A VERY SPECIAL EDITION ARTICLE
WARNING THIS IS AN EXTREMELY LONG ARTICLE BUT ENJOY!!
In the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, independent home-based film studio and Youtube channel No Budget Films released its longest Lego film so far with a running time of 47 minutes, the highly action-packed Lego Byzantine era epic War of the Sicilian Vespers which has a voice cast of over 28 voice actors, a wide variety of settings and historical and fictional characters of the 13th century. If you haven’t watched the film yet, please watch the movie first before you get spoilers by reading this article!
Now, welcome again to an article from the Byzantium Blogger and this one will be a special feature article on a Byzantine Lego film! This film is set in the turbulent 13th century in the year 1282, 21 years after the movie’s 2019 prequel Summer of 1261 (watch it here) where the Byzantines retook their capital Constantinople from the Latin Crusaders, now the Latins from the west are at it again to take back and end the once proud Byzantine Empire, the remnant of the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages once and for all. This 2020 Lego film War of the Sicilian Vespers was produced by independent home-based film studio No Budget Films, directed by Powee Celdran who had directed all 9 No Budget Films Lego epics prior to this ever since the channel’s founding in 2015. No Budget Films now has produced 10 full Lego films, 7 Lego one-shot or short films, and 2 Lego miniseries. Among the 10 Lego No Budget films movies, 3 are set in the Byzantine era: first being 1204: The 4th Crusade (2015) set in the 4th Crusade of 1204 that took Constantinople, the next being Summer of 1261: A Byzantine Epic featuring the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople from the Latins (Crusaders) in 1261, and the last being this most recent one War of the Sicilian Vespers: A Byzantine Epic being No Budget Films’ 10th feature film set 21 years after the reconquest of 1261 and at the same time too would be No Budget Films’ final Byzantine epic. No Budget Films’ other productions include 4 Roman Empire era one-shot films and 1 feature film set in it too as well as a fan fiction trilogy of George Orwell’s 1984 which includes a fan fiction spin-off film to it and a prequel miniseries, and 2 other films set in the present day. To watch the other films, please select this to get access to No Budget Films’ channel and please do subscribe to it. Of course, this article will mainly focus on No Budget Films’ Byzantine era epics in which most are set in the turbulent 13th century, one of world history’s most eventful centuries in which this exact film is set in featuring the most complex personalities of this age including 2 equally ambitious European rulers, the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282) and the French king of Sicily Charles I of Anjou (r. 1266-1285) as well as courageous Byzantine soldiers, intellectual imperial family members, warlike and bloodthirsty Latins, foreigners from all across the known world dragged into the scene, and strong willed freedom fighting Sicilians. This Lego film itself focuses on the violent and crucial event of the Sicilian Vespers taking place in the fateful year of 1282 with the French, Sicilians, Byzantines, and Aragonese coming in to the scene of Sicily in which is ruled by the oppressive Angevin French causing its local population to rebel seeking financial and military assistance from the newly restored Byzantine Empire of Michael VIII Palaiologos who also calls on to the new emerging kingdom of Aragon in Spain to help in the fight of the Sicilians against the French. As the fight against French rule in Sicily rages, the Byzantine Empire too is plagued with so much difficulty as not only do the French want to invade Byzantium and restore Latin rule ever since the Latins lost it in 1261 but at the east, Byzantine borders begin to collapse as the invasions of the Turks begin while the empire itself is growing weaker financially while its strong ruling emperor Michael VIII begins to face not only a troubled empire but battling his own guilt for his evil actions in the past. The story of this film overall covers many themes such as war, diplomacy, politics, religion, family drama, and the true meaning of being a Byzantine, which is to continue to fight for the strong legacy of an empire they have. This film would be the final epic in No Budget Films’ Byzantine story as its own story concludes the 13th century Byzantine story in a time when the Byzantine Empire could have almost ended, yet this is the beginning of the end for the Byzantine Empire and at the same time the end of the age of the Crusades. Now this article will be a very long one but will be divided into sections covering the movie’s story background, where it is factual and historically inaccurate as this movie is literally a historical fan fiction and not a documentary, characters and their backgrounds, set locations, a scene to scene analysis with its hidden Easter Eggs, and behind the scenes facts especially since this movie was edited and completed in the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic released on May 27, 2020 and has now been online for 2 months, though at the end showing a true example of a masterpiece that can be produced in such challenging times. This Lego film War of the Sicilian Vespers was directed, produced and written by Powee Celdran, co-produced by Carlos Francisco and Mario Puyat, and stars Powee Celdran, Mario Puyat, Santiago Roxas, Jon Cabrera, Pat Claudio, Nuni Celdran, Carlos Francisco, Angelo Lacson, Alej Consing, Monica David, Miguel Abarentos, and RJ Celdran as the main voice cast, the full background of all this movie’s characters will be discussed separately in a PDF file, as you will see later on.
Watch No Budget Films’ other Byzantine era films here:
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An Intro to the Byzantine Empire and No Budget Films’ involvement in it
The Byzantine Empire (330-1453AD) in fact lasted longer than that as it was actually the successor of the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages though very distant from the original Rome because it did not have Rome as it capital and did not speak Latin, also it did control the exact amount of territory Rome did for most of its existence except in its first years. The Byzantine Empire then would rather be better known as the “Eastern Roman Empire” and its capital was Constantinople also known as the “New Rome” or Nova Roma getting its name from its founder the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337) who would be the first Byzantine emperor too after founding the city in the year 330. After the death of the last full Roman emperor, Theodosius I in 395, the complete Roman Empire was formally divided east and the west, the east to be ruled by Theodosius I’s older son Arcadius (395-408) from Constantinople and the west by the younger son Honorius (395-423) from Ravenna.
The Western Roman Empire did not even last a century but the east lived on in fact for another thousand years, at one point during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great (527-565), the Eastern Empire or Byzantium went close to reaching the vastness of territorial extent the original Roman Empire did by controlling Italy, Spain, and North Africa but of course this Byzantine Empire had to live through centuries of constant foreign and civil wars making them not hold on to such massive amounts of territory for long. Since its founding by Constantine the Great in 330, Byzantium was ruled by 15 different dynasties, Michael Palaiologos, the main character of this film was the founder of the last ruling dynasty of Byzantium, known as the Palaiologos dynasty, that ruled the empire from 1261 until its end in 1453 with Constantine XI, the last Roman emperor.
The imperial capital, Constantinople (today Istanbul) proved to be an effective capital for centuries because of its position in a peninsula surrounded by sea on 3 sides that made it hard to attack and easy to defend, in the 5th century the triple layered land walls of Emperor Theodosius II were built. For about 900 years several armies tried to attack it including Goths, Persians, Arabs, Bulgarians, and Norsemen known as the Rus to besiege the Byzantine capital and all failed as it was too hard to breach into these walls. Only in 1204 were the armies of the 4th Crusade able to breach into the city’s walls although they did it the easy way scaling the lower sea walls from the beach below it.
Only with the invention of the cannon and gunpowder were the powerful land walls of Constantinople able to be breached, this was in 1453 when Constantinople and the empire finally fell to the Ottomans, though this is a story for another time. The Byzantine Empire itself in its who history was at constant war if not with external enemies with themselves therefore it had never really seen a long period of lasting peace. Among all foreign enemies, the greatest threats were the Sassanid Persians (4th to 7th centuries), Arabs (7th to 12th centuries), Bulgars (7th to 11th centuries/ 12th to 14th centuries), and Turks (11th to 15th centuries) while the Latins also known as the Western Europeans were at times a problem and sometimes a useful ally to the Byzantines ever since the 1st Crusade (1095). The name of the Byzantine Empire could really be confusing because in its time it wasn’t at all called that, instead the Byzantine people and emperors including Michael Palaiologos from this film referred to themselves as the Romans, which he even says in one of his dialogues in the movie. However, it is known to us today as the Byzantine Empire because Constantinople was built over the Greek settlement of Byzantium and cannot be called the Roman Empire because it was not based in Rome and was centered more in the east. Well, the Byzantine emperor was also still called Augustus and Emperor of the Romans even if the empire’s language became Greek and no longer Latin. The empire’s name “Byzantine” named after Constantinople’s original name as the Greek settlement of Byzantium was only given by western historians in the 16th century to distinguish it from the original Roman Empire where Byzantium came from. Now in the 1,100-year history of Byzantium, No Budget Films’ media takes place on different periods in its ling history. First of all, in 2019 No Budget Films released two one-shot Lego films (short films) in the 10th century military golden age of Byzantium the first being The Rise of Phokas and the next being a short sequel to it entitled Killing a Byzantine Emperor which are set only 6 years apart from each other, the former being in the year 963 and the latter in 969 centralizing on the successful reign of the Byzantine soldier emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (963-969) in the era of Byzantium’s Macedonian Dynasty when the Byzantines were successfully winning wars against their long time enemy, the Arabs.
The first of these one-shot films show the story of the middle-aged general Nikephoros Phokas who with his military genius and brute force conquers the city of Aleppo from the Arabs for the empire only to find out that the current emperor Romanos II (r. 959-963) mysteriously died so he has to rush back to Constantinople to take the throne before a power struggle breaks out and once in the capital the general beats a rival to the throne in a fistfight and is crowned Emperor Nikephoros II after marrying the late emperor’s widow Theophano. Its sequel “Killing a Byzantine Emperor” takes place 6 years after Nikephoros II becomes emperor and as emperor he successfully campaigned against the Arabs but grows paranoid as conspiracies rise up intending to kill him including one by his own nephew the exiled general John Tzimiskes who has an affair with the empress Theophano and work together to assassinate the old emperor and in one December night as the emperor Nikephoros II sleeps in the palace, John Tzimiskes and his assassins break in and kill the emperor in his sleep allowing John Tzimiskes to rise to power and become the new emperor himself. This very quick one-shot only 2 minutes long is only set in that one night of December 11, 969 when Nikephoros II was killed with the one soundtrack playing, a eerie version of the Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells.
Both these No Budget Films Byzantine era one-shots appear rather more factual to real Byzantine history and to the events of these characters like Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes with the only historically inaccurate most likely only being Nikephoros’ character using an American Southern accent and not a Greek one, however this is part of No Budget Films’ treatment in doing historical epics and unlike mainstream media that uses formal language and English accents for historical epics, No budget Films likes to experiment in using modern language and different accents in historical epics. Though if No Budget Films were to be even more historically accurate, it would have to make its Byzantine movies in the Greek language and not in English. The No Budget Films Byzantine history timeline after the 10th century however does not continue until the beginning of the 13th century, the century in which most No Budget Films Byzantine epics are set in including this particular film “War of the Sicilian Vespers: that this article is covering. The 13th century Byzantium timeline of NBF goes all the way back to its beginning with the 4th Crusade of 1204 with one full film about it back in 2015 entitled 1204: the 4th Crusade and a 2017 spin-off one-shot film Louis de Blois: The Hidden History of the Crusades; the former being a more of a historical fan fiction than a historically accurate one which tells the story of the 4th Crusade with the Byzantines defending Constantinople as the heroes and the Crusader army particularly the French led by the Crusader general Louis Philippe de Blois as the villains in which most scenes especially
the battles are historically inaccurate while the latter film mentioned is a spin-off to the former which is a biopic on the movie’s villain Louis de Blois in his perspective as the Count of Blois France narrating his story as he is called to lead the French in the 4th Crusade organized by the Venetians and a Byzantine ally to be installed as the puppet emperor Alexios IV Angelos, although all turns out differently when the Crusaders storm Constantinople in 1204, burn, loot, and kill the population leaving the city in ruins and the Byzantine Empire destroyed with the Latin Empire now established, although a year later in 1205 Louis de Blois himself is killed in battle as the Latins battle the Bulgarians, a new power that rose in the north rebelling against Byzantium and declaring their independence in 1185 for the simple reason of the Byzantine emperor back then Isaac II Angelos raising the taxes to pay for his own wedding. For many centuries, the Byzantine Empire went through many periods of victory and defeat but in 1204, the armies of the 4th Crusade taking over Constantinople would be one defeat the Byzantines would never again
recover from making it the beginning of the end for the Byzantine Empire but the loss of Constantinople to the Crusaders did not yet put an end to Byzantium as the Byzantines themselves established 3 separate states in this period of exile, the first being in the remote southeast corner of the Black Sea becoming the Byzantine Empire of Trebizond, the next being the exiled Empire of Nicaea in Asia Minor not too far away from Constantinople, and the last being nothing more but a rebel state though still Byzantine in identity known as the Despotate of Epirus in Western Greece. Among these 3 separate Byzantine states, the Empire of Nicaea after 57 years took Constantinople back by surprise in the year 1261 which is the main story of the previous film Summer of 1261. The 2 other states of Trebizond and Epirus meanwhile still remained separate and did not unit with the restored Byzantium, though Byzantium back in Constantinople would only go as far as being a regional power in the Balkans at the level of their neighbors Serbia and Bulgaria but never the same Mediterranean or European power they once were but at least in lived for 200 more years.
Recap of No Budget Films’ Summer of 1261 (2019)
Before we move on to the most recent movie War of the Sicilian Vespers, let’s do a recap of the previous film Summer of 1261 together with where it was factual and historically inaccurate. This 2019 Byzantine epic was announced also in the same year after No Budget Films completed the Rise of Phokas one-shot and was filmed at the same time as the Killing a Byzantine Emperor one-shot but released almost 2 months after it. After doing two 10th century Byzantine one-shots, No Budget Films decided to return to its original 13th century Byzantine story by continuing where the 4th Crusade story from the previous years left off. To continue the 13th century Byzantine story, No Budget Films decided to fast-forward 57 years after Constantinople fell to the 4th Crusade which would be in 1261 and at this point the Latin Empire that rules Constantinople had been weakened so much that the exiled Byzantine Empire of Nicaea was already strong enough to retake the lost capital, however the only challenge was knowing how to retake the old capital and finding the right moment especially since it had been 57 years and generations of Byzantines living in exile at the Nicaean Empire have not even seen the old capital. The movie though opens showing the fall of Constantinople to the 4th Crusade in 1204, the French general Louis de Blois proclaiming to his army that they have the city, and a young boy running for his life as the Crusaders try to kill him until he is buried beneath rubble caused by flying debris from a catapult, although the boy happens to be alive when a Byzantine rescues him who then brings the boy over to Nicaea where a Byzantine leader named Theodore Laskaris would establish an empire that would last 57 years. The movies then goes fast-forward 57 years later to 1261 and a small Byzantine strike team led by the young but confused general Alexios Strategopoulos wipes out the last Latin garrison in Asia Minor to clear the path to retake Constantinople. In the Byzantine exiled capital of Nicaea, the boy emperor John IV Laskaris rules but the power behind his rule is the general and his co-emperor Michael Palaiologos who’s only intention is to take back Constantinople. However, Constantinople which was under the Latins was in a state of ruin, the damage caused by the 4th Crusade have never been repaired with 57-year-old rubble still in the streets and its current emperor Baldwin II runs a very broke and beaten empire that he even had to sell of relics like the Crown of Thorns from Constantinople to France and even sell off his son Philippe to their financial and naval ally Venice (although this is not shown in the movie). Knowing the time is right, Michael sends Alexios and the same small army to gather some information on how to exactly take back the city since a year earlier Michael himself led an army to take it back but failed since there was no possible way to break into the walls. Alexios and his men however at a port across the Marmara (in the European side of Turkey) discover from an old monk Georgios Doukas who was the boy that survived the attack in 1204 that the Latins have sent most of their army and fleet out of Constantinople to raid an island belonging to Nicaea in the Black Sea so Alexios decides to use this moment to his advantage by catching the Latins by surprise. Old Georgios leads Alexios and his men through the city’s sewers and arrive in Constantinople in the middle of the night taking down the gate guards and opening the gate to let the rest of Byzantine army in. While the small strike team rests in a monastery, Michael himself arrives with more troops mostly foreign Armenian and Cuman mercenaries and with all complete, the Byzantines surprise attack the remaining Latin forces in the streets and set fire to the Venetian shipyards. All in one night, the small Byzantine army under Michael and Alexios send the Latin army into a panic fleeing the city and falling to the Byzantines but as morning comes, the Latin emperor Baldwin II tries to make his escape but is confronted by Michael’s men. Alexios challenges Baldwin’s general Valentin to a duel in which Alexios wins while Michael defeats Baldwin in another sword duel but before killing off Baldwin, Alexios persuades Michael that hurting him would be better instead so Michael stabs Baldwin’s foot to send Western Europe a message that Byzantium has returned and that’s what would happen if they get in the way of the Byzantines. Baldwin II and the rest of the Latins then evacuate the city and Michael restores it to Byzantine rule becoming crowned Emperor Michael VIII weeks later but in Nicaea the boy emperor still rules so to eliminate him and secure the new dynasty, Michael surprises John Laskaris by blinding and imprisoning him. The movie ends with John Laskaris blinded, Michael becoming the restored Byzantine emperor, and Alexios assigned to a new mission to fight the Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor where the movie ends with a cliffhanger as Alexios says “nothing ever really ends”. The No Budget Films Summer of 1261 film meanwhile was supposed to show the story of Byzantium as well as that of the short-lived Latin Empire and their allies the Venetians but was overall a war epic. This film was also directed by Powee Celdran while Santiago Roxas, Powee Celdran, Carlos Francisco, Anton Diño, Igi Rollan, Alina R. Co, and Gen Maramba star as the main voice cast.
Of course the Summer of 1261 Lego film as a historical fan-fiction has a number of historical inaccuracies although the story itself is accurate as it took place in 1261 and Constantinople was taken back very quickly in the night of July 24-25; the primary source of the movie then came from the Byzantine historian of that time George Akropolites (1217-1282) in which the movie’s old monk character Georgios Doukas is loosely based on. The inaccuracies however are mostly the battle scenes and the use of magic and visions as No Budget Films intended in making the movie more of a historical fantasy epic than an accurate period film. Other inaccuracies would mostly be on the movie’s characters and the specific dates but on the other hand many characters in the movie are fictional or based on other historical characters of that time. Now here are some inaccurate parts of this previous movie:
The movie’s lead protagonist character Alexios Komnenos Strategopoulos was a young general in his 30s, was confused in his identity, and had an ability to see events of the past especially in Byzantine history. Alexios though is a real historical character who was the same general who took back Constantinople in 1261 and given the title of Caesar by Michael Palaiologos except the real Alexios was much older than Michael as Alexios is said to be an old man in 1261 possibly around 60 but history doesn’t really say much
details about his life other than being the general that took back Constantinople and that being his only major accomplishment, everything else he failed at doing that he was captured by the enemy twice. Though like in real history, this film shows Alexios and his small army retaking Constantinople by sneaking into the capital at midnight, stealth killing the guards and opening the gate.
