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Watched this evening on Channel 4, after recent posts by dakegra and ashavah reminded me that I'd always been mildly intrigued by the character of the Roman soldier (Octavius, played by Steve Coogan) in the first one.

He's not the biggest character in the film (literally - he is a 3" tall figurine), but he does get a decent amount of screen-time, and is really very cute. He likes to FIGHT and be NOBLE and GLORIOUS. What really interested me, though, was the explicit links drawn between him and the Cowboy character, Jedediah (Owen Wilson). They start out trying to colonise each other's territory, but Ben Stiller's character eventually convinces them that, apart from having been born 2000 years apart, they are basically just the same, and they end up becoming firm friends.

And I love this, because there is a long-standing tradition of viewing the European settlement of America as a modern equivalent of Roman colonisation - this is why, for example, William Penn planned Philadelphia on the same basic model as a typical Roman colony. On that analogy, the Wild West is a lot like the frontier zones where the legions were based (though less organised, obviously), so the link the film is drawing is firmly rooted in established traditions of Classical receptions. It's nice to know that's still a strong enough idea to crop up in a kids' comedy run-around. Even if it is obviously completely morally reprehensible to glorify imperialist expansion of any kind, of course...

Other than that, it was basically light-hearted brain-candy, with NEANDERTHALS and WOOLLY MAMMOTHS and DICK VAN DYKE. But I did think it had very stylish opening credits, and a lovely muted golden autumnal colour-palette. The only down-side was Ricky Gervais' character, who was just a straight-forward rip-off of his role from The Office, and really didn't work in the context of the rest of the characters at all.

I don't think I'll bother paying actual money to see the sequel in the cinema, but I'm glad I bothered to catch this one on TV.

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Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
gylfinir
May. 24th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
This was the first time that I'd seen this film too, and I loved it as a bit of fluff for a Bank Holiday Sunday night :)

(Plus I've got a bit of a thing for Owen Wilson. I know. Shoot me.)
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Well, he's not really my cup of tea, but you are totally at liberty to like him! And his character is fun in this. I especially liked the Brokeback Mountain reference that cropped up at one point, where he said something to Octavius like "Don't worry - I ain't going to be quittin' you." I wonder if anyone has taken that as a prompt to write slash about them? *does not dare Google*
gylfinir
May. 24th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
LOL! I now have Brokeback Mountain starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson flashing through my mind. And it is so very, very wrong.

:)
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh nooooo! You had to go there, didn't you? ;-) Lemme see now - Octavius the Roman general (who randomly lives in a palace) as a jealously neurotic prima donna (or dona. Or Donna - help yourself)? Where did that even COME from?
sushidog
May. 24th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
In my defence, I didn't _read_ it! :-)
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Once you'd linked, I couldn't help myself. Good thing it was so short, or I would be suing you for my lost evening! ;-)
roobarb
May. 24th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
first time for me too, I agree with the comment on Ricky Gervaise, I find him boring, and he was like I've always seen him, does he do anything else?

Dell really enjoyed the sequel, she thinks it's better and may be taking me to see it one Wednesday :)
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Well, if you go to see it, let me know if you agree with Dell!
dakegra
May. 24th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
I caught most of it today as I was clearing up after our day outside and subsequent barbeque, but it looked like enormous fun. Dick Van Dyke! Mickey Rooney!

We've recorded it so can watch it properly later. :-)
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
Ooh, lovely day for a barbecue. I didn't realise you hadn't seen the first one before, though.
segh
May. 24th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Roman imperialism
I suppose that ghastly Glyndebourne Julius Caesar, casting the Romans as the British Empire and the Egyptians as Indians, was in the same tradition.
On the other hand, I have an ancient novel, Hercules Sportsman by Bernard Atkey, which casts the Greeks as English hunting squires and the Romans as Americans ("That busy little burg on the Tiber . . . ")
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Roman imperialism
Oh, I really liked that Julius Caesar! The one with Sarah Connolly in the title role? I've only seen it on DVD, not on stage, but thought it was excellent.

Greeks as English hunting squires is a new one on me, though. What nationality was the author?
segh
May. 24th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Roman imperialism
British as far as I know. I had a habit of collecting novels set in the ancient world - some of them were fairly obscure.
I saw the Julius Caesar at the proms - I don't have Glyndebourne money - and I hated it. It was great as long as Sesto and Cornelia were on stage; but every time Danielle Deniece appeared, I was disgusted. I thought her performance was one of quite extraordinary vulgarity. You might blame things like tipping off her cigarette ash into Pompey's urn on the producer; but her tinny voice, and her habit of sticking her bottom in the air at the least provocation, really got on my nerves. Julius Caesar is one of my favourite operas, and the whole thing made me very depressed.
strange_complex
May. 24th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Roman imperialism
Ah, well - she seems pretty good on the DVD. Pity it doesn't seem to have worked live.
a_d_medievalist
May. 25th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
I saw it this evening, too! All the way over here! And I found it thoroughly enjoyable as well :)
strange_complex
May. 25th, 2009 08:25 am (UTC)
Ah - was it on one of your channels, then, or did you manage to get the Channel 4 web player thingy to let you watch it?
a_d_medievalist
May. 31st, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
It was on one of our channels. Just weird serendipity, I think!
ashavah
May. 25th, 2009 09:49 am (UTC)
Glad to hear that you enjoyed Octavius. I really don't remember much about the first one except how much I loved him. He's just such a Roman soldier. ;-)
strange_complex
May. 25th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
I liked it when Ben Stiller picked him up by his helmet, and he started protesting about the affront to his dignitas. I want my very own little Octavius now, so he can help me with my research. I would keep him in a match-box and read Cicero to him when he was good.
ashavah
May. 25th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
You know you're awesome, right?
strange_complex
May. 25th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
Darling, this is the Awesome Club, and you too are in it!
steer
May. 25th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
This Saturday I was at the strangest museum cum park kind of thing near York. It was clearly geared up for the school visit and was almost empty on bank holiday saturday. In addition to a (piss poor) farm museum with a few half-heartedly labelled tractors and a frankly crap city zoo (ooh, goats and sheep, you're spoiling us), it had a small reconstructed danelaw village (a dozen or so wattle and daub huts) a tiny tudor cottage and garden and a reconstructed Roman fort with all the parts labelled in Latin and English. All of these were empty and clearly going to be filled with reenactors whenever a party of school kids came around.

I mention this because right in the middle of the roman fort was a cowboy town with a dozen or so disspirited cowboy reenactors wandering about ready to explain horseshoes, gunfights and telegraphs to anyone who wanted it. Very weird experience.
strange_complex
May. 26th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)
Yes, of course, York's frontier-town era... A glorious episode in the town's history! :-S
steer
May. 26th, 2009 08:42 am (UTC)
The rootinest tootinest tourist town in Yorkshire.

What I really want to know is when they do Roman reenactment, presumably the cowboy town buildings are still there in the fort -- do they just calmly get on with forming tortoises and declining verbs while ignoring the telegraph office and saloon.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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