|Abbreviation(s):||Working title: The Eagle of the Ninth|
|Creator:||Rosemary Sutcliff (novel), Jeremy Brock (adaptation), Kevin Macdonald (director)|
|Date(s):||filmed 2009-2010, released 11 February 2011 (USA & Canada), 25 March 2011 (UK) (more dates)|
|Country of Origin:||filmed in Scotland and Hungary, joint UK/USA production|
|External Links:||Official Trailer, IMDB, Wikipedia, ninth_eagle LJ community|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The Eagle is a 2011 film adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth. Set in second century Roman Britain, it follows the quest of a young ex-legionary Marcus Flavius Aquila and his ex-gladiator slave Esca Mac Cunoval to find and bring back the Eagle Standard of the lost Ninth Legion, who marched beyond Hadrian's Wall and never came back.
Marcus is a young centurion who arrives in Britain to serve in his first post as garrison commander. He's chosen this far northwestern corner of the Roman empire because years earlier the ninth legion, for which his father was the standard-bearer, vanished without trace in the northern region of Caledonia (the Scottish highlands). Losing the legion's standard - a golden eagle - brought dishonor to his family name, and Marcus' sole aim is to win honor back through brave service. During an attack on the garrison by Celtic tribesmen, his foresight and bravery save the fort. In the battle, Marcus is severely wounded; and, while convalescing at his uncle's villa in Calleva, he is given an honorable discharge.
Esca is a captured Briton, the son of a Brigantes chieftain whose family was killed by Romans following an insurrection by his tribe. Esca is trained as a gladiator and it's during a visit to the games at the local amphitheater that he and Marcus first have contact. During the fight, Esca's life hangs in the balance, the audience giving him the 'thumbs down' for his death, when Marcus manages to bring the crowd around and saves Esca's life, done on impulse as an act of kindness.
It's at this point that the screenplay diverges from the book in a number of crucial ways that impact both the characterization and dynamics of the two main characters. In the book, Marcus chooses to buy Esca as his body slave and when they meet, Esca is wary but respectful. Over the following months they gradually build a friendship and when, some time later, Marcus hears a rumor the eagle of the ninth has been seen beyond the wall in the wilds of Caledonia, Marcus sees the opportunity to redeem his family's name by going on a quest to find and retrieve it. He prepares himself for the quest by training as an eye doctor and before leaving, gives Esca his freedom. Esca chooses to accompany him as his friend.
By contrast, in the movie Esca is purchased by his uncle, without Marcus' prior knowledge. On being presented with Esca, Marcus makes it clear to his new slave he neither wants nor needs him. Esca, for his part, tells Marcus that he despises everything Rome stands for, but for saving his life, Esca believes he owes Marcus a debt of honor and pledges to serve him. Thus begins a fractious master/slave relationship. When Marcus hears about the eagle, Esca as Marcus' slave, is given no choice about accompanying his master, so when they set out on the long ride north, their relationship remains as antagonistic and tense as it was in the beginning.
Unable to speak the local language, Marcus is entirely reliant on Esca, and although uncertain where his allegiance truly lies, has no choice but to trust him. He discovers, too late, that Esca knows far more about the eagle's whereabouts than he's admitted, just when they are set upon by a fierce tribe known as the Seal People. While Esca tells the son of the tribe's chieftain that Marcus is his slave, thus saving the Roman's life, Marcus no longer trusts Esca or his loyalty.
The film is directed by Kevin Macdonald (Oscar-winning The Last King of Scotland) and stars Channing Tatum (Stop-Loss, Dear John, Public Enemies, Fighting, Step Up) as Marcus Aquila, Jamie Bell (The Adventures of Tintin, Defiance, Billy Elliot) as Esca, Donald Sutherland as Uncle Aquila, Mark Strong (Robin Hood, Stardust) as Guern, and Denis O'Hare (True Blood, Brothers and Sisters) as Lutorius.
The Eagle contains many fandom tropes, particularly those popular in slash fandom, the most prominent of which is master/slave, with a role reversal partway through the film that has a distinctly d/s undertone. Both characters engage in hurt/comfort with each other and both carry a lot of angst due to past misfortunes and future uncertainty. As the film heads towards its climax, Marcus' disability becomes a problem, particularly because of their size difference, as Esca doesn't have the stature or strength to carry him any distance.
Unlike the book in which Marcus has a romantic interest in the form of a young Briton girl, Cottia, there are virtually no women cast in the movie, and none of them have a speaking part - unusual in mainstream films today. It was partly due to this, and partly because of the focus and intensity of the relationship between Marcus and Esca, that both the director and actors acknowledged the homoerotic undertones by jokingly calling the film "Brokeback Eagle" during shooting.  This subtext was also noted by a number of reviewers.
The Eagle fandom
Only a small proportion of fanfiction is based on the book,  representing about a tenth of all The Eagle stories written. (See The Eagle of the Ninth page for examples.) These include a number of gen,  het, , slash,  and polyamorous  stories. It's interesting to note that while they include characters exclusive to the book, such as Cottia, those written since the film's release frequently base physical descriptions, where applicable, on the movie's actors rather than Sutcliff's descriptions.