The character of Michael Palaiologos was accurately portrayed here in terms of facial features and his role in masterminding the attempt to take back Constantinople but in real history, Michael masterminded the whole mission from his military camp somewhere in Asia Minor and was not present in the night of the reconquest like in the movie wherein he came in the middle of the night to lead his troops, instead Alexios led 800 men including Armenians and Cumans in that night while Michael received the
news the following day that the city was taken back although he thought of it at first as a joke until the messenger gave him the crown and sword of the deposed Latin emperor Baldwin II who fled the city. Michael then for the first time in his life entered Constantinople in August wherein he was crowned emperor.
The character of Baldwin II Courtenay, the last Latin emperor of the 57 year Latin Empire like in real history was Latin emperor from 1228 to 1261 when Constantinople was taken back by the Byzantines and like in real history, the movie shows Baldwin II sleeping while the Byzantines were battling his men in streets until he is woken up by his wife. In real history, Baldwin II safely evacuated the city with his wife with the help of
the Venetian fleet while in the movie, Baldwin’s wife was killed in battle while Michael himself confronted Baldwin in a duel wherein Michael won and stabbed Baldwin’s foot instead of killing him.The real Baldwin did manage to get back to Western Europe by passing through Greece first while the deleted scenes of the movie shows that Baldwin who was left injured and abandoned at the docks of Constantinople was rescued by the surviving soldiers and transported to the Black Sea where they would go back to France through the long way having to pass the Black Sea and up the Danube River. Because he left the Latin Empire is such bankruptcy and ended up being defeated by the Byzantines, he became known as “Baldwin the Broke”.
The movie also shows Baldwin II’s younger wife Marie of Brienne who in the movie is called “Svenja” who was in fact secretly plotting to get rid of her husband with his general Valentin Clovis the same way Empress Theophano and the general John Tzimiskes killed Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas in 969. Svenja though turned out to be a strong warrior who forces her husband to wake up and leave and leads the knights and Valentin to defend the palace in which Alexios stormed and confronts Alexios in a full set of armor, although Svenja convinces Alexios to join her, kill Baldwin, be married, and the rule the empire together but Alexios refuses and defeats Svenja but it is the ghost of the 10th century emperor Nikephoros II that intervenes and kills Svenja making a come-back. The real Svenja or Marie of Brienne though was not so much younger than her
husband and was married to him because she was the daughter of his regent John of Brienne and was certainly not killed in the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 and there definitely was no evidence of Nikephoros II’s ghost appearing, rather Marie escaped together with Baldwin back to France and in around 1266 settled in Italy with their only son Philippe as they found an ally in the ambitious king of Sicily Charles of Anjou who would help them take back their empire though Baldwin died in 1273 while she died 2 years later.
One of the biggest historical mistakes No Budget Films had in the Summer of 1261 movie was showing the empress Elena Asenina of Bulgaria, mother of the boy emperor of Nicaea John IV Laskaris still alive as in real history she was already dead by 1261. In the movie however, the empress mother Elena is a bit of a reclusive character only staying in her bedchambers but acts as an unofficial regent for her son which causes a strong rivalry between her and her son’s official regent Michael Palaiologos but after a long argument, Michael accuses her of not helping them and hoarding relics making him banish her and exile her for life never to be seen again. In real history however, Elena Asenina is so insignificant that her date of death is not even mentioned, although it only says she was the daughter of the Bulgarian king Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241) and was married off to the Nicaean emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes’ (r. 1222-1254) son
Theodore when both were young to seal an alliance though she was originally supposed to be married to the Latin emperor Baldwin II. Nothing much else is said about Elena and she probably died in around in 1255 while her husband Theodore II Laskaris (r. 1254-1258) was emperor though when married, it said Theodore and Elena were like “soulmates”. Even without her date of death mentioned, it is very much possible that by 1261 she was already dead since when her husband Theodore II died in 1258, he appointed his friend the commoner George Mouzalon the regent to his young son John IV and if Elena was still alive, she would be made the regent. However, the nobles led by Michael Palaiologos only a few days later murdered Mouzalon allowing Michael to make himself the boy’s regent for his own ambitions but the deleted scenes of Summer of 1261 still shows Elena at the funeral of Theodore II where Mouzalon was killed and the flashbacks of War of the Sicilian Vespers shows Elena present at her husband’s death. Before making the Summer of 1261 movie, the No Budget Films team was unaware of Elena’s historical character and decided to make her part of the movie even if she wasn’t around at that time, but since it is just a historical fan fiction, it was fine that she was present in the story.
Just to add some more fun to Byzantine history, No Budget Films included magical items and relics in the Summer of 1261 movie like the sword and shield of Nikephoros Phokas and the armor worn by Svenja and later taken by Alexios which could even resist Greek Fire; this armor appeared earlier on but in the modern age in No Budget Films’ 1984 Part3: End of Empire worn by Supreme Leader of Oceania Winston Smith having the power to deflect bullets and resist fire. The scenes of the old monk Georgios Doukas
fighting in battle is also another fantasy element since it was very rare for a Byzantine monk to fight unlike Latin monks who did fight in wars. Also, to make the characters more multi-national, No Budget Films added the Chinese assassin mercenary Lu Xun and Indian archer mercenary Ranchoddas to the Byzantine army of Alexios although both Lu Xun and Ranchoddas die in battle against the Latins and it is definitely not possible that a Chinese and Indian fought alongside Byzantine troops.
To add in some more Byzantine history references, No Budget Films added a vision of the 6th century emperor Justinian I the Great at the end of the movie Summer of 1261 while visions and flashbacks show other Byzantine era characters from previous No Budget Films media like the Crusader general Louis de Blois, the 95-year-old Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo, the “last” Byzantine emperor Alexios V (r. 1204), and other past Roman characters from No Budget Films media mostly 1st century people like Roman emperor Claudius I, the general Germanicus and his wife Agrippina the Elder; the characters of the 10th century emperors Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes were added too. Meanwhile, the same background drawing of Constantinople was also used in this movie which had been used in every No Budget Films Byzantine Lego film since 2015 and had again returned for 2020’s War of the Sicilian Vespers.
War of the Sicilian Vespers: A Lego Byzantine Epic (2020)
War of the Sicilian Vespers is a direct successor to 2019’s Summer of 1261: A Byzantine Epic, it was although never planned that Summer of 1261 would have a sequel, but of course as the last line of that movie said by the character of Alexios “nothing ever really ends”, a sequel so happened to be planned and of course this is based on real history, so there is bound to be a sequel. The Sicilian Vespers movie is supposed to be the final chapter of No Budget Films’ Byzantine story taking place 21 years later in 1282 and was chosen as the sequel to “Summer of 1261” because not only was it 21 years after it with most of the characters form 1261 including the emperor Michael VIII still alive, but
because the story of the Sicilian Vespers in Sicily was a war against French occupation that involved the restored Byzantine Empire in it, who were allies to the Sicilian rebels and yet it was the next crucial event in 13th century Byzantine history after 1261 and was the conclusion to the century’s bloody conflict between the Latins and Byzantines. The movie’s title comes from the name of the same conflict in Sicily that took place in 1282 and as a fun fact, the story of the rebellion Sicilian Vespers is quite well known because it is the main story of the famous 5-act French opera Les Vêpres Siciliennes written by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), first performed in Paris in 1855. Today this opera is performed in both French and in its original Italian language in which in Italian is called I Vespri Siciliani, which is also the Italian name used by No Budget Films for this movie. Both the No Budget Films 2020 film and the opera share the same story of the 1282 Sicilian Vespers rebellion against French occupation but No Budget Films’ story is however not based on the opera and while the opera only focuses on the story of the Sicilians in 1282 in their fight against their French occupiers with no mention of the Byzantines’ involvement in it, No Budget Films using this story to continue the Byzantine epic shows both the story of the Sicilians but as well as the Byzantines’ involvement in it. The No Budget Films version of the Sicilian Vespers story aimed to elaborate the bigger picture of the Sicilian Vespers rebellion by showing how the Byzantine Empire helped fund it and gave them military assistance with the help of the new emerging kingdom of Aragon in Spain but also aimed to show the politics of this time in both the Byzantine Empire and the
Angevin French court of Sicily ruled by Charles I of Anjou. Unlike Summer of 1261, its sequel War of the Sicilian Vespers did not only focus on a Byzantine Empire setting but rather depicted the conflict of the wider world showing the conflict in Sicily as well with half of the setting in the restored Byzantium and the other half in Sicily showing both the struggles of the rebels and the stories of the French being the superpower of European politics of this time occupying the island as well as parts of Southern Italy and the Balkans further growing their empire. While the Summer of 1261 movie focused almost entirely on the story of the kings and generals of this period, War of the Sicilian Vespers did the movie treatment differently by focusing too on the lives and struggles of the ordinary people and not just the rulers but at the same time joining the ordinary people and important historical figures in some scenes. War of the Sicilian Vespers is then actually the 3rd part of No Budget Films’ 13th century Lego epics, the first being “The 4th Crusade” back in 2015 and the 2nd being “Summer of 1261”. No Budget Films focuses highly on the 13th century setting, well this is because it was one of history’s most eventful centuries all over the world which features for Byzantium it’s fall to the 4th Crusade in 1204 and its restoration in 1261, the rise of the France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Italian States, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and even the Ottomans, the conclusion of the age of the Crusades, the Reconquista in Spain, and biggest threat of the century not only to Europe but to Asia was the rise of the Mongol Empire which was at its rise and peak in this century. Meanwhile this was also an eventful century for the island of Sicily south of Italy seeing the rise and fall of French rule there. The island of Sicily may be known to many as a vacation destination in the Mediterranean, the volcano of Mt. Etna, oranges, and the Mafia but it has had a long history of foreign occupations and cultural exchanges; it had in the ancient days been home to several Carthaginian and Greek colonies, was under the Roman Empire for the longest time and after the Romans it had passed on to Eastern Roman or Byzantine rule that in fact in the 660s, the Byzantine emperor Constans II thought of moving the Byzantine capital from Constantinople to Syracuse in Sicily fearing the constant Arab invasions but was assassinated in his bath there in 668 before he could move the capital.
In the 9th century, Sicily however did fall to Arab rule being its own Arab Emirate with Palermo being its capital until 1071 when the rest of Sicily as well as Southern Italy fell to Norman rule and would be under the Normans until the Norman dynasty died out and in 1194, Sicily was passed on to the Hohenstaufen Dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire who in fact had ties with Byzantium but in 1266, the French royal Charles of Anjou defeated the German Hohenstaufen family and claimed Sicily as his in order to make it his base to take back the Byzantine Empire for the Latins. However, before Charles could invade Byzantium, the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII struck back in 1282 paying off the Sicilians to rebel and allying himself with Aragon and with the help of the army of Aragon, the Sicilians drove away their French occupiers and welcomed the Aragonese as their new rulers adding Sicily to Aragonese territory. Now the question here would be that if the Byzantines helped drive away the French from Sicily, they could have at least
claimed it back since it was theirs before and the Sicilians would be even happier to be under the Byzantines since most of them are Byzantine Greeks in blood but this was for the Byzantines out of the question because they promised their Aragonese allies it was for Aragon and the Byzantine Empire was already so weakened at that time that they couldn’t afford a colony as far as Sicily. At this time the Byzantine Empire was no longer a major player in politics and no longer the European or Mediterranean power they were before 1204, instead by the late 13th century, the restored Byzantium was only a regional power in the Balkans having to protect itself from the threats of its neighbors.
The story of No Budget Films’ War of the Sicilian Vespers though does not open directly in its main setting in 1282 but in the year 1270 to show the whole background of the story and here in August of 1270, the long ruling king of France Louis IX (r. 1226-1270) ends the failed 8th Crusade in Tunis (today in Tunisia, North Africa) declaring the Crusades over and a failure even if it was his life’s mission to rescue Christians in the Levant and North Africa from Muslim rule. Louis IX and his army are struck by a plague outbreak and from it he dies revealing he had been protecting the restored Byzantine Empire all this time since its restoration in 1261 and being the most powerful king in Europe made sure that any Western Catholic kingdom would not harm it not even his younger brother ruling Angevin French Sicily since 1266. Now with Louis IX also known as St. Louis dead, his younger brother Charles of Anjou ruling Sicily now has the moment he needs and since he is free from his older brother’s control, he now begins his plans to take back Byzantium. The story then goes fast-forward to the year 1282 and it is here where the well-known conflict of the Sicilian Vespers begins once the evening Vespers prayer finishes in a church in Palermo (called Panormos) in the movie, the people exit the church and the French soldiers in their usual drunk state harass the Sicilian people with one grabbing a woman in which her husband kills that soldier but is killed by another soldier causing conflict to break out with the Sicilian locals readying their small weapons beginning to kill the rest of the soldiers who in return kill some of the locals and as the chaos erupts, a small Byzantine army sent there to spy on the Sicilian issue by their emperor Michael VIII led by the emperor’s most trusted general Alexios Strategopoulos of the 1261 reconquest of Constantinople intervenes and attacks the French but is overpowered and killed by Charles’ general Hugh Sully who then escapes while the remaining Byzantines now having uncovered what the Sicilians are up to rush back to Constantinople with a local Sicilian doctor and diplomat Giovanni Procida to report to the emperor Michael VIII himself. In Constantinople, Michael VIII has ruled the restored empire for 21 years now but has grown from an optimistic leader to a tired old man brought down by years of stress in ruling an empire way to large for him. Michael is distraught and enraged hearing the death of his most trusted general Alexios but when he hears of an opportunity to help the Sicilian rebels by paying them off through Dr. Giovanni, Michael agrees mainly because the Sicilians have strong Byzantine heritage which is a good reason to help them. Before the same Byzantine strike team also consisting of former veterans from 1261 leave Constantinople for Sicily again, Michael has his eldest son and heir Andronikos join them to test his ability as an emperor but Andronikos is reluctant to join the mission since as co-emperor with his father he does not think he needs to be involved in conflict while at the same time he hates war and travelling and rather chooses the academic life and the arts but his father tells him straight that this would be a sign of him being a weak ruler so instead he listens to his father and leaves for Sicily with the rest of the team. Michael meanwhile in Constantinople has his own problems to face as his people and even his own family had come to hate him even if he was the hero who took back Constantinople in 1261 and what caused them to turn on him was mainly because he betrayed Byzantium’s beliefs that he swore to return in 1261 by signing a Church Union with the pope to unite the Byzantine Orthodox and Latin Catholic Churches in which the Byzantines would now answer to the pope, though Michael thought this would save the empire which from its near destruction from enemies on all sides and would work in creating peace between Byzantium and Charles of Anjou but instead it made Michael very unpopular since the Byzantine people would rather die than give up their Orthodox faith and yet Charles of Anjou in Sicily would never agree to such peace terms with Byzantium while the pope at that time Martin IV was a Frenchman and a supporter of Charles. Michael while facing problems of Byzantine borders in Asia Minor collapsing to Turkish raids too has become very much guilty from his evil actions in the past especially his blinding of the boy emperor John Laskaris in 1261 in which the vision of the blinded boy continues to haunt Michael. In the middle of the film’s story, a very old Georgios Doukas, the old monk that survived the 4th Crusade of 1204 who served as Michael and Alexios’ mentor figure back in 1261 reappears and tries to bring Michael back to senses wherein at the same time, Michael’s own older sister Irene shows herself revealing she who had taken care of Michael when young and brought him had come to hate him as well especially for the Church Union, also it is revealed that Irene was behind her younger brother’s schemes including having John Laskaris blinded. Meanwhile in Sicily, Charles of Anjou and his ruling council including the late Latin emperor Baldwin II’s son Philippe meet at the castle in Messina, Sicily making it their top priority to crush the local Sicilian uprisings and set sail east to retake Constantinople, end Byzantium once and for all and restore the Latin Empire that would rule both east and west like the Roman Empire of old wherein the west would be under Charles and the east under Philippe who became Charles’ son-in-law, although Philippe would serve as a puppet ruler to Charles. Meanwhile in Charles’ court, with Philippe having the legitimate claim to Constantinople as the former Latin emperor’s son, Charles’ secretary Jean Clovis son of Baldwin II’s general Valentin is not satisfied with it and having his own imperial ambitions, Jean says he has the rightful claim to Constantinople and not Philippe which leads to a violent fistfight between Jean and Philippe but is broken up by Charles who sends Philippe to quell an uprising in Panormos. As uprisings against French rule spread across Sicily mainly because of the French’s oppressive taxes and torturing, the Byzantine ship arrives in the port of Messina in Sicily to give military and financial aid to the Sicilian rebellion in which the local lord in Sicily Count Tomaso accepts the bribe from Michael VIII, meanwhile the woman named Giulia who was grabbed earlier by the French soldier happens to return in the scene now fighting for the Sicilians’ rebellion. When arriving in Sicily, Andronikos takes it upon himself to stop Charles of Anjou by storming into Charles castle only accompanied by the Byzantine 1261 veterans in which all were foreign in blood which were the full-blooded Latin Stephanos, the Varangian Sviatoslav, and the Armenian Haran who is only in it for the money. Andronikos then challenges Charles to a duel but is defeated and knocked unconscious as Charles checks on the growing uprising in Messina itself while Stephanos and Haran flee the scene and Sviatoslav imprisoned by the French. Feeling defeated, Andronikos escapes Messina with the help of Jean Clovis, as an act of sabotaging Philippe to frame him as a traitor but when Charles returns he surely knew it was all Jean’s plan to let Andronikos escape just to make an excuse to sabotage Philippe knowing that Philippe will never betray them and in fact the ship was not even Philippe’s but Jean, Charles then immediately punishes Jean by blinding and killing him and then has his knight general Sully dispose Jean’s body then ride for Byzantium and assassinate Michael VIII himself together with Andronikos and the former deposed John IV Laskaris. The rebellions in Sicily however end up in failure as Charles sends out his brave and loyal 6 Norman knights to quell the rebellion in Messina and thousands of Sicilians are massacred including most of Panormos’ population which were all punished by a brutal massacre for rebelling against Charles’ rule while Charles decides to invade Byzantium without giving any warning while the rebel leaders including Dr. Giovanni, Count Tomaso, and Giulia together with Stephanos and Haran abandon the mission and flee to the farms in Sicily to give up. Meanwhile, Andronikos after escaping found his way back to Byzantium stopping at the abandoned former capital of Nicaea where he was born intending to quit his life, tear the city down, and strand himself there but is visited by Alexios’ ghost who encourages him to continue the fight against the French or everything the Byzantines fought hard for in 1261 will be wasted. Alexios too relieves Andronikos who was for long distressed by his father’s blinding of John Laskaris by telling him Andronikos’ father Michael blinded John Laskaris so that Andronikos’ succession is secured, Alexios’ ghost too shows Andronikos the most sacred relics of Byzantium, the bones of the empire’s founders St. Constantine and St. Helena kept secured in the vaults of the Nicaea imperial palace all this time in which Alexios said this will give full inspiration for the Byzantines to fight back again. Michael then decides to leave Constantinople as the mobs intend to kill him but his wife Theodora tries to stop him since his bad health would make it worse for him to travel but Michael still insists on leaving or the people would hack him to death, meanwhile before leaving by boat, Michael now reconciles with his sister as long as he would cancel that Church Union and she would rescue John Laskaris. Michael having regretted what he did to John Laskaris years ago has his sister Irene release John Laskaris from prison in a castle tower along the Marmara and relocate him to a monastery in Nicomedia and while Irene relocates the now blind and fat adult John Laskaris, Michael having grown partially insane leaves Constantinople first by boat deciding to ride to France possibly to kill Charles but at a farm in Thrace, Hugh Sully confronts Michael in a duel but Michael confidently says he has won as he had paid off the Sicilians to rise up against the French to stop Charles’ invasion but Sully tells Michael the whole truth that the rebellions had failed and Byzantium is doomed and out of anger Michael wins the duel and kills Sully but dies shortly after from exhaustion dying in front of a farmer who had no idea Michael was his emperor. Michael at least died before his son and John Laskaris would be killed therefore redeeming himself saving the very same boy he blinded years ago and afterwards, Andronikos returns from Nicaea and orders that his father be buried in an unmarked grave where they are, which is the port of Selymbria in Thrace away from Constantinople or else the people would desecrate his tomb and name as he died still unpopular. Andronikos now confidently accepts his claim to the Byzantine throne and when becoming emperor, he chooses to cancel his father’s infamous Church union and continue the fight in Sicily against the French. Back in Sicily, the remaining defeated Sicilian rebels and veteran Byzantine soldiers finally receive aid from King Peter III of Aragon and his army who had promised Michael military assistance and with the help of Aragon return to action then at the beginning of 1283, the Sicilians with the combined forces of the Byzantines, Aragonese, and North African Moors march into Panormos and defeat the French forces first killing Philippe but are soon overpowered by the French knights though the allied Byzantines, Sicilians, and Aragonese miraculously gain back their strength and the Varangian Sviatoslav kills Charles of Anjou in battle who is killed in return, the defeated French then flee the battle. As the movie ends, Sicily passes on to Aragon in which the Sicilians happily accept and cheer for Peter III and the new Byzantine emperor Andronikos II as their heroes; Andronikos who returns to Sicily then gives Byzantium’s most sacred relics to Sicily and asks the Sicilians to remember how the Byzantines helped them in their fight against French oppression as he comes to sense that the Byzantine Empire does not have much time anymore to exist.
