The First King

Vampire Owl: Now, this is something which was not expected at all.

Vampire Bat: What? Watching a historical movie going this far back?

Vampire Owl: No, watching a Latin movie during these times.

Vampire Bat: We hear too much about Latin and French as part of our English Language and Literature syllabus, don’t we?

Vampire Owl: Yes, but we don’t really read or listen to the language.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but we learn about them, and the great works using the language.

Vampire Owl: Just us, not the people who study science and other subjects.

Vampire Bat: Yes, Latin and the Roman Empire are very significant to us.

Vampire Owl: There is nothing without history and literature.

Vampire Bat: Yes, the world depends on the two subjects forever.

[Gets a chicken puffs and three cups of cardamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: The movie traces the origins of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire to Old Latium, a region in the Italian peninsula with the Tiber River on the north, Apennine Mountains in the east, the Mediterranean Sea in the west and Monte Circeo in the south. Known as the territory of the Latins, an Italic tribe, the journey begins in in 753 BC. Two shepherd brothers Romulus (Alessio Lapice) and Remus (Alessandro Borghi) are caught in a flash flood which leads them to be stranded and captured as slaves in Alba Longa, an ancient Latin city, nineteen kilometres from what would later be the City of Rome. But during one of the fights for sport arranged between the prisoners in frony of the sacred fire and teh altar, the brothers lead an uprising which is a success resulting in the death of many soldiers, and manages to escape with the rest of the prisoners there. They also abduct the high priestess of the city, Satnei (Tania Garribba), who is supposed to carry with her the sacred fire.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There are not many paths through which they can travel without being hunted by the iron knights of Alba Longa. So, they choose the forest which is supposed to be dangerous, but they decides to go through that path, to escape the possible hunters. As Romulus was injured in the earlier fight with the soldiers, Remus is forced to carry him throughout the journey, and some of the newly freed prisoners despise the fact that he is slowing them down and is bringing the curse of the God upon them for violating the Sacred Fire, at a time when there is no chance to escape. In a following fight related to his brother’s safety, violence and chaos follows, as Remus ends up killing the Latin leader and ends up becoming the new leader of the tribe, as everyone pledges allegiance to him as their new lord. He is able to bring new courage and strength in them by showing his own acts of bravery, and declares himself the king of a future land.

And what more can be done with the high priestess and a group of soldiers? :: They continue their journey, and soon end up in a village where they kill all the warriors in a brutal fight, and Remus assumes control of the area, as the high priestess tells him that there is something in him which feels more than just a human being – the strength in him is too much. But during a sacrifice, she makes the ultimate revelation which shocks them all, especially Remus, as she predicts that one of the two brothers are destined to become a great king and build an empire greater than what could be imagined at that time, but for that to happen, he will have to kill the other brother. Now, this is not something which is not acceptable to Remus, as he has come all this way by protecting his brother, and getting him out of near-death situations. With a great empire to take on one side, and his brother’s life on the other, what would be choose? The life of a common man with his brother, or the life of the founder of a great empire who will be remembered by history forever?

The defence of The First King: Birth of an Empire :: You are never short of the need for movies which show something about Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece, two of the great civilizations which have created a future on which the later kingdoms, empires and republics could thrive on. The fights in the movie are all kept simple and realistic with a certain amount of blood and gore, but never too much to handle. The locations are basically forest-like, and as there are only tribes around here, we don’t have the grand looks of any building or fortifications. The weapons used are also very much ancient, and we understand what it was before the Roman Empire established order, and later transferred it into Byzantine or the Eastern Roman Empire, transferring the same further to other empires which followed the legacy after their fall in the fifth century in the case of the Western Roman Empire and the fifteenth in the case of the Eastern Roman Empire. We all need a reminder of a past which was rather too dark without the classical ages of Greece and Rome.

The claws of flaw :: The First King: Birth of an Empire seems to stick to the minimum, and not trying to move beyond that, bringing the special, and not attempting to come with the innovations which could have been a part of this origin story. There is not much being done out of the book here, and as Romulus and Remus are legendary figures, we could have had more here. After all, there is nothing stopping someone from making a great movie out of the idea of Ancient Rome. The twists that this movie have in comparison to the legends that we have read about is not that interesting considering the premise, and the scope. The movie is also too long, and a tale like this doesn’t have much to show, and therefore, it should have been shortened to, maybe about one and half hours, or one and three quarter hours to the maximum to avoid the drag – having something like this above two hours is rather unnecessary, because there was never the chance of taking things to a grand level during pre-Roman times of the Italian peninsula.

How it finishes :: If you have followed the history and tales about the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, The First King: Birth of an Empire would make an interesting series of events for you. There is no need to expect a Gladiator here, as the scope is not that huge with this one, as we looking at the humble beginnings of Ancient Rome, and not at the nations like Greece and Persia at their greatest moments. Well, you know how an origin story can go on, whether it is about superheroes, anti-heroes or random mutants. The beginning here had to be humble, and it indeed is so. If you are going to watch this movie about the founders of Rome, expect it to be without that later glory, and you are going to find it interesting. The First King: Birth of an Empire is a movie that surely needs a sequel, as people need to know about the early stages of Ancient Rome not through random documentaries, but in the form of well-acted and well-directed movies which would be there to stay for long.

Release date: 31st January 2019
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: Matteo Rovere
Starring: Alessandro Borghi, Alessio Lapice, Fabrizio Rongione, Massimiliano Rossi, Tania Garribba, Lorenzo Gleijeses, Vincenzo Crea, Max Malatesta, Fiorenzo Mattu, Gabriel Montesi, Antonio Orlando, Vincenzo Pirrotta, Michael Schermi, Ludovico Succio, Martinus Tocchi, Marina Occhionero, Nina Fotaras, Emilio De Marchi, Luca Elmi

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