In adapting the celebrated popular Brit children's novel "The Eagle Of The Ninth," about a Roman legion in northern Britain who are defeated by local tribes, director Kevin MacDonald has wasted no time in drawing parallels to current day events. In the forthcoming film, if it seems a little odd to you that the Romans are speaking with distinctly American accents, it's no mistake.
Speaking with TimesOnline, “It was always my concept for this film that the Romans would be Americans,” says Macdonald. “That was my first idea about the movie and it still holds up whether or not we had any money from America, that would have been my approach.”
In the film, Channing Tatum plays Roman solider Marcus Aquila, who investigates the disappearance of his father's tribe, with Donald Sutherland playing his uncle. In undertaking the journey through the lands they have occupied, Marcus begins to realize that maybe there is something to be learned from other cultures.
“Marcus thinks, ‘It would benefit them so much — can’t they see it is the only way to live their lives?’ He comes to realise there are other value systems, other people have a claim to honour in the same way that he as an American — or a Roman — can claim honour. This is a film which in some way reflects some of the current anxieties and the political questions that we all have,” says MacDonald.
If you're beginning to think of the current woes in the Middle East, MacDonald wouldn't mind at all. "That’s what we are doing — not simply reflecting on the Afghanistan or Iraq wars, but a sense of cultural imperialism,” he says. “....The parallel is definitely there, and it is part of what you would want the audience to take away from the film. But it is not necessarily literal. Literalism is very often the death of films.”
And if you're wondering if MacDonald is picking on Americans as cultural imperialists instead of having the actors speak in Brit accents? “Britain isn’t a force any more, we aren’t cultural imperialists. That just didn’t seem the right way to go.” Um, right.
We dunno. Contrary to what MacDonald is saying, his political overtones sound very literal if not entirely simplistic and reductive to a certain degree. We're sure he could've addressed the issues he wants to raise without beating us over the head with all-American Channing Tatum learning Important Cultural Lessons.
This is on our most anticipated films of 2010 list, but reading that article took the shine off the film a little bit. Hopefully, MacDonald's political message won't override the film, but if we keep hearing this rhetoric over the next few months in the lead up to the film's release, we may be soured on it before even entering the cinema.