When the period war drama, “The Eagle,” lands in theaters today, it’ll do so not with the majesty the great avian hunter usually connotes, but with a thud. This bird is gonna hit the ground with all the grace of a belly flop, followed by a crash and burn at the box office. It’s 120 A.D. and hunk of the hour, Channing Tatum (“Step Up,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”), is Marcus Aquila, an on-the-rise Roman commander who’s come to take charge of a fort in the north of England, where Roman armies have been wreaking havoc on the locals.

When the period war drama, “The Eagle,” lands in theaters today, it’ll do so not with the majesty the great avian hunter usually connotes, but with a thud. This bird is gonna hit the ground with all the grace of a belly flop, followed by a crash and burn at the box office.


It’s 120 A.D. and hunk of the hour, Channing Tatum (“Step Up,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”), is Marcus Aquila, an on-the-rise Roman commander who’s come to take charge of a fort in the north of England, where Roman armies have been wreaking havoc on the locals.


He’s not popular with the Brits, and he’s got to deal with a lack of respect from his soldiers.


Seems that his dad, a former commander, led 5,000 men into the wilds of Scotland, where every last one them – Dad included – vanished without a trace. So why should these soldiers trust in him?


Well, it’s his plan to make the fort a nicer place and, by the way, restore honor to his family’s name.


Something else that went missing with the men was the golden eagle on a stick. And while that sounds like a 2nd-century fast-food snack, it’s actually a big, solid gold Roman emblem carried into battle.


It’s Marcus’ plan to venture north, with only the British slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), at his side, to retrieve the token and bring it home, even if it takes battling their way through wild marauding tribes.


But there are other problems. First there’s the almost complete lack of personality in these two characters (and the actors portraying them). They start off disliking each other. That evolves into mistrust, before finally blossoming into . . . Despite the obviousness of the plot, I will reveal no more, mainly because you’ll probably figure it out way before the characters any way.


Yet beyond the mundane acting and rote story, the filmmakers (Kevin Macdonald directed the excellent “The Last King of Scotland” and the not-bad “State of Play”) at least try to make it entertaining.


There are cameras all over the place, watching from every conceivable vantage point, and the spectacular Scottish countryside is breathtakingly photographed.


But the positive notes are soured by multiple battle scenes, where cameras are placed so close to the action, it’s impossible to tell trained warrior from crazed mountain fighter. And you can never be sure about who’s actually winning.


Things get a little easier to comprehend when the Romans go up against a band of clay-covered adversaries reminiscent of “Yellow Submarine’s” Blue Meanies.


But by that point, the script by Jeremy Brock (“The Last King of Scotland,” the 2008 “Brideshead Revisited”) has gone haywire, regularly – and confusedly – flashing back to Marcus’ childhood (I think) and glimpses of an emerald ring that of course turns out to belong to ... nope, won’t give that one away, either.


Here’s all you really need to know: The film runs just under two hours, but it slogs along. It’s quite violent, but practically bloodless.


There’s ample opportunity to count the clichés. It reminded me of Ridley Scott’s underappreciated “Black Rain” – maybe because it’s about a couple of guys who go off to find something and bring it back. Here’s some good advice: Skip “The Eagle,” and add “Black Rain” to your Netflix queue.


The Patriot Ledger


THE EAGLE (PG-13 for battle sequences and disturbing images.) Cast includes Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and  Donald Sutherland. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. 1.5 stars out of 4.