Since No Budget Films’ War of the Sicilian Vespers is a historical fan-fiction, it does not really follow the exact historical story of the 1282 Sicilian Vespers to the exact detail, rather the movie’s story is based on these historical events and characters from that era. The movie’s story though was written to be consistent with the story of its prequel Summer of 1261 so a lot of details may not be accurate to the real historical story. The largest difference between the Lego film and real history are basically the dates of the events and the participation of some characters in it. However, the movie’s background is very much accurate as the opening text says “The age of the crusades are over. In 1261, the exiled Byzantines reclaimed their capital, Constantinople from the Latin Crusaders forcing them back to Western Europe. Now in 1270, the king of France Louis IX’s crusade operation in North Africa fails as his army is affected by a plague while his ambitious brother, Charles of Anjou who rules Sicily is one step closer to reclaiming the Byzantine Empire for the Latins”. True indeed in 1261, the Byzantines took back Constantinople and in 1270 King Louis IX’s 8th Crusade fails and in North Africa he dies of a plague and true enough Charles of Anjou who was Louis IX’s youngest brother conquered Sicily in 1266 after winning the Battle of Benevento against the Hohenstaufen rulers making Sicily his Angevin French Kingdom- Angevin coming from “Anjou”- and it was his
brother’s death that Charles had longed for so that he would be free to take back Byzantium by launching the 9th Crusade without anyone stopping him, though Charles already gained parts of Greece and the Balkans (Albania), it would take him years to actually invade Byzantium; though in real history Charles never did invade Byzantium and at many times was stopped by the Byzantine army of Michael VIII in the Balkans. Now here are a few of the historical inaccuracies and historical facts behind the movie:
First of all behind the whole violent Sicilian Vespers conflict was an even larger political struggle for domination of Italy and one of the biggest rivalries in medieval politics, this was long time war between two factions the Guelphs who were in support of the Papacy and the Ghibellines who were in support of the Holy Roman Empire and the Sicilian Vespers conflict of 1282 was part of this; the Sicilian rebels who were loyal to the former Hohenstaufen rulers were part of the Ghibellines as the Hohenstaufen rulers were of the Holy Roman Empire while Charles of Anjou on the other hand had the support of the
pope Martin IV who was also a Frenchman like him making them part of the Guelph faction. The Guelph vs Ghibelline faction war was a long lasting one beginning in 1125 and persisting all the way to the early 15th century resulting in Italy’s unity dissolving with new states forming and rule by either the French or Holy Roman Empire dissolving. The Byzantine Empire meanwhile was in neither side of the conflict as Italy though once part of their empire was already too distant from them and the Byzantines only got involved in 1282 in order to keep the French threat away. Even with Byzantium back in Constantinople by 1282, their own regional problems were too much to face especially since their time in exile while the Latins ruled Constantinople from 1204 to 1261 gave time for the neighbor kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria to rise.
The 1282 War of the Sicilian Vespers true enough did begin one Sunday, March 30, 1282 when the people openly began to rebel against their Angevin French rulers by and that small event after the evening Vespers prayer did shake the whole of Sicily triggering revolts all over the island. In that evening, the French soldiers in Palermo were drunk and the people taking advantage of the moment began to kill off all the French soldiers like what the Byzantine soldiers of Alexios did in 1261 taking advantage of the moment while the Latins were asleep and most of their army gone in order to sneak into Constantinople in the middle of the night catching the Latins by surprise and ending up winning. In the movie however, the rebellions and war lasted from March of 1282 till January of 1283, however in real history the War of the Sicilian Vespers true enough started by a popular uprising in the capital, Palermo in March and was concluded only by September of 1282 when King Peter III of Aragon arrived in Sicily by invitation of the Sicilian local lords together with a payment of 60,000 gold from Michael VIII though
Peter III only stopped at Sicily and did not proceed to conquer Charles’ other territories in Southern Italy. Although in reality, the Sicilian Vespers conflict actually lasted longer than 1282 and lasted all the way until 1302 when the Peace of Caltabellota was signed which divided Sicily in half between Aragon and Charles’ successors of the Angevin line unlike in the movie wherein the Angevin French were completely defeated in 1283 and Aragon took over the entire Sicily.
In the movie, it may seem that the rebellion of the Sicilians was all mostly uprisings in the streets with people attacking the French soldiers when in reality it was more than a popular uprising but rather a large violent movement wherein the local Sicilians did not only attack and kill French soldiers but massacre entire French communities and families all over Sicily including men, women, and children in order to fight for a Sicily for Sicilians. These Sicilian rebels when nearly defeating the French decided to elect their own leaders and rule as their own independent communes but the pope did not agree to it so the Sicilian rebels thought they would be better being under Aragon,
although these Sicilian freedom fighters were barely armored except for black clothing, and fought using guerrilla tactics. However in the movie, since the Sicilian rebels were the heroes No Budget Films decided to only show the Sicilian rebel population killing off French soldiers and not portray the Sicilians as extremists they were committing genocide on French civilians, except a scene in the latter part when the French army massacres the whole population of Panormos could hint that the Sicilians of Panormos did in fact kill off French civilians there in order for the French to commit such brutal genocide on the Sicilians going as far as using a Sicilian child for archery target practice, beheading everyone, and firing a ballista with a man strapped to it.
Since the Angevin French of the Capetian Dynasty ruling Sicily were the main villains of the movie, No Budget Films stuck to portraying the French as arrogant, racist, and condescending to the Sicilian people and do this, quick scenes were slipped in to the film like where a French soldier demands one small fish from a Sicilian fisherman who refuses to give it making the soldier punch the fisherman to unconsciousness and right after this, another French soldier is seen torturing an old Sicilian man in public. The French had acted this way basically because at the late 13th century where this movie was set in, they were the main player of politics in Europe and as the European superpower by being the power in Europe that launched most of the Crusades, many popes in fact at that time were French too including Pope Martin IV who was Charles’ ally although as Charles was ruling Sicily as a French kingdom, his nephew Philippe III, son of Louis IX ruling the main kingdom of France then was not as ambitious as Charles but still gave support to his uncle in fighting Aragon and Byzantium. As for Charles of Anjou being the main villain, he can surely show how the French are being condescending as in dialogue, Charles belittles the Byzantines saying they deserved the genocide of the 4th Crusade and would wish to do it again when he takes back Byzantium.
The involvement of the restored Byzantium and Emperor Michael VIII was indeed factual but in real history Michael VIII and the Byzantines only acted on the Sicilian Vespers very minimally from behind the scenes whereas Michael simply used the money to pay off Peter III and the Sicilian local lords to rise up but the rebellions did not last as long as it did in the movie as in the movie Michael VIII who like in real history died in December 11, 1282 while the war in Sicily hadn’t concluded yet unlike in reality Michael died seeing the conflict in Sicily over but Charles of Anjou still alive. Michael VIII in real history had also signed the Church Union at the Council of Lyon in 1273 to submit to the
pope in order to be allies and true enough his own people came to hate him for giving up their religious beliefs, however Michael VIII in real history died not in communion with both Orthodox and Catholic Churches since he was excommunicated by the Orthodox Patriarch for submitting to the pope and excommunicated by the pope also in 1282 for helping the pope’s enemy Peter III of Aragon. The involvement of Byzantium in Sicilian Vespers meanwhile was rather put more attention too by No Budget Films since the subject matter of these No Budget Films movies are on the history of the Byzantine Empire. The real Michael VIII meanwhile died leaving his son and successor Andronikos II secure on the throne with the Sicilian issue already taken care of but similar to real history, Michael VIII after death was not
permitted a proper Christian burial in Constantinople by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople since the Union with the pope hadn’t fully taken effect yet so his son Andronikos keeps his father’s burial safe and secret burying him outside the city in an unmarked grave or else his tomb would be desecrated and in real history, Andronikos did in fact bury his father Michael VIII away from the capital though the location not exact whereas in the movie it was in the port town of Selymbria outside Constantinople where Michael was buried in. I think it’s rather sad how Michael VIII ended his life going from hero to zero and even if he restored Constantinople to Byzantine rule, his unpopularity forced him to not be even be permitted to be buried in the capital he took back. On the other hand, Michael VIII in his autobiography certainly claims that he was very vital in giving the Sicilians their independence saying “Should I dare to claim that I was God’s instrument to bring freedom to the Sicilians, then I should only be stating the truth”. Now in the Byzantine angle of this film, the Byzantines at this time (13th century) had become very much accepting of themselves being a Greek Empire in terms of culture and language but in name, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire continued no matter how many centuries had gone by, although to make it clear that the Byzantines here were Byzantines, the film refers to them as “Byzantines” and not “Romans” when historically speaking, the Byzantines in their time usually referred to themselves as Romans but the westerners to belittle them called them “Greeks” while “Byzantine” would only be used after Byzantium’s existence. Basically speaking, the movie referring to the Byzantine people as “Byzantines” is one of its biggest inaccuracies, otherwise these 13th century people like Michael VIII o Charles of Anjou wouldn’t even know what a “Byzantine” is.
Charles of Anjou in the movie true enough was the younger brother of King Louis IX of France and a member of the royal French Capetian Dynasty and like in real history, Charles of Anjou in the movie was certainly ambitious and did want to restore an empire that would be as large or even larger than the original Roman Empire. However, what was not factual about Charles of Anjou in the movie was that he was in Sicily the whole time the war was happening as in real history he was mostly at his base in Naples in which he was in control of too, and in the movie he was the only Angevin ruler of Sicily dying in the final battle in 1283 where his forces were defeated by the allied Byzantines, Aragonese, and Sicilians whereas in reality, Charles of Anjou died later on in early 1285 in Foggia, Italy while making preparations to take back Sicily from Aragon, though Charles’ successors would continue being at war with Aragon for control of Sicily.
In the War of the Sicilian Vespers film, Alexios Strategopoulos the Byzantine general who took back Constantinople in 1261 makes a return but dies when the rebellion first breaks out in Panormos, however in real history the general Alexios had already been dead since 1275 as he was already old back in 1261, although No Budget Film wanted to add more character to Alexios deciding that the protagonist of the previous film couldn’t
simply just die so he was given a comeback in the Sicilian Vespers film but rather than making him the main protagonist again, he was imply killed off in the beginning and later returning as a ghost in order to make Michael’s son and heir Andronikos the new main protagonist.
Another great historical inaccuracy this movie has which is very much obvious especially to those who know Byzantine history is the fact that Michael VIII’s son and heir Andronikos II journeyed to Sicily and confronted Charles of Anjou himself, was defeated, fled back to Byzantium, wandered off for a bit when loosing himself, and returned alone to be crowned emperor, then returning to Sicily again when the Aragonese took the island. Now the exciting story of Andronikos here was done to simply show a classic example of character development in the movie as well as to give the imperial heir a big role whereas the real Andronikos II would only appear in the history books was when he became Byzantine emperor in 1282 following his father’s death and from here on he would rule for 46 years. History though does not mention his early life except that his father made him co-emperor in 1261 so it is highly unlikely that he went to Sicily to prove his worth as the next emperor, rather as co-emperor all he possibly did was attend his father’s meetings with generals and diplomats to get the sense of being emperor rather than risking himself going to a foreign land
fighting in battle with very little protection; in the movie he returned again after he became emperor to seal the alliance with Aragon, though because of Byzantium’s partnership with Aragon in 1282, Byzantium and Aragon did become allies for a time that in 1302 Aragonese soldiers (The Grand Catalan Company) travelled to Andronikos II’s Byzantium to help him fight the rising Ottomans, but at the end the Aragonese turned against the Byzantines for delayed payment now becoming enemies with each other. In the movie’s setting of 1282, Andronikos who a young man was actually already married to the Hungarian princess Anna and had at least one son Michael named after his grandfather. Though in the real Sicilian Vespers story, there is no record of the imperial heir Andronikos travelling to Sicily and confronting Charles of Anjou neither does Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers opera mention Andronikos in the story or the role of Byzantium in it at all.
The story of the 1282 Sicilian Vespers though would still be remembered throughout the ages for its violence and strong historical impact it had on Sicily that the incident of the Sicilian Vespers uprising is even hinted in the Italian national anthem, was painted in a series of paintings by the Italian painter Francesco Hayez in 1821, its story made into an opera by Giuseppe Verdi, and more importantly in modern history the origins of the Sicilian Mafia is said to have even dated back to the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, although the in the 13th century Sicily hadn’t yet been part of a united Italy and only with a unified Italy in 1862 was the Mafia in Sicily first mentioned being those who want to rule Sicily seeing the Piedmont Italians that rule Italy as a foreign oppressor the same way the French were in the 13th century. The word “mafia” though is said to be an acronym of the Italian word “Morte alla Francia Italia Anelia” meaning “Death to the French is Italy’s cry!” which dates back to the Sicilian Vespers and in fact in the movie, the Sicilian crowds in their uprisings continuously shout “Morte per i Francesi!” or “A morte il Francesi!” meaning “Death to the French!” in Italian.
No Budget Films’ 2020 Vespers movie though may be another fiction loosely based on the crucial and violent moment in Sicilian history but different from many takes of this historical moment, the No Budget Films perspective of the Sicilian Vespers story is from the Byzantines’ point of view showing the Sicilian Vespers conflict as the continuation of the Reconquest of 1261 story wherein the Byzantines had fought so hard to restore their
empire and must act on the issue in Sicily and help the Sicilians drive away their French rulers to save Byzantium from another Latin reconquest. Historical records of the Sicilian Vespers in the 13th century though are very fragmented and different sources say different things, therefore our main and most detailed source for the events of the Sicilians Vespers today are from the 20th century medievalist British historian Steven Runciman who had put together the sources on the Sicilian Vespers, his historical works focus on Byzantium as well.
Of course there is always bound to be some historical inaccuracies any No Budget Films movie and if this film were to be so accurate then its spoken language would be in Greek for the Byzantine characters and French for the French ones with parts in Latin as well. Now the rest of the movie’s historical mistakes in terms of settings and characters will be discussed as you continue reading on the movie’s characters and locations.
Characters in No Budget Films’ War of the Sicilian Vespers
The No Budget Films 2020 Lego Byzantine epic film War of the Sicilian Vespers has over 28 voice actors, some voicing one role others voicing several. The cast of characters in the movie number more than 40 but some including soldiers or civilians have no speaking lines or rather only speak in crowd scenes with different voices combined while other parts do have voices but have no physical characters. 9 characters from the previous movie Summer of 1261 reprise their roles in this movie while the rest are newly introduced here, though other characters from the previous and other previous No Budget Films Roman and Byzantine movies appear in flashback scenes here. Now here is the list of characters in this movie including the main cast of 12, minor characters, and smaller roles including characters from flashbacks and additional voices together with the names and quick backgrounds of the voice actors behind them though no pictures of the voice actors included mainly for privacy reasons. This article though will mention a brief background of all the movie characters while a PDF article linked here will discuss the major characters of the film with their stories and behind-the-scenes concepts in more detail.