After the movie's release, a predominantly slash fandom revolving almost exclusively around the relationship between Marcus and Esca has quickly grown. A kink meme on LiveJournal was started shortly after the movie's release which has proved very popular. A sizeable proportion of the stories are modern-day AUs, though the majority are canon era, mostly set as missing scenes in the film or future fic. Due to the nature of the master/slave relationship and the character dynamics, stories with a BDSM theme are popular.
To assist with historical accuracy, a number of contributors to the LJ The Eagle community have posted information on books and other relevant documents, as well as sharing their research. Many authors strive to be as historically accurate as possible, which shows in the meticulous detail of their writing Some have even gone so far as to write entire stories in Latin.
- Fighter by PlaneJane. Esca/Marcus modern AU slavefic
- I Wrote Your Name For All To See by Sineala. Esca/Marcus Canon era d/s
- Until All The Songs Are Sung by Carmarthen. Esca/Marcus Canon era Futurefic. Podfic by inkjunket.
- The Days Beyond by MissPamela. Esca/Marcus Canon era Missing scene
- Down On His Knees by Lallyloo. Esca/Marcus Modern AU Glory hole
- The Persistence of Memory by Savvierthanu. Esca/Marcus Canon era Amnesia
- The Long Road To Calleva by Bunn. Canon era Gen
- Passion & Profession (link) by Demon Rum. Esca/Marcus Historical AU Crossover (with Jane Eyre)
- Hard Is The Fortune Esca/Marcus-as-Flavia)/Cottia by Sineala. Canon era Genderswap
- Petting Teacher by Pouxin. Marcus/Esca Modern AU College AU
- Chosen Man by Sineala. Canon AU.
- First Steps by Sibila_cantus. Marcus/Esca/Cottia Fanart OT3
- First Impressions: Meeting the Seal People by Akahans27. Marcus/Esca Fanart Canon era
- Sweeter Than Honey] by Motetus. Marcus/Esca Fanart Canon era
- Illustration for Lupus In Fabula by Ladytiferet. Esca/Marcus Photo manip Modern AU Werewolf
- Until All the Songs Are Sung by Carmarthen (Podfic) by inkjunket (2 hours, 2011)
- (Podfic of) From the Depths of His Heart by isweedan (4 hours, 2013)
- (Podfic) Patience by greedy_dancer (11 min, 2013)
- (Podfic) Where Do You Do Your Research, Wikipedia? by CompassRose, Djapchan, GodOfLaundryBaskets, greedy_dancer, lattice_frames, marianas, olive2read, Rionaa, semperfiona (45 min, 2021)
Archives & Communities
- Fanworks tagged "The Eagle | Eagle of the Ninth (2011)" (i.e., film version) on AO3
- Fanfiction in category "Eagle_2011" (movie) on Fanfiction.net
- Resources post on ninth_eagle - trailers, featurettes, interview and other resources
- eagleslave - a fanworks and news community for the movie
- Eagle fandom at the audiofic archive
- ninth_eagle - LJ community for The Eagle slash (book or movie). It has movieverse and bookverse fanfic, podfics, fanmixes, fanvids and icons, as well as essays and links to resources.
- the_eagle_kink meme and Delicious account - kink meme comm for both the movie and the book
- sutcliff_fics - Rosemary Sutcliff fanfiction on LiveJournal, includes The Eagle fanfiction
Recs, Primers etc.
- ninth_eagle on Delicious LJ ninth_eagle comm Delicious account
- The Eagle: Book vs. Movie - A comparison by linaerys of The Eagle of the Ninth book by Rosemary Sutcliff and the movie The Eagle with Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. In table form.
- Fandom squee and pimping - LJ The Eagle pimping post
- the eagle: a summary - picspam summary on Tumblr (aka The Epic Love Story of Marcus and Esca)
- mostly-gay movie recap/review (SPOILERS): the eagle - a recap made of tweets and images.
- Focus Features' Guide to The Eagle - videos, photos, info
- Official Trailer
- News on IMDB - contains articles about other projects by the actors and director, so not always relevant
- The Eagle (of the Ninth) film page on rosemarysutcliff.com - info on story, plot, filming, creators, actors' accents, music etc
- Film news and reviews on RosemarySutcliff.com's blog run by Anthony Lawton, Rosemary Sutcliff's literary executor & relative - thorough and often updated. Also on Twitter
- Scottish newspaper interview with Director Kevin McDonald and Channing Tatum
- The Guardian film review
- New York Film Critics Circle movie review
- Book-verse stories listed in Delicious
- The Trials of Marcipor by Bunn
- Aedificāre by Opalmatrix
- The Centurion's Hound by Tryfanstone
- Ancient Ménage à Trois by Naninande
- AU stories on the kink meme
- Canon era stories on The Eagle comm Delicious bookmarks
- BDSM-themed stories on The Eagle comm
- History resources on The Eagle comm Delicious bookmarks
- "The Long Road to Calleva" by Bunn
- "Until All the Songs Are Sung" by Carmarthen
- "Post Canem" by Sineala
- "Non Saevus Sum" by Celzmccelz