You wait fifty six years for a film and then two come along at the same time. What are the chances? Rosemary Sutcliff's book The Eagle of the Ninth has been an all time favourite of mine since I read it at school (which wasn't quite 56 years ago - that was when it was first published) and when I heard it was going to be turned into a film I was ecstatic. For me that story has everything: a spooky historical mystery at its heart - the disappearance of a Roman legion north of Hadrian's Wall - adventure, romance and a great setting. So I hurried off to find out all about the film... And discovered both of them.
First up, in April, is Centurion. This appears to be inspired by the story of the Roman Ninth Legion rather than actually based on Rosemary Sutcliff's book. It stars Michael Fassbender and Dominic West, two good reasons to go and see it, aside from the actual story. I like the idea of a plucky band of seven warriors fighting back against overwhelming odds deep inside enemy territory. (Shades of the King Arthur film with Clive Owen there.) The tagline "Fight or Die" certainly goes for the throat.
Then, in the summer, there is The Eagle of the Ninth, the film of the book, starring Channing Tatum and an all star cast. So what to do? Either or both? And at the back of my mind is that thought that always lurks when I go to see the film of a favourite book: Can the film possibly do the book justice?
I call this the "Frenchman's Creek" experience. Years ago there was a made-for-TV-movie of Daphne Du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek, a fabulous book that is on my all time favourites list. But oh dear, the disappointment and the disillusionment of the film! Sometimes it really is better to stay away from that movie screen and relish the printed word and the power of your own imagination.
What do you think? Did you read and enjoy Rosemary Sutcliff's book? Will you be going to see either of these movies? And have you seen a film of a book that equalled or exceeded the original?