Link to the PDF on the movie’s 12 major characters’ backstories and conceptualization below:
The Main Cast of 12:
Michael VIII Palaiologos- (voiced by Powee Celdran), the anti-hero main protagonist of the movie and the current Byzantine emperor in 1282 obviously based on the real-life Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282), founder of the Palaiologos dynasty that ruled Byzantium after ending the Latin Empire and restoring Byzantine rule to Constantinople in 1261 to the end of the empire in 1453; Michael VIII originally a member of the Byzantine military aristocracy (Dynatoi) in Asia Minor and Byzantium’s first police general or Megas Konostaulos came to power after blinding the young boy emperor of Nicaea John IV Laskaris after taking back Constantinople in the Summer of 1261 and according to this movie, Michael also poisoned John IV’s father the previous emperor Theodore II Laskaris, also became at first John IV’s co-emperor and acting power behind him after having the boy’s first regent George Mouzalon killed back in 1258. Michael VIII then ruled the restored Byzantine Empire for 21 years with a strong iron rule, he was though highly respected by his troops but eventually hated by his people for signing the
controversial Church Union at the Council of Lyon in 1273 to submit the Byzantine Orthodox Church to the Latin Catholic Church which the people saw as Michael’s ultimate betrayal ironically because he took back the city from the Latin Catholics only to be submissive to them, although Michael thought surrendering to the pope would be a sure way to gain protection as the Byzantine Empire he ruled was dying and besieged on all sides, by the Charles of Anjou’s French in the west, Serbia and Bulgaria in the north, the Turks in the east; meanwhile Serbia, Bulgaria, and Venice even took sides with Charles of Anjou against Michael but the most deadly enemy of all was distant but very imminent, the Mongols and it was sure they would bring total destruction, so only surrendering to the west’s protection would help. As emperor, Michael’s attention had focused too much on Europe as well that Byzantine borders in Asia Minor once the heartland of the empire slowly began to collapse due to Turkish raids. The restored Byzantine Empire proved to be so much difficult for Michael to handle as he didn’t expect running the empire from Constantinople would be as simple as running Nicaea before, therefore that years of stress turned him from his old optimistic self in the previous movie to a tired old man distant from his own people and family going from hero to zero. However, the rebellion of the Sicilians against the French in Sicily gave Michael the opportunity to save his empire, this meant bribing off local Sicilian lords to rise up in order to keep the French out of Sicily which also meant keeping them one step away from taking back Byzantium for good. In this film, Michael VIII dies travelling in the Thracian countryside after confronting a Latin assassin knight sent to kill him which he kills, though historically speaking Michael VIII just peacefully died while at a farm in Thrace on December 11, 1282 though due to betraying the Orthodox faith and surrendering to Catholicism, Michael VIII was denied a proper burial in the capital. In the film at least, Michael died redeeming himself for his past actions when killing Sully int hat way indirectly saving John Laskaris, the boy Michael blinded who Sully was sent by Charles to kill. Powee Celdran who is the movie’s director, writer, and producer voices Michael in a hybrid European accent with a mix of Greek, German, and Scandinavian also having the longest screen time and most number of speaking lines in the film- having over 27- he too voiced Michael’s phrases spoken in Greek, Italian, and French apparently which the emperor knew for diplomatic purposes; as a returning character from the previous Summer of 1261 film, in this film Michael appears older by 21 years being around 58-59 with his brown hair turning gray, meanwhile Celdran describes his character as a very complex person who was a tough talking emperor but at the same time a visionary and highly skilled politician, diplomat, and soldier who was very intelligent despite bing not so educated, he could have seemed like a villain but at the end his intentions were not evil. In the movie Michael mentions and takes pride in the glory of the Byzantine Empire and the history of his family the Palaiologi which he claims originates in Imperial Rome from the city of Viterbo near Rome and moved to Constantinople in the 4th century when Roman emperor Constantine I the Great moved the capital there, although the Palaiologos family only appears in history in the 11th century as local lords in Asia Minor who entered the service of the emperor at that time Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) in his army afterwards becoming part of Byzantium’s military aristocracy. Michael’s Byzantine Greek name is Mikhael while his last name Palaiologos is Greek for “old word”; out of all the 8 Michael’s that ruled the Byzantine Empire, he at the end would be the most remembered one and would be remembered as the kind of emperor who tried to put his empire back together in the hardest of times without having much resources to do so.
Andronikos II Palaiologos- (voiced by Mario Puyat), the son and heir of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII obviously based but more loosely on Michael VIII’s son and successor Andronikos II (r. 1282-1328), born in 1259 as Michael VIII and Theodora’s eldest son and crowned his father’s co-emperor right after the reconquest of 1261. Andronikos grew up in the imperial palace of Constantinople highly educated and a lover of the arts, music, and everything
intellectual making him the polar opposite of his father who was a tough soldier emperor and politician and at the current 1282 setting, Andronikos has grown very distant from his father believing Byzantium is now a dying empire and that his father is nothing more than an idiot with imperial ambitions wanting to return Byzantium to its old glory, though Andronikos is sent to Sicily with the Byzantine strike team by his father to prove his worth as the next emperor, which Andronikos does against his will. Andronikos in person was certainly not the type who was game for an adventure and not at all as forceful as his father, instead he was soft and intellectual like his mother Theodora, though what made him very much distant from his father was that Andronikos was a true Orthodox Christian and saw his father’s Church Union as a shameful act, although he had to obey by it as he was forced to do so. In addition Andronikos followed his father’s wishes and journeyed to Sicily to prove his worth but when defeated, Andronikos escapes and makes his way back to Byzantium thinking of quitting life and disappearing but is encouraged by the ghost of the late Byzantine general Alexios to return and fight back or everything Byzantium fought for in 1261 will all be wasted. As his father dies at the end of 1282, Andronikos returns to Constantinople and succeeds to the throne of Byzantium and as emperor, he cancels his father’s infamous Church Union and orders his men stuck in Sicily to strike back against the French in which they win in the end defeating the French. As the new Byzantine emperor, Andronikos travels to Sicily to congratulate his allies and acknowledge the rule of Aragon there also believing Byzantium has done its part but has not much longer to live. In the movie, Andronikos is a young man being the same age he is in real history and is voiced by Mario Puyat in an English accent, next to his father Michael VIII, Andronikos has the second most amount of lines and screen time. Andronikos was named after his grandfather, Michael VIII’s father the general Andronikos Palaiologos as it was the practice of the Byzantines dating back to Ancient Greece that the eldest son be named after his paternal grandfather. In fact, little is known that in this movie’s 1282 setting, Andronikos was already married and had a young son named Michael, obviously named after Andronikos’ father.
Alexios Strategopoulos- (voiced by Santiago Roxas), a returning character from the previous Summer of 1261 movie, in which in the Sicilian Vespers movie set in 1282, the Byzantine grand general or Megas Domestikos Alexios Komnenos Strategopoulos Caesar appears much older than in the previous movie and due to age and years of absence from the battlefield together with a leg injury from back in 1261, he has grown slower in battle that in the opening battle scene in Panormos, Sicily when confronting the new French general Hugh Sully,
Alexios is overpowered and easily killed. Though dying very early on in the film, Alexios appears midway through the film encouraging the defeated new hero Andronikos to continue the fight or waste everything the Byzantines fought for in 1261, it is also revealed Alexios all this time knew the location of Byzantium’s most sacred relics stored in Nicaea which Michael back in 1261 was so obsessed in finding, Alexios’ ghost also tells Andronikos the reason Michael blinded John Laskaris was to secure Andronikos’ succession. Being the main protagonist of the previous film, Alexios was chosen to not be killed off like in real history but return briefly in the sequel not anymore as the main young protagonist character but as the older Jedi master like mentor for the young Andronikos, although Alexios being in the form of a ghost when encountering Andronikos. By his death in 1282, Alexios was Byzantium’s grand general with the imperial title of Caesar in which he received from Michael right after taking back Constantinople in 1261; in both this film and the previous one where Alexios both appears in, he is voiced by Santiago Roxas, former NBF producer in a Scouse English accent, the accent of Liverpool, England in which this shows the No Budget Films version of Alexios being a half-blood, born to an English mother who was a daughter of an English Crusader soldier in 1204 and Byzantine general father with the last name Komnenos hinting he is related to the former Byzantine imperial family; Alexios’ other name Strategopoulos is actually Greek for “son of a general”. In real history though, Alexios who was much older than in the No Budget Films story had already died in around 1275 but No Budget Films decided he return in the 1282 setting so that his character doesn’t just simply disappear from history.
Dr. Giovanni Procida- (voiced by Jon Cabrera), a new character in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, loosely based on the same medieval Italian doctor Giovanni Procida (or John of Procida) who took part in organizing the rebellions in Sicily in 1282 as a loyalist to the former Hohenstaufen family that ruled Sicily and in the film, he does the same except his character is much younger than the real historical character in 1282 as the
real one was in his 70s at that time while in the movie in his 50s. In the movie, Dr. Giovanni is portrayed in a much more rugged and gritty way as not only a doctor and diplomat but as a pirate as well though it is Dr. Giovanni who travels to Constantinople and informs the emperor Michael VIII on the Sicilian matter in which Michael agrees to and gives the bribes to Giovanni to be given to the local lords in Sicily. The movie also shows Dr. Giovanni as a skilled orator who stirs up the people of Messina, Sicily to rebel against their French occupiers and at the final battle, Giovanni takes part in beating the French, and at the end though not seen in the film, he is appointed by Sicily’s new ruler Peter III of Aragon to be in charge of Sicily while Peter III rules from Aragon in Spain. In the film, the character of Dr. Giovanni was given a generous amount of screen time to show the side of the Sicilians in the movie, on the other Dr. Giovanni is a character in Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers opera with the name Jean Procida.
Hugh Sully- (voiced by Pat Claudio), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, Hugh Sully is the traditional secondary henchman villain to the main villain Charles of Anjou, he is Charles’ hitman doing all the dirty work mostly involving killing and is seen as a large sized knight with a broadsword dressed in fully black armor never removing his bucket-shaped helmet. In the movie, the Burgundian French knight Sully kills Alexios at the beginning and is later sent by Charles to ride to Byzantium himself and assassinate the whole line of succession which includes Michael VIII,
Michael’s son Andronikos, and John Laskaris so Charles has no more opposition when he takes back Byzantium, though Sully confronts Michael at a farm in Thrace in the duel Sully is killed by Michael himself though Michael dies shortly after. The character of Hugh Sully is loosely based on Charles of Anjou’s general with the same name except the real Sully’s role in history is very minimal, though in the movie Sully was made to look mysterious and terrifying wearing his helmet at all times (only seen without it in the behind-the-scenes photos) having a fiery temper and speaking with a deep voice in which a filter was added to in the edit. In this film, Sully is supposed to be the new Valentin Clovis from the previous film Summer of 1261 who was the secondary henchman villain to the main villain, Emperor Baldwin II.
Irene Palaiologina- (voiced by Nuni Celdran), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, Irene Komnene Palaiologina is Byzantine emperor Michael VIII’s older sister by 5 years who was revealed to be his puppet master that schemed her way to put him in the throne so that she could rule through him. Irene’s character is largely based on the real sister of Emperor Michael VIII who was also named Irene and it was said that she raised him when young as their parents were never really there for them, sung him to sleep that he will one day take back Constantinople from the Latins, and was indeed the one behind John Laskaris’ blinding in 1261 in order to secure the Palaiologos
Dynasty. In the film, Irene’s character’s appearance is quite minimal and not seen in most of it as she was put there to represent the Byzantine side of the story and Michael’s personal story, here in the story Irene despite having taken care of Michael when young grew distant and hateful to her younger especially because of his controversial Church Union which she strongly opposed and openly criticized being a true Byzantine Orthodox Christian. Irene then cannot reconcile with her brother until he cancels the union though later on they reconcile as long as Michael also tells his son Andronikos the real reason he blinded John Laskaris which was to secure Andronikos’ succession although Michael feeling guilty for it says he will also reconcile with his sister if she releases John Laskaris from his prison tower and relocates him to a monastery in Nicomedia for safety which she does as when they last see each other in the movie before Michael rides leaves Constantinople never to return, they both reconcile. In real history, Irene after 1261 became a nun using the name Eulogia but was a lot more villainous and scheming than she was in the film as she asked the Bulgarians to invade Byzantine borders to cause more pain for her brother, forbade Michael’s widow Theodora to pray from him after his death, but had also convinced her nephew Andronikos to cancel his father’s Church Union; on the other hand, Irene’s character in the film was ironically voiced by Nuni Celdran who is Michael VIII’s voicer Powee Celdran’s real life sister.
Georgios Doukas- (voiced by Carlos Francisco), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film who appears as an even older man in the 1282 setting of this film. Georgios Doukas is in fact so old that he was alive as a child to see the fall Constantinople and the atrocities of the Crusaders back in 1204 which was almost 80 years before the Sicilian Vespers story, yet Georgios also lived a very eventful long life even as monk as he has seen the whole 57 year existence of the Latin and Nicaean Empires, was friends with the Nicaean emperor John III Vatatzes (r. 1222-1254) as well as with Michael VIII even helping the Byzantines take back
Constantinople in 1261 even becoming part of the Byzantine Senate for a time yet even lived much longer to see a new Latin threat emerging which was Charles of Anjou. In the Sicilian Vespers film, Georgios’ appearance though happens to be quite minimal but still a major role being the same old mentor figure he was in the previous film except much older, here being already around 87 having been the mentor for Michael, Alexios, and young Andronikos though Georgios even as a reclusive monk living inside Constantinople’s walls, also came to openly criticize Michael’s rule and policies that he even grabs Michael from the streets to take him in and talk some sense into him, though this was overall part of Georgios’ plan to reconcile Michael with Irene. At the end of the film, Georgios survives the whole chain of events though not seen fighting due to his old age and at the closing scene he can be seen staring into the sea from Constantinople having survived all the events of the 13th century having lived seeing the reign of 10 Byzantine emperors. The character of Georgios Doukas was loosely based on the Byzantine historian of that time George Akropolites (1217-1282) who he shares the same first name with; meanwhile Georgios’ character is made to be so old and wise that he even calls Michael by his first name and not “my lord” or “emperor”, his voice actor Carlos Francisco who voiced him in the previous film this time used an old man’s voice for Georgios to show he has aged even more.
Philippe Courtenay- (voiced by Angelo Lacson), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers who is the son of the late former Latin emperor Baldwin II who lost Constantinople in 1261 made to show in the movie a link to Baldwin II and the Latin Empire. Philippe’s character in the movie is loosely based on Baldwin II’s real life son the exiled Latin emperor Philip who in reality like in the movie was Charles of Anjou’s son-in-law and the legitimate claimant to Constantinople when Charles takes it back, although Charles would be the actual ruler of his proposed empire while Philippe ruling at Constantinople would be a puppet ruler to Charles. Philippe though had one challenger to him in Charles’ court, Charles’ secretary Jean Clovis who had no legitimate claim to the throne of Constantinople though Philippe still remained the legitimate claimant but at the final battle in early 1283 he was killed. As Charles’ son-in-law,
Philippe was a loyal ally to Charles but personally deeply hated the Byzantines as they defeated and humiliated his father and killed his mother though little does he know that the ghost of the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II killed his mother, and that whole time in 1261, Philippe was held by the Venetians as his father sold him off to Venice to fund the poor Latin Empire. In the movie, Philippe is only one of the secondary villains and is a vicious fighter and torturer taking pleasure in torturing the people of Panormos and using all sorts of means to kill his enemies in which he enjoyed mutilating men’s private parts, though Philippe in the movie always appears loyal and submissive to Charles.
Jean Clovis- (voiced by Alej Consing), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers who is a French nobleman and Charles of Anjou’s secretary with his own imperial ambitions but cannot pursue it to due Philippe in his way. Jean Clovis, a purely fictional character is the first son of the Latin emperor Baldwin II’s general Valentin Clovis from the previous film and since he is only the son of a general and not the late Latin emperor, he has no claim to the Latin Empire although he still thinks he does for no apparent reason except the desire for power. In the movie, Jean Clovis happens to be a failed villain as he tries to challenge Philippe to claim the throne of Constantinople but loses the fistfight to him and later on tries to set up Philippe as a traitor by having Andronikos, the Byzantine heir escape Charles’ castle by saying he jumped into Philippe’s boat which was in fact Jean’s however Charles easily discovers Jean’s plot knowing he
only did that to put all the blame on Philippe and for treason, Charles blinds and kills Jean totally removing a challenge for Philippe who Charles very much favored. Ironically, the character of Jean Clovis and John Laskaris are the same age (both born in 1250) as well as sharing the same first name also looking alike as well as both being voiced by Alej Consing, therefore Charles thought of using Jean as an experiment by blinding him to make him pose as John Laskaris returned to trick the Byzantine people, although after Jean’s treachery, Charles dumped the plan and just killed Jean instead.
Giulia Parisi- (voiced by Monica David), a new character introduced in this film, War of the Sicilian Vespers, Giulia is the female hero in the Sicilian perspective of the movie based on the unnamed woman grabbed by a drunk French soldier after the evening vespers that triggered rebellion in Panormos beginning the Sicilian Vespers conflict. In real history, this woman disappeared from the scene after the incident but in the movie she returns later as one of the rebel fighters against the Angevin French going as far as
fighting in the final battle early in 1283. Giulia appears as a young attractive black haired Sicilian woman who’s looks most possibly got her harassed by a French soldier also getting her husband Alessandro killed in the process though in battle she was tough fighter with stealth skills although was not very independent in personality being submissive to the men around her including Dr. Giovanni, the Sicilian local lord Count Tomaso, and the Byzantine imperial heir Andronikos. At the end, it turns out she had strong romantic feelings for Andronikos as she sees the Byzantines as Sicily’s saviors. In real history, the woman remains unnamed, though No Budget Films gave her the name Giulia which is Italian for Julia.
