst whom, Jez Butterworth director of the beautiful Mojo and of Birthday girl).
The film tries to be a sort of prequel to The Sword in the Stone grasping fanciful, fantastic theories and, in an unsteady balance between seriousness and humour proceeds with fatigue to the expected happy ending. In all this, of course, the dubbing does not help.
The dialogue – apart from often being out of sinc – is rather unlikely, I would say the kind which is decidedly misplaced. The characters speak as though – having skimmed through high school or military academy – they've just finished a rapid course in computer terminology. The general tone of the film, as previously mentioned, is what it is and we certainly do not expect a polished speech in Latin but seeing as that the pretension, especially in the first part of the film, is to seriously reproduce a certain historical era, certain words and certain sentences leave you bewildered. Some examples: the little emperor comes out with an “Che sapevi combattere” (that you knew how to fight) instead of “Che sapevi batterti” (that you knew how to put up a fight/defend yourself), Aurelio who, looking at a suit of armour, comes out with “Non ricordo come si mette” (I don't remember how to put it on), Odoacer who says “Ho dato supporto” (I gave support) instead of “Ho dato sostegno” (I gave sustenance/I helped), then I don't know who shouts in pure metaphysical dubbing-esque: “Dannato uccello” (damned bird), and the fighting scenes – decidedly Bruce Lee-ish – are full of lines out of place. You hear things like “Ci penso io!” (I'll see to that!), “È tuo!” (He's yours!”) and finally the top of the tops: “Fuggirai come un cane finché non ti braccheranno” (You'll flee like a dog until they catch you). The poor Roman Empire, it really is in full decadence!
Great embarrassment also on the direction side and which the good interpretations of Massimo Rossi and Gerolamo Alchieri do not manage to salvage: countless wrong intonations burn the few puns which should have lessened the weight of the costly, feature film and also the choice of some voices is discussable: the however good Zucca for Ben Kingsley does not work for the character portrayed and Domitilla D’Amico does not manage to render less improbable Aishwarya Rai.
To conclude, does second rate /'B' films deserve a second rate/'B' film dubbing?
[original review in Italian by Marnie Bannister]