The tale of Romulus and Remus is one that many will be familiar with. But despite being commonly referenced in popular culture, there actually aren’t that many films depicting the tragic story resulting in the founding of Rome. Stories about the Roman Empire itself are much easier to find, which is what makes The First King such a special entry in the historical war drama subgenre.
Directed by Matteo Rovere, the film recounts the story of twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who rise from being slaves to eventual leaders of a new land. And if you’re like me, and only have a cursory knowledge base of this story, the film is sure to be an enlightening session of classic Roman storytelling. The mythologies of sorcery and destined fate are clearly in the driver’s seat, and help propel this republic origin story into something that almost delves into fantasy territory.
Although many of the peripheral characters are severely underwritten, the two primary players in the film are nicely developed and both Alessandro Borghi and Alessio Lapice give solid performances. In fact, most of the other characters are somewhat forgettable and you might be hard pressed to even remember their names (with the sorceress possibly being the only exception). The action choreography and cinematography are both exceptional, creating a rather visceral experience with just the right amount of blood and gore. Which in this case, is not a whole lot, but still manages to pack in just the right amount of punch.
For a period film with a good number of set pieces, The First King does a solid job at creating something that is both entertaining and narratively sound. But beyond telling a classic story with some degree of finesse, the film doesn’t really stretch its artistic branches too much. And this isn’t necessarily a point of criticism, it’s simply a point of setting expectations. Those looking for a well-made rendition of a timeless narrative should definitely give the film a shot.
The First King is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Well Go USA Entertainment.