Stephanos Raoul- (voiced by Miguel Abarentos), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film reprising his role with the same voice actor; in the previous movie Stephanos’ role was a minor one though it was he as Michael’s personal agent who blinded John Laskaris under Michael’s orders but in this film, he has a more major role first being Alexios’ second-in-command in the Byzantine army and later the grand general or Megas Domestikos of the Byzantine army. In this movie Stephanos’ last name Raoul is revealed and his last name suggests, he is indeed a full blooded French Latin but a loyal Byzantine soldier having grown up in Byzantium all his life. With Alexios dead,
Stephanos is the most senior soldier in the Byzantine army sent to aid the Sicilians against the French and in Sicily, he stays for a while during the war against the French and at the final battle he is given command of the Byzantine forces by the new emperor Andronikos II and also appointed the grand general of the army who would then be Andronikos’ second-in-command in the empire. Stephanos leads the Byzantine forces in the final battle early in 1283 leading them with their Sicilian and Aragonese allies to victory. His character meanwhile is based not on one but many Byzantine generals of his time while his last name Raoul is a reference to the Norman family that settled in Byzantium at this time in history becoming one of the leading military families, his voice actor meanwhile is the live streamer behind the Twitch channel MaskedNinjaHybrid.
Charles I of Anjou- (voiced by RJ Celdran), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, Charles of Anjou is the main antagonist of the film, a very villainous ruler with an unpredictable personality and very creative means of devising tortures and great suffering similar to a Bond villain. Now if the ambitious imperialist ruler of Byzantium Michael VIII had a counterpart with similar traits, it was Charles though unlike Michael’s who’s ambitions was to preserve Byzantium, Charles’ was to destroy it once and for all though unlike Michael who’s ambitions were quite practical Charles’ weren’t as he wanted to see himself control a massive Mediterranean Empire that would be too hard to manage while at the same time being the most powerful ruler of Europe since his brother’s death in 1270, he also did not want to see himself as any western king but as an emperor like the Byzantine emperor. Charles I of Anjou is a real life French ruler who from the royal Capetian Dynasty of France, the son of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile and the younger brother of King Louis IX of France also known as St. Louis,
Charles was king of Sicily since 1266 as well as the Count of Anjou, Provence, Forcalquier, and Prince of Achaea having had a long life of ruling experience beginning with ruling the Western French province of Anjou in 1246. When his brother Louis IX was still alive, Charles assisted him in the failed 8th Crusade in North Africa by sending his knights but did not go himself though unlike his brother who was a saintly and reasonable king, Charles was the opposite being a ruthless and ambitious one wanting French rule over Europe with him as king but his greatest ambition of all was to end the Byzantine Empire once and for all which the 4th Crusade and the Latin Empire failed at doing. Ever since his brother Louis IX died in 1270, Charles being free of his brother’s control began his plans to make his invasion of Constantinople but in 1282, his ultimate arch-enemy Michael VIII Palaiologos of Byzantium stop him first by paying off the local lords of Sicily to begin rebellions against him and by getting the support of Aragon to attack Sicily. In 1282, Charles’ rule of Sicily began to fall apart with popular uprisings everywhere and a threat from Byzantium to kill him when Michael’s son and heir Andronikos challenges Charles to a duel, though Charles wins and to punish the people of Sicily for rebelling, he orders the massacre of thousands. At the end Charles is a failed villain as he is defeated in the final battle early in 1283 and killed though before dying still thinks he could have been the greatest Byzantine emperor but realizes only a Byzantine can be Byzantine emperor though in real history Charles lost his rule over Sicily to Aragon in 1282 and died in mainland Italy in 1285, also he was hardly in Sicily during his reign there. Charles’ voicer RJ Celdran voiced the character with a villainous voice resembling the villain Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs while in the movie the people rebelling against him say down to him in Italian using the name “Carlo d’angio” which is his name in Italian.
Theodora Palaiologina- (voiced by Alina R. Co), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film reprising her role with the same voice actress; Empress Theodora is wife of Emperor Michael VIII 17 years younger than him as well as the mother of Andronikos II. Theodora’s name though is very common in the Byzantine world and is one of the many Byzantine empresses using that name but the one legacy of this Empress Theodora would be her dedication and patronage of the arts and it was she together with her son Andronikos II that was responsible for reviving the arts and academic scene of Constantinople in the age of the Palaiologos Dynasty which was known as the
“Palaiologan Renaissance” as her husband Michael VIII was not so much an artist and intellectual but a soldier and statesman. In the previous Summer of 1261 film, Theodora’s role was very small only appearing in the end introduced as Michael’s wife while in this War of the Sicilian Vespers movie, Theodora has a bigger role being Michael’s nagging wife who he has grown very distant to again due to his Church Union which Theodora strongly opposed, although deep inside she still cared for Michael and his soul. Later on, in the movie Theodora tries to stop her husband from leaving Constantinople due to his bad health but he still refuses her, therefore this was the last time he would see her as he died in that trip. Andronikos meanwhile was much closer to his mother than father inheriting his love for the arts and intellectual matters from her and although Theodora opposed Michael’s policies, she felt sad about his death and the fact that he wasn’t allowed a proper Christian burial in the capital he reclaimed, meanwhile Theodora being younger than her husband died all the way in 1303.
Count Tomaso of Drepana- (voiced by Francis Ventura), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, Count Tomaso is a purely fictional characters supposed to be the local lord of Drepana (Trapani) Sicily and was designed to be a proto Sicilian mafia lord who behind-the-scenes organizes the rebellion known as the “Sicilian Vespers” beginning in the evening of March 30, 1282 where he quietly passed the
message to the people to strike against the French soldiers in Panormos while he escapes the scene to hide his involvement. Tomaso only introduces himself later on when the Byzantines arrive in Messina, here he accepts the bribe from Emperor Michael VIII of Byzantium to begin the uprisings then he reveals that Charles of Anjou is at his castle just there in the harbor of Messina. Later on, the rebellions in Sicily fail and the rebel leader Dr. Giovanni and Giulia retreat to Tomaso’s estates in Drepana but return to battle when aid from Peter III of Aragon comes from them. Tomaso joins the final battle against the French early in 1283 with the combined forces of the Sicilians, Byzantines, Aragonese, and North Africans but is at the end is killed by Charles of Anjou himself.
John IV Laskaris- (voiced by Alej Consing), in the War of the Sicilian Vespers film, John IV Laskaris Vatatzes, the son of the Byzantine emperor of Nicaea Theodore II Laskaris and Empress Elena is no longer the boy emperor he was in 1261 as on his 11th birthday (December 25, 1261), he was given a birthday surprise by Michael VIII which was a his blinding, afterwards the blind boy was deposed and imprisoned in a castle tower along the Marmara Sea where he would remain in the same cold room without any heating for 2 decades, though imprisonment would not be too bad for him as he was fed a lot resulting in him becoming extremely obese also due to no exercise because of his
blindness and the tight space he’s in. In the Sicilian Vespers film, John Laskaris appears 3 times as a vision haunting Michael VIII further increasing his guilt in the form of the young boy emperor Michael had blinded with blood in his eyes to show the blinding, first appearing in Michael’s study after Michael’s nightmare sequence, then in streets of Constantinople when the mob harasses Michael, and in the Thracian countryside when Michael rides off although this was not the actual form of John Laskaris by 1282, his real form was no longer that of a young boy but an extremely fat blind adult with a blindfold and long hair. The only time in the movie when the adult John Laskaris appears is in his castle prison when Michael VIII’s sister Irene as ordered by Michael releases John Laskaris and relocates him to a monastery in Nicomedia as rumors spread that Charles of Anjou is planning to eliminate John Laskaris as well. In real history, the blinded and deposed John Laskaris remained in that same prison castle for decades growing insane because of it but sadly unable to see anything although it was in 1290 and not 1282 when John Laskaris in real history was released from prison and by Andronikos II who decided to set him free and live in Constantinople but due to his blindness, could not see and therefore never saw what the imperial capital looked like, he would then die in Constantinople a much older man in 1305. Though John Laskaris did not have a big role in the Sicilian Vespers film, his part was indeed crucial as his blinding in 1261 was revealed to be made in order to secure Andronikos II’s succession and not out of Michael’s hatred, on the other hand even Charles of Anjou knew of John Laskaris and knew the Byzantines preferred him over Michael, therefore Charles thought of tricking the Byzantine people that he had the real John Laskaris but instead his John Laskaris was just a look alike, which was Jean Clovis in which both are the same age and voiced by Alej Consing who had also voiced both the child John Laskaris in the 1261 movie and in Michael’s visions and the actual adult version. On the other hand, John Laskaris did not know in 1282 that Michael who betrayed and blinded him died but actually saved him by killing Sully who was also sent by Charles to kill him and in Constantinople, the people who opposed Michael’s rule even demanded that the blind John Laskaris come back to power to depose Michael.
Peter III of Aragon- (voiced by Anton Diño), a new character introduced in this War of the Sicilian Vespers film, Peter III is based on the same historical figure with the same name, who was the king of the emerging kingdom of Aragon in Spain from 1276 to his death in 1285 who would eventually become king of Sicily after defeating the French. Peter III had already made alliances with other European kings earlier on marrying his son to the King of England’s daughter and his daughter to the King of Portugal’s daughter before becoming a close ally of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII with Charles of Anjou as their common enemy, meanwhile Peter’s claim to the Sicilian throne was that his wife Constance was the daughter of the previous Hohenstaufen ruler of Sicily, Manfred and by invitation of both the Sicilian local lords and Michael VIII, Peter III set sail from Spain, arrived in North Africa to get allies who were common enemies of the
French, and arrived in Sicily later in 1282. In the movie, Peter III only appears towards the end arriving in Count Tomaso’s estate in Drepana asking where the rebellion is, in which Tomaso, Giulia, and Dr. Giovanni say they have lost but Peter III tells them the army of Aragon has arrived as he owes Michael VIII of Byzantium a service. Peter III takes part in uniting the Sicilian, Aragonese, and Byzantine forces in clearing the French out of Messina and marching into Panormos early in 1283 and in the final battle, Peter III leads the Aragonese division. At the final scene of the movie, Andronikos II as the new Byzantine emperor arrives in Sicily to congratulate Peter III in becoming the new king of Sicily asking Peter to rule over the Sicilians with more respect than the French in which Peter promises he will, Andronikos and Peter III then both lay down Byzantium’s most sacred relics in the church at Panormos where the rebellion began as a gift from Byzantium to Sicily, afterwards though not shown onscreen, Peter III returns to Aragon with Andronikos joining him for a visit. The character of Peter III was voiced by Anton Diño who voiced Valentin Clovis in the previous film and Leo Phokas before that, though in this film the character speaks the phrase “bon dia” which is not a word in Spanish but the character’s native Catalan language for “good day”.
Sviatoslav Stolypin- (voiced by Igi Rollan), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film reprising his role although with a different voice actor, in the previous film voiced by Xyrven Blue but here by Igi Rollan. Sviatoslav in this film and the previous one is a member of the elite warriors in the Byzantine army, the Varangian Guard and a loyal soldier to Michael VIII and the Byzantine Empire. Despite being a full-blooded Rus Varangian from Kiev, Sviatoslav was a true Byzantine at heart finding true purpose in Byzantium serving the empire and emperor. The Varangian Guard force meanwhile originated as Scandinavian and Rus (Russian) mercenaries serving as the elite
bodyguard unit of the Byzantine emperors since the late 10th century and continued being the elite force until Constantinople fall to the 4th Crusade in 1204, afterwards the Varangians did not have much of a role anymore and the character of Sviatoslav in the film set in the 13th century happens to be one of the last of the Varangians but actively fights in battle heavily relying on brute force as a large man with a full set of armor and a larger than life poleaxe which he uses to toss his enemies up into the air, although he is not very intelligent and always charges into action first resulting in him to face many consequences. In the Sicilian Vespers film, Sviatoslav though having not so much a large role is mostly present in battle scenes, first at the opening conflict scene at Panormos helping Alexios fight Sully and the French wherein Alexios dies, afterwards Sviatoslav returns to Constantinople and back to Sicily again assisting Andronikos, Stephanos, and Haran infiltrate Charles’ castle. Sviatoslav however does not think before fighting which is why he just thought of going straight to killing off Charles but despite his quickness to act without thinking, Sviatoslav proved to be the most loyal as when Stephanos and Haran fled the battle scene at Charles’ castle Sviatoslav stayed behind even getting himself knocked out, dragged away, and imprisoned by the French army. Sviatoslav remains in prison for around 6 months and is broken out of it by the combined forces of the Byzantines and Aragonese when clearing the French out of Messina. Sviatoslav joins the final battle early in 1283 actively fighting off the French with his poleaxe and it is he who goes after Charles Anjou, Stephanos the new general then orders Sviatoslav to kill Charles before it’s too late which Sviatoslav does but gets killed in the process making the ultimate sacrifice for Byzantium.
Haran- (voiced by JC Santos), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film, Haran is a purely fictional character and in War of the Sicilian Vespers like in the previous film has a rather minor role with only 2 speaking lines but is mostly present in battle scenes dressed as an Ancient Greek hoplite warrior with the Ancient Greek armor and shield. Haran is an Armenian mercenary soldier from the Armenian kingdom at that time in Cilicia, Southern Asia Minor fighting in the service of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII, his character then shows how Michael was dependent on foreigners in this case the Armenians for soldiers the same way Michael was dependent on the Jews for money. Haran is present at the opening battle scene in Panormos, returns to
Constantinople, and back again to Sicily assisting Andronikos, Stephanos, and Sviatoslav confront Charles of Anjou but flees the battle scene. In the movie, Haran says his only purpose to fight is for the pay and he has been in the service of Michael VIII for over 21 years due to the good pay but despite him being there only for money, he was a skilled light fighter as powerful as an Ancient Greek warrior. Haran and Stephanos both flee to a farm in Sicily to become farmers for 6 months until returning to battle when taken in by Peter III of Aragon; Haran then breaks Sviatoslav out of prison, helps clear the French out of Messina, and takes part in the final battle joining the Byzantines, Aragonese, and Sicilians and survives it seen in the final scene of the movie as well, though it is unclear what happened to Haran afterwards, he most probably stayed in Sicily.
Enrico Salviati- (voiced by Tony Sawyer), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, Enrico Salviati is a purely fictional character who is supposed to be an Italian bishop in Charles of Anjou’s court supposed to be representing the Papacy and one of the minor villains in the movie. Salviati despite being younger than Charles by 10 years appears to look older with his hair fully gray, he is dressed in red and his bishop’s headpiece (miter) is not a Lego piece but a paper cut out while he carries a
bishop’s staff (crosier) and a sword in battle as his character shows that in the Middle Ages, Latin Catholic bishops especially in the age of the Crusades had indeed fought in battle and Salviati was no exception, the fact of bishop’s in battle meanwhile shocked the Byzantines who did not see why holy men had to fight in wars. Salviati though does not have much speaking lines and very little screen time but is one of the first characters to appear in the movie at the 1270 opening before the title informing Charles of Anjou in Sicily that Charles’ brother the king of France Louis IX is dead meaning nothing will stop Charles from invading Byzantium. Salviati makes quick appearances in the main 1282 setting of the movie first as the one leading the Vespers prayer, afterwards in the meeting room of Charles where he however has no lines, afterwards he does not appear until the scene when Charles orders the execution of the people of Panormos which Salviati also helped take part of as he is seen standing next to Charles. In the final battle of Panormos early in 1283, Salviati takes part fighting the allied Byzantines, Aragonese, and Sicilians but is killed by Greek Fire used by a Byzantine soldier. Salviati as a minor villain does not really have such ambitions rather he is just there to serve Charles of Anjou and maintain relations between Charles and Pope Martin IV in Rome; meanwhile the voicer behind Salviati Tony Sawyer is the live video game streamer behind the Twitch channel TonyHD and though he voiced Salviati’s speaking lines, Salviati’s Latin chant at the Vespers prayer was however performed by the film’s director Powee Celdran.
Ezio- (voiced by Haci Bekir), a returning character from the Summer of 1261 film although having a larger role in the sequel War of the Sicilian Vespers as in the previous film had only one line but in both films has the same role as the Genoese naval captain representing Michael VIII’s close relations with the maritime Republic of Genoa in Italy. In the Sicilian Vespers film, Ezio makes the most number of journeys from
Constantinople to Sicily and vice-versa 3 times and though he is only seen in his boat, he actually has a ship which is never shown and when seeing him in a the boat, you might think he goes all the way to Sicily using that, when in fact he actually rows that boat from the docks to his actual ship which is parked further in the harbor in both Sicily and Constantinople and in his boat is the Genoese flag. Though not having much speaking lines, Ezio is a very important character in the movie as it was he that ships the characters back and forth Constantinople to Sicily and back being in the sea most of life, it was also Ezio that ferried Michael from Constantinople to Thrace before Michael’s death and in the final battle scene early in 1283 Ezio ships the reinforcement Byzantine army sent by Andronikos to Sicily and even in the final battle, Ezio takes part in the fighting under the Byzantines using a bow and arrow and sword in battle, at the end surviving the final battle. Ezio is one of the characters in the film having a couple of Italian lines and is voiced by the film’s editor Haci Bekir in an Italian accent; meanwhile the main importance of Ezio’s character was to show that Michael VIII was close friends of Genoa that in fact the Genoese Ezio serves as Michael’s personal ship’s captain but in real history Michael VIII had such close ties with Genoa that he gave the district of Pera in Constantinople across the Golden Horn to Genoa to be used as their colony and till the end of Byzantium in 1453, Genoa remained their loyal naval ally despite being Latin and Catholic. His name Ezio is the Italian name coming from the name of the 5th century Western Roman general of Goth origin Flavius Aetius.
