Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Channing Tatum Historical Action Flop Getting A Second Chance On HBO Max

If you click a link and buy a product or service from a merchant, we may be paid an affiliate commission.

The legendary disappearance of the Roman Empire's Ninth Legion makes for some compelling stories. As far as historical mysteries go, it's like Roanoke but — and this is impressive — with even sillier hats. One day there's a pile of Roman soldiers, and the next, they've up and vanished from the public record. Maybe the Celts wiped them out in Britain. Maybe the Parthians got 'em in Armenia. Maybe, and stop us if you've heard this one, aliens did it.

Whatever the case, the Ninth's here-one-day, gone-the-next approach to existence has been a point of fascination with historians and, more pertinently, screenwriters, for a very long time — enough so that there have been at least three big screen adaptations exploring the subject in the last 15 years alone. It hasn't always gone spectacularly: 2007's The Last Legion flopped hard at the box office, and in 2010, Centurion (starring Michael Fassbender) bombed.

As for the third big screen take which explores this historical event? Also a financial disappointment. But that movie, 2011's The Eagle, is suddenly getting a second chance at a good first impression thanks to HBO Max, where it's currently available to stream. Like so much of cinema circa 2011, it has Channing Tatum. And really, while there's no way to overstate just how silly the hats are, the movie itself is worth your time.

The Eagle has all the historical drama you crave

The Eagle sees Channing Tatum as one Marcus Flavius Aquila, son of the Senior Centurion of the Ninth Legion, which (as you know) plum up and skedaddled some twenty years prior. Compelled to return his family name to a place of honor, Marcus makes it his personal goal to recover the eagle standard of his father's regiment after rumors start swirling that it has appeared in the north of Britain. Bleak historical drama unfolds, complete with stabbings, astonishing costume design, and the realization that maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, slavery is wrong.

There's plenty to like about The Eagle. It was helmed by Kevin Macdonald, the director of The Last King of Scotland, and costars Jamie Bell as Marcus's slave Esca, with supporting performances by Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong. Location shots in Hungary and Scotland make for some remarkable visuals.

Unfortunately, none of that saved the film from a critical thrashing on its theatrical run. The Eagle currently holds near identical 39 and 41% approval ratings from reviewers and audience members on Rotten Tomatoes. The box office wasn't kind, either. Like the soldiers it was based on, The Eagle was more or less lost to history. 

However, now that it's making a comeback on streaming, perhaps the film will find the audience it missed the first time around, because there is a lot of underappreciated work that went into it. Come for the amazingly silly hats, and stay for the history, the direction, and the visuals.

Check it out on HBO Max.