Imagine a period piece about ancient Alexandria written and directed by George Lucas and you pretty much have this movie--it's the Phantom Menace of gladiator movies without gladiators, historical drama without drama, and way too many scenes with long dialogue about video-conference calls regarding the trade embargo on Naboo--er, about what's wrong with Ptolemaic astronomy. I mean, I can watch the History Channel, PBS, and listen to NPR for goddsakes...and even just wanted to stand up and shout, "Ellipse! It's a fucking ellipse! Everyone knows it's a fucking ellipse! It's not a goddam circle you idiots!"
In another eerie Phantom Menace paralell, the boy-slave who's unrequited love for Rachel Hotjewess leads him to commit horrible acts is almost as interesting a character as Annie Skywalker and about as well-acted.
And if I never, never, never, NEVER see/hear slow-motion violence pared with mournful middle-easterny vocals, IT WILL BE TOO FUCKING SOON.
Okay, that being said, this movie does do one thing very well, and that is, make Christians look very, very scary....also interesting to see the first Christo-Islamic book burning (disclaimer: probably not the first), and how the only interesting character in the film, the Bishop of Alexandria, manipulates others to gain power, and uses his army of brown-shirted thugs to herald the dawn the Dark Ages.... In other words, this *should* have been the focus of the entire movie. Also it feels very timely, at least here in the U.S., what with all of those lovely 'tea party' chappies who are just chomping at the bit to re-enact Kristalnacht.
I would have to say the historical recreation, for some reason, does not really work either, perhaps due to budgetary limitations, who knows? There is a real-looking, um, Roman ship though. So there.