Constantine Palaiologos- (voiced by Caleb Acorda), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers who is the younger son of Michael VIII Palaiologos and Empress Theodora, as well as the younger brother of Andronikos II though Constantine has a very minor role in the movie with only two speaking lines. In the film, the young Byzantine prince Constantine is a simple-minded young man who unlike his older brother Andronikos has no interest in the arts or anything intellectual, instead he is plainly and simply a warrior though his father Michael VIII thinks of him as an idiot and still prefers the soft personality of Andronikos over Constantine’s dumbness. Constantine first appears in the movie saying goodbye to his older brother Andronikos as he leaves Constantinople for Sicily and does not return until later on in the story where
Constantine sent by Andronikos does actually lead the Byzantine reinforcement army to Sicily to fight off the French at the final battle, here Constantine is fully armored wearing a turban on his head, which had become a fashion item for Byzantine nobles then. In the final battle, Constantine commands his soldiers to use a portable Greek Fire and at the end survives the final battle joining his brother later on in Panormos surrendering Byzantium’s most sacred relics to Sicily. Now in real history, Constantine did indeed have the same story as in the film being the younger son of Michael VIII and Theodora and was born in 1261 in the imperial palace of Constantinople just a few weeks after his father recaptured the city making him indeed a purple born prince or Porphyrogennetos in Greek that in fact the extension wing of the imperial Blachernae Palace of Constantinople called the “Palace of the Porphyrogennetos” was built in Constantine’s honor by his father. In real history though, instead of fighting in Sicily by the time of 1282-83, Constantine was instead commanding the Byzantine armies against the Serbs in Macedonia and against the Turks in Asia Minor though later in life was accused of treason and sentenced to exile in monastery by his older brother Emperor Andronikos II, Constantine died a monk named Athanasios in 1306.
Vangelis Pachomios- (voiced by Jerome Ray), a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers who is purely fictional character; Vangelis Pachomios is introduced later on in the film as a Byzantine Greek farmer in Thrace who witnesses the death of his emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in his own farm after Michael killed off the Latin assassin Hugh Sully sent to kill him, and before dying Michael tells Pachomios the Latins are indeed sure to take back Byzantium. Pachomios however had no idea on the
current events of the world living all his life in his farm that he did not know he had lived under Latin and Byzantine occupations and that the man who died in his farm was in fact the emperor, which Pachomios just thought was some rich man. With both Sully and Michael dead in his farm, Pachomios is taken by Michael’s imperial agents for questioning on the matter and is later present at Michael’s burial in Selymbria having brought Michael’s corpse all the way there and being first to address Andronikos as his new emperor. At this point, Pachomios joins the Byzantine army and travels to Sicily to fight off the French early in 1283 seeing the empire will be invaded again, at the end he survives the final battle. The character of Pachomios may seem out of place in the film as he wears farm clothes from the 19th century American west and a cowboy hat and talks in a Texan accent, though his voice actor Jerome Ray was a DJ in Houston, Texas, and in battle Pachomios fights with an axe. The character’s last name comes from the place the real Michael VIII died in 1282 called Pachomios Village in Thrace, so No Budget Films decided to use the location’s name as the name of the farm and its farmer, his character on the other hand was a reference to the character of Arthur Morgan video game Red Dead Redemption II.
King Louis IX of France- (voiced by André Martin) a new character introduced in this film War of the Sicilian Vespers obviously based on the real king of France also known as St. Louis IX who ruled France from 1226 to his death in 1270 in Tunis, North Africa. Louis IX born in 1214 was the eldest son of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile, also the older brother of the main antagonist Charles of Anjou though Louis IX was the opposite of his younger brother as he was a saintly figure despite being a fierce warrior and slayer of the Saracens. Louis IX and Charles of Anjou though were both devout Catholic Christians except Louis could use peace as a better alternative as he promised Michael VIII that no Western Kingdom will harm the restored Byzantium after 1261.
Louis IX being the most powerful king in Europe at that time also kept the deposed Latin emperor Baldwin II under his protection and made sure Charles of Anjou was under control though Louis IX’s main purpose was to lead the Crusades and protect Christians in the Levant and North Africa and in his lifetime Louis IX led the 7th Crusade (1248-1254) and 8th (1270) in which he lost both. In the film, Louis IX only appears briefly in the beginning of the movie in 1270 at Tunis, North Africa commanding Charles’ knights where his 8th Crusade fails coming to realize the Crusades were all a failure so he orders his soldiers to retreat to his younger brother Charles of Anjou in Sicily as plague has taken over them though Louis IX dies in defeat saying he has failed and Byzantium is doomed again since nothing will stop Charles from having things his way. Louis IX appears later only in flashback scenes and is mentioned a couple of times as the movie progresses, though overall his death marked the beginning of Charles’ plot to take back Byzantium for the Latins now being Europe’s most powerful ruler since his older brother is dead.
As for the smaller roles in this film, Mario Puyat who had voiced Andronikos II has a secret voice role as the young French soldier Robert in a French accent, he is stationed in Messina who punches the fisherman and is later killed by Count Tomaso when clearing the French out of Messina. Charles Ty voices the character of Alessandro Parisi, the husband of Giulia who kills the French soldier that grabbed her but is afterwards killed by another French soldier. Laurent voices Claudio the fisherman in Messina who punched unconscious by Robert, though Claudio is leter killed when the French knights charge at the rioting Sicilians. Powee Celdran, the film’s director voices as the French soldier Henri who guards Charles’ castle only speaking French though is tricked to let Andronikos and his men in when Andronikos speaks French, in addition he also voiced the groaning sounds of the drunk French soldier Drouet that grabbed Giulia in the movie’s opening and the lines of Markos, a Greek native of Constantinople in the mob scene where the mob harasses Michael VIII as he walks, here Markos only speaks in Greek shouting to Michael “Thanatos se sas” or “death to you!” as well “to hell with you emperor!” in Greek. Among the other people in the Constantinople mob scene, Igi Rollan voices a younger Osman the first Ottoman sultan, who makes a cameo here posing as a Byzantine Christian in the mob who shouts threats to Michael VIII and aside from Osman is his mentor Malik voiced by Andre Martin who a Muslim Turk poses as a Byzantine Christian also shouting threats to depose Michael as one of the many citizens angry at him. Xyrven Blue who voiced Sviatoslav in the previous film here voices one of the Byzantine soldiers in the final battle scene using an archived voice clip of his from a previous film shouting “for the free world” before he is killed by one of the French’s mercenary knights, the Irishman O’Callaghan voiced by Haci Bekir in the one line he says “time to die!” in an Irish accent, though O’Callaghan is later killed by a ballista bolt fired on him by Pachomios. In addition, the recording of Fourth crying was used for the young child tortured and executed in Panormos used as a a target practice by the French soldiers. In Michael VIII’s first nightmare vision sequence, the voice of Powee Celdran as Louis de Blois can be heard using his line from Summer of 1261 shouting “the city is now ours”, also a few dialogues of Michael from the 1261 film can be heard such as his line to Baldwin II “never forget what has happened here”. The character of Baldwin II meanwhile appears in the deleted scenes of this movie where he is seen dying and his son Philippe made his heir; the deleted scenes also shows the character of the ghost of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas from Summer of 1261 making a return, this time appearing to Andronikos. In flashback sequences, the Lego characters of Baldwin II, Marie “Svenja” of Brienne, Valentin Clovis and Louis de Blois come back but with no speaking lines and using archived footage from the Summer of 1261 film and other past No Budget Films Byzantium era films while new footage for flashbacks scenes were shot bringing back the characters of Empress Elena Asenina from the 1261 and introducing Emperor Theodore II Laskaris her husband before 1261; in the flashback scene as Alexios shows the true relics, Elena and Theodore II were the ones who told Alexios to guard the location of the relics below the palace in Nicaea sometime around 1255. Other flashback scenes in the movie show a much younger Michael VIII, Irene, Alexios, John Laskaris, and Andronikos as a young boy in around 1261 though all have no speaking lines, also Michael’s younger brother John Palaiologos is shown in one flashback scene dying in battle against Charles’ army in 1266, another character that also appears in the flashbacks is John Laskaris’ first regent George Mouzalon who Michael had killed in 1258 to take his place, both though have no speaking lines.
The War of the Sicilian Vespers movie also uses combined voices for mob scenes shouting out cries in different languages. In the Constantinople mob scene where the mob of 3 harass Michael forcing him to step down from power or die continuously shout the Greek word “Nika!” meaning “conquer!” or “win!” which is a reference to what the angry mob of 532 shouted forcing Byzantine emperor Justinian I out of power which is why this event is known as the Nika Riots which however failed. The voices of the Greek mob shouting “Nika!” were voiced by Powee Celdran, Alej Consing, Igi Rollan, Carlos Francisco, and Geno Roy and the cry “Nika” can also be heard in the distance when Michael flees to the docks leaving Constantinople but no mob is present rather the mob throws objects at him, later again the cry is heard when Stepanos leads the allied forces of the Byzantines, Sicilians, and Aragonese in the final battle with the “Nika” cry heard from the Byzantine soldiers. Meanwhile in Sicily, the angry mobs fighting the French soldiers shout in Italian “Morte per i Francesi!” and “A morte il Francesi!” meaning death to the French as well as “Giu con Carlo d’angio!” meaning down with “Charles of Anjou!”, the mob later shouts out in Italian “Per una Sicilia libera!” meaning for a free Sicily and before the final battle, the Sicilians in the alliance army shout in Italian “insieme per la Vittoria!” meaning “together for victory!”. The voices of the Italian mob were the voiced by Powee Celdran, Mario Puyat, Carlos Francisco, and Gen Maramba put together in the edit, though originally the mob cries of the Sicilians were supposed to be in the Sicilian language and not Italian as the Sicilian mob originally voiced their freedom cries in their native language such as “moranu li Francisi!” which is Sicilian for “death to the French!” but to simplify it, the shouts were made in Italian instead.
Voices of the Past Romans and Byzantines:
In a scene towards the end of the movie, as the final battle between the allied Byzantines, Sicilians, and Aragonese against the French rages in Panormos, Sicily the lead protagonist Andronikos at his father’s study in the imperial palace of Constantinople waiting for the outcome of the battle there hundreds of miles away collapses into the rug out of pure exhaustion with his mind taken away from the mortal realm into a the night sky as he stares into the wall mosaics made to look like the night sky. This scene here was based on a scene from Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker where Rey enters a vision sequence when defeated hearing the voices of the past Jedi, here Andronikos’ mind zones out into the night sky hearing 24 different voices of the past dead Roman and Byzantine including emperors, empresses, generals, and other important figures including his late father and Alexios, though out of the 24 different people speaking to his mind, 3 are in fact still alive while the rest dead. Here is the list in order of the voices that spoke to the mind of an unconscious Andronikos II and their specific words:
This scene is based on the voices of the past Jedi from Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker– watch it here (from Star Wars comics) if you want to see the scene this part was taken from.
1) “Courage Andronikos.” said by Andronikos’ now deceased father Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, voiced by Powee Celdran.
2) “Byzantium lives on, I know it will.” said by the first Emperor of the exiled Byzantine Empire in Nicaea Theodore I Laskaris (r. 1205-1221), voiced by Igi Rollan.
3) “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.” said by the long dead Roman emperor Claudius I (r. 41-54AD) voiced by Powee Celdran which was a line of Emperor Claudius from the famous 1976 British TV series I, Claudius also using a stuttering voice for the character.
4) “We are too.” said by the 1st century Roman general and Emperor Claudius I’s older brother Germanicus (15BC-19AD), who had made many appearances in past No Budget Films media, here he is voiced by Cedric Parra.
5) “The blood of the Greek and Romans flow through you.” said by the 2nd exiled Byzantine emperor of Nicaea John III Doukas Vatatzes (r. 1222-1254), voiced by André Martin.
6) “Stay cool and you will command everyone.” said by Byzantine emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565) voiced by André Martin using an old man’s voice.
7) “Do not waste everything I have created.” said by the founder of the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337), voiced by EJ Salcedo.
8) “Our empire has long protected Europe, don’t let it disappear.” said by Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969) voiced by Powee Celdran reprising his role from previous NBF media with the same American Southern accent the character used.
9) “Bring back the balance to our empire the way I did.” said by the Byzantine emperor Zeno the Isaurian aka. Tarasis Kodisa (r. 474-491) voiced by Jon Cabrera.
10) “Just like me you were born in the purple.” said by the Byzantine emperor of Macedonian Dynasty Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or the “purple-born” (r. 913-959) voiced by Francis Ventura.
11) “By valor of soul is war decided.” said by 6th century Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius (500-565), the general of Emperor Justinian I, voiced by Felipe Chuidian.
12) “The east was strong and meant to last.” said by Byzantine emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395), the last full Roman emperor, voiced by Santiago Roxas who uses a Spanish accent for the voice.
13) “In the light, find the light.” said by 9th century Byzantine empress Theodora (815-867), the restorer of the icons, voiced by Sophia Tan.
14) “Whoever possesses Constantinople controls the world.” said by Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos (r. 1118-1143), voiced by Laurent.
15) “Byzantium lives, keep it up.” said by the Byzantine emperor at Nicaea Theodore II Laskaris Vatatzes (r. 1254-1258) son of John III and father of John IV Laskaris, voiced by JC Santos and though the character of Theodore II appears in flashbacks in the movie as part of Michael’s dialogues, the sequence is the only time Theodore II’s voice can be heard.
16) “Our stories will live on.” said by Rome’s first emperor Augustus Caesar (r. 27BC-14AD), voiced by Charles Ty.
17) “You’re not alone, Byzantium stands with you.” said by Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976), voiced by Carlos Francisco reprising his role from previous NBF media the character appeared in.
18) “Don’t be afraid.” said by Empress Elena Asenina, wife of Nicaean emperor Theodore II and mother of John IV Laskaris, voiced by Gen Maramba reprising her role as this character from the Summer of 1261 film, by this point this movie is set it, the character is already dead.
19) “We are counting on you.” said by the former deposed and blinded emperor John IV Laskaris (r. 1258-1261) voiced by Alej Consing, though not dead at this time, John Laskaris is rather speaking from his current monastery location to the mind of Andronikos.
20) “Continue everything we fought for.” said by the late Byzantine general Alexios Strategopoulos (1228-1282) who previously appeared to Andronikos as a ghost, voiced by Santiago Roxas in an English Scouse accent.
21) “Do this for the good of us Romans.” said by the 1st century Roman female character Agrippina the Elder (14BC-33AD), wife of Germanicus, voiced by Nuni Celdran reprising her role from previous NBF media the character appeared in.
22) “You are on track.” said by the 1st century Roman general Corbulo (7-67AD) who has made several appearances in previous NBF media, voiced by Powee Celdran.
23) “Everything will be fine son.” said by Andronikos’ mother Empress Theodora from just nearby to his mind, obviously she is still alive, voiced by Alina R. Co.
24) “I will always be here, Andronikos.” said by the old monk Georgios Doukas from just nearby to his mind, obviously still alive but very old, voiced by Carlos Francisco.
25) “I believe in you son, you are better than you think you are.” said again by Andronikos’ late father Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos.
26) “Andronikos, Byzantium will always be with you.” said again by the late Byzantine general Alexios Strategopoulos.
Settings in No Budget Films’ War of the Sicilian Vespers
No Budget Films’ 2020 Lego film War of the Sicilian Vespers has several locations in the world of the 13th century with the primary setting of the film in the year 1282, although the opening scene before the movie title takes place in the year 1270 to set the whole background of the movie’s story while the movie’s climax wherein the final battle takes place is early in the year 1283. The movie has a couple of flashback scenes in the longer dialogues of characters like Michael, Andronikos, Alexios, and Georgios going back to the years 1204, 1255, 1256, 1258, 1261, 1262, 1266, and 1273. The flashback scenes showing the years 1204 and 1261 were archived footage from previous No Budget Films media including Summer of 1261 while the flashbacks showing the other years were new footage shot for this film. The 1204 flashbacks scenes in this movie show the child Georgios escaping the attack of the 4th Crusade and Louis de Blois capturing Constantinople, while the 1255 flashback scene shows the younger Alexios assigned to guard the relics in Nicaea, the 1256 scene shows Michael humiliated in the court of Theodore II Laskaris in Nicaea and leaving to join the Seljuk Sultan’s army, the 1258 one showing Michael poison Theodore II’s food in his army camp as well showing Theodore II and George Mouzalon’s deaths, the 1261 flashbacks mostly taken from the previous movie though with new clips shot for this one like the coronation of Michael and young Andronikos, the 1262 flashbacks showing Michael as emperor standing with his young son Andronikos and also with his sister Irene, the 1266 flashback showing Charles of Anjou win the Battle of Benevento to take over Sicily in which Michael’s brother John was killed, and the 1273 flashback being the death of the former Latin emperor Baldwin II in Charles’ court. Other than flashbacks, this movie shows some visions of events that could have happened but did not like Andronikos having a vision of himself executed by Charles which did not turn out to be real, other than that the movie had shown some visions of future events one of them set in 1299 showing Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire having a dream of a tree coming out of his chest, and the death of Andronikos II all the way in 1332 seen as an old monk with a long white beard. Now here are the locations in the War of the Sicilian Vespers movie, almost all are real world locations but recreated in Lego sets:
Tunis, North Africa- The movie’s opening scene before the title takes place in Tunis, North Africa in 1270 today the capital of Tunisia in which in the 13th century was French territory and, in the movie’s set the French royal blue flag with the fleu-de-lys was added to show it as French territory. To make the set look like it is in North Africa, it was built with a few light brown plates to represent the dry ground of the area with a few green plates to represent the small patches of grass there while the structures behind show sandstone columns and a warm filter was added to give the Sahara desert atmosphere. Majority of this film’s setting is in Europe with only the opening in Tunis and the scene in Nicaea later on being the exceptions as Tunis is in North Africa and Nicaea in West Asia, though the Tunis setting during the short but failed 8th Crusade only appeared for less than a minute and never returned again. In 1270, the real King Louis IX of France did in fact die in Tunis like in the film although Louis IX in film plainly says he is affected by a plague that broke out there which hints that the kind of plague that hit him was dysentery as in real history Louis IX after retreating from his failed 8th Crusade died of dysentery also in Tunis although the real king most likely died in a bed unlike in the movie where dies in the dusty ground falling off his horse. Though not shown in the movie, after death Louis IX’s body was boiled so that only his bones remain then his bones were transported to Sicily where his younger brother Charles of Anjou preserved his heart and intestines in the cathedral at Monreale while Louis IX’s actual bones were brought back to his native France. The scene in Tunis is Louis IX’s only appearance in the movie. Instead, in the movie Louis IX dies after telling his soldiers to head to his brother Charles in Sicily which is not too far, true enough those soldiers there were Charles’ Norman knights who appear frequently later on.
Panormos, Sicily- When creating the Sicilian Vespers movie, No Budget Films chose to use the Greek names of some Sicilian locations as the movie’s focus was on Byzantium in which their language was Greek. For instance, the city of Palermo which is Sicily’s capital in the Sicilian Vespers movie instead of using its current name uses its Greek name Panormos, ever since Sicily’s Arab conquest in 831 Panormos (Palermo) located in Sicily’s northwest coast was the capital named Balarm and no longer Syracuse, and with Sicily under Charles of Anjou’s rule, Palermo remained the capital. Right after the movie’s opening title, the
main 1282 setting comes in opening with the Vespers prayer at a church in Panormos, however in real history the church where the evening vespers prayer took place with the first uprising against the French outside it was the church of the Holy Spirit built by the Normans a century before the event whereas in the movie the name of the church is not specified but the background behind the bishop Salviati chanting the prayer is the interiors of the Monreale cathedral near Panormos known for its elaborate Byzantine style mosaics but built by the Normans, this is also where King Louis IX’s (St. Louis’) heart and intestines are kept in. The Panormos setting of the movie however does not really show much of the city except a large open area outside the church where the uprising began and a raised platform behind it where Alexios and his men stand before charging into battle. The location of Panormos does not appear then for most of the movie except Charles of Anjou orders Philippe to put down further rebellions in Panormos but the location returns when its population is executed by Charles who watches it late on in the movie, the same location of the executions is also the same location of the final battle against the French early in 1283 where Charles is killed in. Now the location of the executions and the final battle is not inside the city, rather in a square outside the city walls or else the allied Aragonese, Sicilians, and Byzantines would have had to besiege the city’s walls first. The final scene of the movie in 1283 now takes place in the docks area of Panormos where Andronikos arrives in and is cheered for by the people of the city while the church he surrenders the relics to is the same one where the movie opened with the same mosaic interiors, the very last scene of the movie is at the docks of the city where Andronikos looks out into the sea.
Messina, Sicily- As the third largest city in Sicily, Messina is Sicily’s major port located in the northeast part of the island where it is right across the mainland of Italy but just a narrow strait. In the movie, the port of Messina is one of the main locations in the Sicily setting being the port where the Byzantine army group arrives in their second mission to Sicily with the imperial heir Andronikos joining them, it is also where Charles of Anjou makes his base in, at the military castle in the city’s harbor. Messina is first shown as the port where the Byzantine force arrives and is welcomed to Sicily by the rebel leaders
Count Tomaso and Giulia Parisi, meanwhile the Lego set built for the Messina outdoor settings includes the docks and the city square; the set for the docks was a Lego blue board to represent the sea, elevated plates for the dock planks and gray ground for the dry ground while the other outdoor setting is Messina’s city square. At the docks is where the Byzantine team and Dr. Giovanni arrive in as well as where the French soldiers are seen harassing the Sicilian people while the city square which was just built as an empty Lego set with the royal Angevin French flag, and here at the square is where Dr. Giovanni makes his powerful speech that stirs up rebellion among the people of Messina but also where the rioting people end up killed by Charles’ 6 French knights. The Messina setting comes out later again in the movie when the Sicilians with the help of Aragon storm into the city and kill the remaining French soldiers at the same city square the riot broke out earlier also rescuing Sviatoslav from prison, though the Messina location doesn’t appear anymore after this.
Charles of Anjou’s Headquarters, Messina- As the Angevin French ruler of Sicily, Charles of Anjou is barely outdoors never seeing his people, rather he always stays in his headquarters castle in the harbor of Messina though in real history, Charles was usually in his capital which was Naples and sometimes in Sicily, mostly Messina though in the movie most of Charles’ appearances is at the large function room of his military castle at the Messina harbor which is shown as large room with a long table where the meetings take place with a large printed background of a medieval great hall behind and in the corner of the room in a furnace and wall with Charles’ royal seal covering it all up.
The character of Charles is introduced inside this room in the 1270 opening and in most of the movie he always appears here, it is also the same room where he duelled and defeated Andronikos and, Jean Clovis made Andronikos escape from, and where Charles kills Jean. Other than the function room, the movie shows a hallway in the castle where Andronikos, Stephanos, Sviatoslav, and Haran run through to get to Charles wherein Andronikos tricks a French guard to let them in by speaking French, the other location in the castle also shown in the movie is the dungeon where Sviatoslav is imprisoned in by the French until his allies break him out, though the castle’s exterior was never shown, rather Count Tomaso just says Charles is at the castle along the harbor. The death scene of Jean Clovis was the last time the castle’s interior and function room is seen though the dungeon which is part of it is seen again later though for Charles of Anjou, after he kills Jean Clovis he is no longer seen in the castle but for the rest of his scenes in the square outside Panormos where is killed.
Drepana Region, Sicily- Other than Panormos and Messina, the other part of Sicily seen in the movie is Count Tomaso’s estate in the Drepana Region which is the Greek name for Trapani and this estate is near the city of Trapani. After the uprising in Messina failed being crushed by Charles’ knights, Dr. Giovanni, Count Tomaso, and Giulia fled in defeat to Tomaso’s farm estate in Drepana in the western edge of Sicily (west of Panormos) to give up on life and begin farming until the army of Aragon led by Peter III arrive and encourage them to return to fight, on the other hand, Tomaso’s farm is the one of the few scenes in the movie where the Lego set was filmed outdoors, though a green plate was used to represent the farmland. In real history, Peter III and his army also land in Sicily somewhere near Trapani, while in the movie the same was done as Peter III also when arriving in Sicily landed in the Trapani area where he encounters the Sicilian rebel
leaders afterwards searching the rest of the island for the other rebels before riding back to Messina then next back west to Panormos; this shifting in locations makes the movie’s geography though a bit inaccurate to the actual map of Sicily although Sicily is quite a large island so there is more than one way to get from one end to another wherein you can bypass a major city. After their defeat, Stephanos and Haran flee to a farm in an unknown location in Sicily and here they give up on life for months until bought back to action by Peter III, this farm location was filmed outdoors too. In the movie, all locations in Sicily are in the northern side of the island while the other half of the island (southern side) which includes Syracuse, Catania, and Agrigento are not included as in real history, this other half of the island wasn’t as active in the rebellion as the northern part. Another unnamed location in Sicily seen in the movie is in a coastal area which was some kilometers outside Panormos, here is where the Byzantine reinforcements arrive for the final battle in 1283 where Stephanos also makes his speech to the troops from his horse before the final battle.
Constantinople- One half of the Sicilian Vespers movie is set in 13th century Sicily the other half in 13th century Byzantium, mostly in Constantinople from 1282-1283 which was once again the capital of the Byzantine Empire ever since the Byzantine reconquest of 1261. In 1282, Constantinople is where the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII rules from and though Constantinople was left a waste with rubble and waste in the streets in the years the Latin Crusades occupied it from 1204 to 1261, Michael VIII having taken back the city in 1261 had it restored and cleaned up to its former state before the 4th Crusade as the Latins in possession of it did not even care to clean up the mess and destruction they caused that all the ruined buildings were left where they were allowing the
homeless to live in them. In the 21 years Michael VIII ruled, Constantinople was put back together but not again to its former glory, though the city was still known as the “Queen of Cities” even if the empire it controlled at this point was no longer as big as it was before as it only had the surrounding area of Thrace, Macedonia, most of Greece, the Aegean, and very little of Asia Minor which was once the empire’s heartland. In the Sicilian Vespers movie, not much of Constantinople’s exterior or street scenes are shown as most of the scenes in the capital are in the imperial palace though the street scenes show the city back in order but in a very miserable state wherein the people are torn apart especially regarding their emperor. The outdoor scenes of Constantinople include the road along the interior of the city’s 5th century Walls of Theodosius where the mob harasses Michael VIII throwing things at him as the rain pours and along this part of the walls is where the old wise monk Georgios Doukas has his home, which was literally a dark cave-like room inside the walls with important treasures kept inside. The other exterior scene of the city is the docks and the set for the docks of Constantinople in this movie was the same set used for the previous film Summer of 1261 where Baldwin II attempts to escape from; now in this movie, the docks is where Andronikos leaves the city from using Ezio’s boat to get to the ship and where Michael leaves the city one last time before his death also getting into Ezio’s boat from here. The city’s docks shown here is located in the south side of the city facing the Marmara Sea; meanwhile the
Constantinople is a peninsula with water on 3 sides, the south is where the docks are and in the western land side is where the walls with Georgios’ home is, the palace meanwhile is on the northwest corner and the eastern tip is the city center where the main cathedral, the Hagia Sophia is which in the years of Latin occupation from 1204 to 1261 was a Latin Catholic cathedral but returned to Orthodoxy when Constantinople was taken back in 1261, thus the large realistic mosaic of the Deesis was added inside by Michael VIII celebrating its return to Orthodoxy even if just 12 years later, Michael thought of turning it back to a Catholic cathedral again when signing the Church Union. The Constantinople background from all previous No Budget Films Byzantium media is once again used for this movie to show the establishing shot for Constantinople, this background is basically a mash-up of the whole city showing the Hagia Sophia and its dome at the center, the walls along the water, and the Forum of Constantine with a tall column though depending on the establishing shot, this background was shot in many angles.
Blachernae Palace- At the northwest corner of the city along the walls is Constantinople’s Byzantine imperial palace, known as the Blachernae Palace where Michael VIII and his family reside in, and in the latter years of Byzantium, this was the imperial palace as before, for the longest time the palace was at the city center next to the Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome. In the movie, there are many locations that are supposed to be inside the palace which includes Michael VIII’s study where he usually isolates himself in where also his son Andronikos receives visions, the imperial throne room, and the exterior courtyard of the palace where Michael meets with his men and Dr. Giovanni arriving back from Sicily, and at later on in the movie, this courtyard is where Andronikos II is crowned. On the other hand, there are a few location mistakes in the palace set including the background of the throne room in which the printed background is actually an image of the 19th century Byzantine inspired throne room in the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany and outside in the courtyard the 2 opposite sides of the entrance show the mosaic of Byzantine Empess Zoe and Emperor Constantine IX on one side and the one of Emperor John II Komnenos and Empress Irene on the other, when in fact these mosaics in reality were not found outside the palace but inside the Hagia Sophia in which they still are there today. Part of the Blachernae Palace too is the extension wing known as the “Palace of the Porphyrogennetos” built by Michael VIII in 1261 in honor of his newborn son Constantine.
Nicaea- In the 57 years the Byzantine Empire died out between 1204 and 1261, Nicaea remained the exiled capital of the Byzantine Empire under the Laskaris family until Michael VIII took back Constantinople, blinded John Laskaris, and relocated the population of Nicaea back to Constantinople. Although even before 1204, the city of Nicaea found along Lake Askania in Asia Minor not too far away from Constantinople had some significance as it was here where the first Church Council took place in 325 organized by Emperor Constantine I the Great where the Nicene Creed was made and in 787 another Church Council took place here which was to decide on icon veneration. In the previous movie Summer of 1261, Nicaea has a major appearance as the exiled Byzantine capital where John IV Laskaris rules from and where Michael VIII plans his reconquest but in this movie War of the Sicilian Vespers, the Nicaea location comes back showing the old capital now completely abandoned and Andronikos coming back defeated from Sicily
found his way back there to the very city he was born in 1259 now wanting to strand himself forever there in the ruins of the imperial palace the Laskaris family ruled from and out anger he tears down the city burning all the treasures, icons, flags, and anything he can find that had been left there on a boat he docked at the lake’s shore until the ghost of Alexios appears to him showing him into the underground vault beneath the palace where the most sacred relics of Byzantium were kept in back in the time of the Laskaris family’s rule. In real history however, it surely false that the young Andronikos tore the city down in 1282 but rather at this time with Constantinople now the capital again, Nicaea like in the movie had lost its significance but was still inhabited although it would gradually just fall apart and early in the 14th century, Nicaea fell to the Ottomans. The location of Nicaea however is not so far from Constantinople that it is said to have not even been a day away from it during Byzantine times, today it is called Iznik and is quite close to Istanbul.
Dacibyza Fortress- After the boy emperor John IV Laskaris was blinded in 1261, Michael VIII taking the throne in Constantinople imprisoned the boy John IV in a tower of the Dacibyza Fortress, a castle located in the coast of Asia Minor along the Marmara Sea- the smallest sea in the world- and for 2 decades Joh Laskaris remained blind and isolated in a tower becoming extremely fat. In the Sicilian Vespers movie, this fortress is only shown once and only the tower room where John Laskaris is held in can be seen where Michael VIII’s sister Irene comes to get him out and relocate him to a monastery in Nicomedia. Being in this room for 21 years, John Laskaris grew insane thinking everyday someone will kill him, although instead of being killed he was relocated to monastery and as seen in the Summer of 1261 deleted scenes, Andronikos II as emperor in 1290 comes to finally release John Laskaris. In real history however, John Laskaris remained in this prison castle in what is today Gebze, Turkey for 29 years and was in fact released by Andronikos II in 1290 to be brought to Constantinople where John Laskaris lived out his life though blind until 1305.
The Thracian Countryside- When Michael VIII leaves Constantinople in December of 1282, he is seen landing in the port of Selymbria in Thrace and riding fast along the Thracian countryside, the Byzantine countryside right outside Constantinople, today in European Turkey and it is in a farm in Thrace where Michael VIII dies after confronting the assassin Sully. Meanwhile as Michael VIII rides through Thrace, the assassin Hugh Sully rides along a road in the same area which is supposed to be the Via Egnatia, the Roman road built in Thrace. The farm where Michael duels and kills Sully and dies
shortly after is supposed to be the village of Pachomion where the real-life Michael VIII died in which is supposed to be near the town of Lysimachia in Thrace just along the Marmara coast. In real history, Michael VIII at age 59 was said to have died in this village in Thrace although dying peacefully with some of his men beside him and not having to fight a Latin assassin sent to kill him and having to die in front of a farmer who had no idea he was the emperor. In the movie, a sign in the farm in Greek letters says the word “Pachomios” which is the farm’s name but was also the last name of the farmer that owned it, though in real history there was probably no farmer with that name and that was simply the name of the village.
Selymbria- The sleepy port settlement where Michael VIII arrives in before riding off to Thrace where he is later buried in is supposed to be the port town of Selymbria outside Constantinople and today the town of Silivri in the suburbs of Istanbul found along the Marmara coast of European Turkey. This location also appeared before in the previous Summer of 1261 movie where Alexios and his team encounter Georgios before taking back Constantinople though in the Sicilian Vespers movie, this is where Michael’s secret midnight burial takes place with only his sons Andronikos and Constantine, the farmer Pachomios who witnessed his death, the naval captain Ezio, 2 imperial agents, and a
gravedigger attending it because the patriarch in Constantinople refused a proper burial for Michael in the capital which he took back in 1261. At Michael’s funeral in Selymbria, his son Andronikos now becoming emperor orders that his father be buried there and only those attending will know the location or else people will desecrate his tomb. In real history, Selymbria was also where the Byzantine soldiers of 1261 got their information on taking back Constantinople and also where Michael VIII was eventually buried in, though in the movie, Michael’s tomb is simply a hole in the ground and the body is seen inside a tissue wrap.
Cameos and Easter Eggs in War of the Sicilian Vespers
If you look carefully when watching this film War of the Sicilian Vespers, you will notice a few Easter Eggs in the sets including objects from Byzantine history like works of art, specific Lego figures or different sets, or items from a different universe but overall, No Budget Films when creating the movie made sure to get most of the facts right so images of Byzantine characters or flags that are seen in the movie were from the time of 1282 or before it, therefore you wouldn’t see anything after that era like an image of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI, the Ottoman flag, the image of Sultan Mehmed II, or portraits of people from after the 13th century, though you might see objects that may be out of place, and these were just put in for fun to put some pop culture references. This part here will be at the same time a dissection of the scenes of this movie.
At the opening scene of the movie, King Louis IX wears the Lego crown piece and a fleur-de-lys shirt, which was indeed at that time the symbol of the French kingdom. Meanwhile the French soldiers seen with him, who happen to appear later on in the film as his brother’s Charles of Anjou’s knights, wear blue under their armor and in the rest of the film, Charles of Anjou’s French army in Sicily mostly wear blue, which was in fact the color of the French kingdom, although most medieval soldiers from the Lego Castle sets come in blue outfits. Previous No Budget Films media set in the Roman and Byzantine Empires also did use the same soldier pieces wearing blue for the roles of the Roman and Byzantine soldiers. On the other hand, King Louis IX carries a golden sword being one of the three characters in this film to hold one, the other two being Charles of Anjou and Michael Palaiologos, the golden sword is used to show that they are the top rulers; in the previous film Summer of 1261 only Michael and Baldwin II carry this golden sword.
Among the Sicilian people attending the Vespers prayer in Panormos Sicily, you could see one with a Santa Claus hat, a woman wearing the Lego Harley Quinn black and red outfit, one in a snowsuit, while the character of Giulia in her first appearance wears the Lego medieval woman’s outfit, and the bishop Salviati has a paper cut-out bishop’s miter while his outfit is from the Lego Harry Potter sets. As you notice the Vespers are said in Latin making it a Catholic religious service despite the look of the church being Byzantine Orthodox.
The Lego figures of Alexios and Stephanos as well as Andronikos later on wear the black tunic outfits with a silver tree over chain mail of the Gondor soldiers of the Lego Lord of the Rings sets. The Lego figure of Michael meanwhile also wears the outfit of the Lego Gondor fountain guard while the Lego figures of Sviatoslav and Constantine wear the shiny full plate armor of the Lego Gondor soldiers though Sviatoslav in addition wears the Gondor fountain guard helmet and carries the Gondor fountain guard lance,
Stephanos uses the Lego Gondor sword, shield, silver bow, and pointed helmet which Alexios had worn too in the previous film, while Sully also uses the large Gondor sword, and Haran wears the Lego Greek hoplite’s armor as well as a Lego Greek hoplite’s shield and Gladius sword. In this film though, Alexios no longer carries the sword and shield of Nikephoros II Phokas as he had buried it somewhere in Asia Minor in 1262 shown in the Summer of 1261 deleted scenes, instead he goes back to carrying his old blade from the earlier part of the previous film.
When the people come out of the church in Panormos, you can hear some chatting in Italian with food terms like “cappuccino”, “tramezzino”, “café”, “Parmigianino”, these were taken from the audio of an Italian language lesson. At this scene, you can also hear background sounds like seagulls, cats, and dogs though a dog is shown later. Also, the drunk soldier Drouet who grabs Giulia says nothing but groaning sounds, the dagger Giulia’s husband Alessandro uses which Giulia later uses comes from the Lego The Hobbit sets. Meanwhile, the black armor Hugh Sully wears is the same armor worn before by Nikephoros II Phokas and the object that Dr. Giovanni throws to stun Sully is a smoke bomb which already existed back then in the 13th century but were rare.
In Michael VIII’s study at the palace, you would spot many Byzantine Easter Eggs in the background including a flag with the combined 2 seals of the Byzantine Empire (yellow cross with red background and Greek Beta symbols) and the red cross of Genoa with a white background which is the alliance flag of Byzantium and Genoa, Michael VIII’s greatest ally; also you could see an icon of 9th century Empress Theodora the restorer of icon veneration, an aerial map of Constantinople which is though inaccurate as this one shown was made alter on in Ottoman times, the mosaic icon of Emperor Constantine the Great from the Hagia Sophia, the mosaic icons of 6th century Emperor Justinian the Great and his wife Theodora from the Ravenna mosaics, in Italy and an image of the Lego Alexios, Michael, Georgios, Sviatoslav, and Stephanos from the Summer of 1261 film looking like a photograph which is so inaccurate as photographs hadn’t existed back then. Meanwhile, the large mosaic panel in the wall of Michael’s study in which Andronikos later on stares into while collapsing is the star sky mosaic found in the ceiling of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, and the rug on the floor of Michael’s study where Andronikos later collapses in is a print out of a Turkish rug. On the other hand, the object Michael is writing on which is supposed to be a book is in fact an SD card while what he is using that is supposed to be a pen is a Lego lightsaber hilt.
In Michael’s quick nightmare vision sequence, you can see Louis de Blois taking Constantinople in 1204 with the Byzantine emperor dead after falling off a column and Louis de Blois shouting “the city is now ours”, also you can see Michael with John IV Laskaris, Michael punching empress Elena, and Michael in the streets of Constantinople in 1261 in battle and stabbing Baldwin II’s foot, also Michael’s coronation, the dome of the Hagia Sophia, King Louis IX before dying, the blinding of John Laskaris, and a quick glimpse of the new enemy Charles of Anjou while in this quick vision scene you can hear the noises of the Rancor and Varactyl creatures from Star Wars and random voices saying “never” and “shift back in film” all before a phantom of the boy John Laskaris appears.
In the function room of Charles’ castle in Messina, Sicily the chairs used for the table and the golden dinking cups are from the Lego Harry Potter sets, also Philippe wears the same outfit his father Baldwin II wore in the Summer of 1261 film while Baldwin at his death bed can be seen in a flashback in this scene, Jean Clovis meanwhile wears the same blue fleur-de-lys shirt as Louis IX at the start of the film except with a white ruffled collar which weren’t around yet as they only came in by the 16th century. Charles of Anjou here makes a reference to Rome destroying Carthage with salt in 146BC by saying “like Carthage, Constantinople will be destroyed”, also Charles pronounces Michael’s last name “Palaiologos” as “Palealaygos”. When Charles finishes speaking, Sully, Jean, Philippe, and Salviati shout out “Deus Vult”, which was the Latin motto the Crusaders always use meaning “God wills it” and since here Charles is planning on the 9th Crusade to take back Byzantium, this motto was fitting for the scene.
At the throne room of Byzantium, the 2 Byzantine flags hanging is actually a modern recreation of Byzantium’s imperial flag while the outfit Andronikos wears is a rare Lego piece from a Lego Assassin’s Creed set, earlier on you can see Andronikos lying drunk on the throne room with an icon next to him, hinting that he could have painted the icon as he here in the movie was an artist too as Michael hints his son Andronikos is sleeping,
drinking, and dreaming too big about the arts. The Lego figure of Andronikos’ mother and Michael’s wife Theodora is seen wearing a green outfit and a small Lego crown piece that attaches to the hair piece.
In the docks of Constantinople, you would notice it is the same set used for the docks in the previous Summer of 1261 movie and here you will see a Byzantine flag with a pointed edge supposed to be the Byzantine naval flag and on Ezio’s boat you could see the flag of Genoa which looks exactly like the flag of England except longer and at the front of his boat his a dragon’s head which is a reference to the dragon figurehead the Byzantines had in their ships where Greek fire came out from; though in the docks a very noticeable Easter Egg above a barrel is a Lego Star Wars brown air force clone trooper helmet which can be seen again later when Michael heads back to docks to leave Constantinople. At the first scene at the docks Michael speaks to Andronikos in Greek saying “courage my son”, meanwhile the elderly monk Georgios appears in this scene and here compared to the previous movie he appears so much older using a cane while instead of the black headpiece he used in the previous film, here he wears a black hood.
The same blue amulet of Germanicus held by Valentin Clovis in the previous film here in this film can only be seen in flashback scenes including a dying Valentin holding it and Baldwin II giving it to a young Jean years ago, Jean then hints he gave the amulet to his younger brother in case he dies fighting therefore his brother would be the one to pass down the amulet to future generations as in this film, Jean died childless. Jean also hints Philippe’s father sold Philippe to the Venetians long ago to fund his poor Latin Empire; in pronouncing names Philippe’s voice Angelo Lacson however pronounces Jean as “John” and Jean’s voicer Alej Consing pronounces Philippe as “Philip”, though Philippe’s name in real history was actually Philip.
In the scene where the mob of Constantinople boos Michael throwing food at them showing how unpopular he became with the people, the white Lego items thrown at him were made to represent rotten eggs and the blue pieces thrown at him to represent dirt which in fact is the tack used for the movie set. One of the 3 characters harassing Michael speaks in actual Greek saying “death to you” and “to hell with you emperor” using the word Basileos which is Greek for emperor and term the Byzantines used for addressing their emperors, while the one character out of nowhere throws a banana which he probably got by trading with Indians or Arabs and the character who shouts “bring back John Laskaris” happens to be Osman, the founder of the Ottoman empire when young. While the mob harasses, Michael zones out seeing the phantom of the boy John Laskaris appears again wearing the same outfit from the previous film in which the body piece is a Lego Star Wars Jedi robe and the neck piece is from a Lego queen. At this scene, research was done quite well due to the fact that there were no tomatoes thrown as in the 13th century, tomatoes were only known to the peoples of the Americas which Europeans hadn’t set foot to yet only bringing tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century. The word continuously used here Nika is Greek for “conquer” and was used frequently in riots also a reference to the failed Nika Riots against Justinian I in 532.
At this scene, after the vision of the boy John Laskaris appears, Michael then threatens to kill the angry uncivilized mob saying he will drink from their skulls, which is reference to the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros I in 811 who after defeated by the Bulgarians in battle, his skull was made into the Bulgarian king Krum’s drinking cup, same thing happened to the first Latin emperor Baldwin I who’s skull was made into the drinking cup of the Bulgarian ruler Kalojan in 1205. Using the skull of a defeated enemy king was however a tradition that medieval Bulgarian rulers used.
In this scene also, you can see that there was a bit of magical powers in the No Budget Films Byzantine setting as Georgios coming out of his house inside the walls slams his cane to the ground creating a vibration causing the old man in green harassing Michael to fly backwards. Now inside Georgios’ house you can see many Roman and Byzantine Easter Eggs in the walls like several religious Byzantine icons depicting saints, the icon of the Nicaean emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes (r. 1222-1254) who was in fact a friend of Georgios, the icon of Byzantine emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer (r. 976-1025), the banner of the Roman army Legion V Macedonica as a way to show the Byzantines still being Romans despite how many centuries had gone by, the Byzantine national flag, an image from the Madrid Skylitzes depicting the Byzantine drawing of Greek fire, and the flag of the Sassanid Persian Empire.
In Michael’s long dialogue at Georgios’ house, he mentions his younger brother John died fighting in the Battle of Benevento against Charles’ forces in 1266 showing it in a flashback together with many other flashbacks of past incidents, though in real history John died in around 1275 after a battle with the Latins in Greece and not in Italy. In the No Budget Films story, John held the title of Byzantine grand general or Megas Domestikos and after his death the title was passed on to Alexios though Alexios in the film died in 1282 in Sicily. Here, you can also the flashback of Michael at Theodore II Laskaris’ court in Nicaea dressed in the shiny plate armor and wearing that with a turban when in the Seljuk sultan’s army, and when poisoning the food of Theodore II, Michael wears something different, while in Theodore II’s death scene, John IV Laskaris, Empress Elena, and George Mouzalon are in the background, and a scene later shows the funeral of Theodore II where Michael ordered the regent Mouzalon’s death. It rather remains unclear if Michael poisoned Theodore II or most possibly he died because of his epilepsy but it sure both Michael and Theodore II hated each other. Based on Michael’s dialogue here, he says he was at odds with Theodore II Laskaris despite being childhood friends because Theodore humiliated him while in real history Michael opposed Theodore’s decision in making his commoner friends, the Mouzalon brothers the new Byzantine elite hurting Michael who was the leader of the traditional Byzantine aristocratic faction and at his death Theodore II appointed his friend George Mouzalon regent to his young son John IV but unhappy with it, Michael had George Mouzalon killed at Theodore’s funeral while George’s wife asked Michael to hide in his house fo refuge where Michael revealed he was behind the plot telling her he would do the same thing he did to his husband to her if she told anyone about the incident.
In Sicily, the flags you can see is the royal French fleur-de-lys flag on a blue background though this one has a red border which is the Angevin flag used by Charles of Anjou, and for the Sicilian rebels their flag was one depicting 3 legs which however is the modern flag of Sicily. Meanwhile the character of Giulia when reappearing now wears a black low-cut dress supposed to be the outfit of the Lego figure of the dark side Rey from Star Wars Episode IX while she also carries a Lego Assassin’s Creed hidden blade, though the character of Tomaso also wears a black outfit which indicates this was the color of the Sicilian rebellion. Dr. Giovanni meanwhile in Sicily usually wears a Lego pirate’s tricorn hat also as a way to hint his character was a pirate too and the item the French soldier uses to beat an old Sicilian man is in fact a Lego baseball bat.
At the scene where the people of Messina gather as Dr. Giovanni speaks to start the rebellion, you could see the original outfits of Giulia and Andronikos in this film reused by other characters including one character in a graduation hat and the Lego Poison Ivy figure, as well as one character with a pitchfork, one with a machete, one with a baseball bat, and another with Thor’s hammer. Also, you can hear some more random Italian words in the back like cibo meaning “food” and allora meaning “then” also more random Italian words relating to food and another random line saying “designer bio”, the same god from earlier on can be seen in this scene again.
As Andronikos, Stephanos, Sviatoslav, and Haran enter Charles’ castle, you can see a stained-glass image of King Louis IX (St. Louis) in the hallway as well as the flag of the actual French kingdom while Andronikos says to the guard in French he is from Blois, a reference to the previous character of No Budget Films Louis de Blois, this was his way of tricking the guard he was French in order to be allowed in as the guard asks where in France are Andronikos and his men from.
Throughout the film, Charles and Philippe usually say the word Merde which is French for “shit”. The Lego figure of Charles meanwhile has a unique hairpiece made to look like a 1950s gelled hair while his outfit is a piece of chest armor over his royal French blue outfit. Charles’ look though usually only dressed in a knight’s amror instead of fine clothes is supposed to be the way he presents himself, which is that of a simple military leader rather than a luxurious emperor the way Byzantine emperors were. As for his knights, Charles has 6 fully armored knights in which all 6 are Norman French and these 6 knights easily put down the rebellion in Messina before they head out to Panormos, all 6 also wear blue outfits. The fire in Charles’ furnace meanwhile is the Lego piece for flames while in the set’s background of a medieval hall, if you look to the right side you will see that this background was in fact mounted on a green chopping board. As Andronikos is knocked out, he experiences visions of the great outdoors showing grass and sky, as well as him when a child beside his father and him as an old man in the future with a white beard, also the man in the vision with a tree coming out his chest is the first Ottoman sultan Osman in 1299. On the other hand, Andronikos sees an alternate reality of him being executed by Charles which makes him want to abandon the mission and flee fearing it would truly happen.
In the prison scene, you can see Sviatoslav without all his armor looking totally different as a bald man in a black outfit, when he is rescued by Haran and the Aragonese he gets his armor back, also a Lego scorpion can be seen inside the prison cell.
In Nicaea, the fire used for the boat Andronikos burns was added on in the edit as a video clip of actual fire while the items he burns includes a green Byzantine eagle flag which was the flag of the Vatatzes-Laskaris family that ruled Nicaea from 1222 to 1261, the family which John III, Theodore II, and John Laskaris came from while the red flag with a golden eagle is the Byzantine flag of the Palaiologos family with the Palaiologos crest at the center of the eagle, also you can see Andronikos burning the same icons from Georgios’ house. To make the set of Nicaea look like an abandoned place, cotton was used on the set to represent cobwebs while the Lego bricks lying around was made to represent rubble. For Alexios, tissue was wrapped around him with a bright filter added to the clips he appears in to make it look like as if he were a ghost while for the relics of St. Constantine and St. Helena, a blue and red Lego object was used to represent their bones while the mechanism that unlocks the box they are kept in is operated though a helmet.
In the scene where Hugh Sully rides down the Via Egnatia, the Roman road in the Balkans passing though Thrace you can see a couple of guide books like those of Paris and Istanbul behind which can also be seen if you carefully in the distance in some scenes of this movie and in the castle tower where John Laskaris is imprisoned in, you can see the yellow flag of the Empire of Nicaea with a black eagle. Though his eyes are wrapped in tissue, the adult John Laskaris uses the same face and hair as the Lego Jean Clovis character since both are supposed to be look a likes of each other with same first name and birth year.
Before Michael confronts Sully in the farm in Thrace, he shouts in French “you are not welcome here!” and Sully however gets attacked by Michael before he can finish the word “Constantinople” as behind the scenes, Sully’s voicer Pat Claudio mispronounced the word so it was cut off and even when killed, Sully’s face was never seen as Michael stabbed him at the neck. The coughing sound Michael makes before dying is a real cough made by Michael’s voicer Powee Celdran and like how most No Budget Films characters die onscreen, Michael dies with his facial features disappearing turning into a blank face, same things happens with Charles later on as well as with Alexios and Louis IX early in the movie. At Michael’s death, the sound of crows can be heard as his agents come into the farm with his horse that escaped when clashing with Sully. Coincidentally, Michael VIII’s death in 1282 was on December 11, the same day in 969 when Nikephoros II was assassinated by John Tzimiskes as seen in the previous one-shot film Killing a Byzantine Emperor, making this the second time a No Budget Films scene was set on December 11.
In the execution scene at Panormos, most of the people executed are the same ones who rose up against the French at the start as seen by the same outfits. Here, this scene shows some of the most bloody execution methods including using a child as an archery target practice, decapitating a man with all the blood flying out, stabbing a man hanged to death, piercing a pickaxe through a man’s skull, and tying a man to ballista and firing it to the air, here Charles announces he will invade Constantinople.
The Lego character of Peter III of Aragon also wears a pirate tricorn hat and a ruffled collar, though he aside from Ezio are the only two major characters in this movie with speaking lines that use a yellow Lego face as the other speaking characters of the movie who are not extras or soldiers use flesh faces. Meanwhile, Peter III says “good day” in his native Catalan language and not in Spanish while his soldiers wear chain mail armor with fur over it as well as white hats while carrying large axes as the Catalan Almogavar soldiers in this time also wore fur with chain mail and carried large axes. Meanwhile Peter III’s army carries the Aragonese flag which are vertical yellow and red stripes and can still be seen in one of the symbols in the Spanish flag today representing the Kingdom of Aragon and is also the basis for the flag of Catalonia today. As for Peter III’s character, he is never seen removing his hat.
In the scene of Michael’s funeral in Selymbria, you will notice one Easter Egg that looks completely out of place, this is the Lego Marshmello figure made for the American DJ Christopher Comstock also known as “Marshmello” with a large marshmallow head, he is also seen earlier as Michael rides through the Thracian countryside. In his midnight funeral, Michael’s body is found being inside a tissue wrap while the Marshmello character is supposed to be the gravedigger for Michael.
When Andronikos II becomes emperor, the flag behind him at Selymbria during his father’s midnight funeral is his family’s flag then back in Constantinople he is seen lifted in the same shield his father was in 1261 as well as wearing the same crown piece his father wore back then while attending his coronation are his mother Theodora and aunt Irene, Georgios, and Ezio while outside the same people of the mob that harassed Michael earlier can be seen, here though with no audio are cheering for Michael’s death. The shield meanwhile was the Byzantine coronation tradition as when the army proclaims an emperor, he stands on a shield lifted by his soldiers; as emperor Andronikos wears the same silk robes as Theodore II in the flashbacks in this movie as well as the imperial cloak of his father and although purple is the Byzantine imperial color, Michael’s outfit is black while Andronikos’ is silver and black in the movie as a Lego purple robe is a rare find. When sitting on the throne, Andronikos is seen holding the relics of St. Constantine and St. Helena he got from Nicaea.
When the Byzantines, Sicilians, and Aragonese clear out Messina ambushing the French, some more random Italian words can be heard in the background while the new flag Sviatoslav mounts is the new flag of Sicily under Aragonese rule. This flag shows the rred and yellow stripes of Aragon and the black eagles of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty that ruled Sicily previously.
In his speech when ordering the Byzantines to continue the fight against the French in Sicily, Andronikos mentions the names of previous Roman/ Byzantine emperors including Rome’s first emperor Augustus Caesar, Claudius I, Constantine I the Great the founder of Byzantium, Justinian I the Great, and Nikephoros II Phokas to bring back the old history and to reference old No Budget Films epics. In this scene, the Byzantine soldiers here sent to Sicily at the final battle appear mismatched in armor with some wearing Ancient Greek armor, though this is a reference to the Byzantine army in this time (13th century) which were not really so uniform as many of their soldiers were foreign mercenaries. Meanwhile the North African Moor army here appear wearing hoods over robes using characters from the Lego Ninjago sets with one Moor soldier using a Japanese Katana blade and the other two with Moorish scimitars. Before the battle, the shout “Nika” that can be heard come from the Byzantine soldiers while the shout “Insieme per la Vittoria” come from the Sicilians. Stephanos before giving the speech before the battle is given the rank of Megas Domestikos which Andronikos refers to as “grand domestic”, here Stephanos takes the place of Alexios holding this rank and will be Andronikos’ second-in-command.