“Pompeii” Movie Review
I’ve never been a huge fan of the “ancient gladiator” movie genre, and this year we have three major ones. The first being “The Legend of Hercules,” which was crapped upon across the board by critics and movie patrons alike, earning a mere 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. The second is “Pompeii,” a historical drama based on the ill-fated Roman city of the same name. The final movie in this category that will be gifted to us this year is “300: Rise of an Empire,” which doesn’t look too bad. I may end up seeing it (if I ever get around to seeing the first). Anyway, this review will focus on the middle movie of this 2014 Gladiator trilogy, if you will. And it’s better than you might think.
“Pompeii,” starring the drool-inducing Game of Thrones star Kit Harington and the not as drool-inducing Emily Browning, takes place in 79 AD, which, if you paid close attention in world history class, is the year the massive volcano Mt. Vesuvius wiped out an entire Roman city when it spewed tons upon tons of ash and fire into the sky. Most of this information we get from Pliny the Younger, whose famous quote regarding the eruption is displayed in the beginning of the film. While the movie’s main characters are fictional, director Paul W.S. Anderson claims it is accurate as far as the city and politics of Pompeii at the time. But to make a long story short, Milo (the aforementioned Kit Harington) is taken to Pompeii as a slave mere days before the eruption. He meets Cassia, daughter of a wealthy Pompeiian, and forbidden romance ensues.
As far as acting goes, there’s nothing special here. No bad acting, but nobody really stands out. Even Kiefer Sutherland, who plays a corrupt senator, isn’t at the top of his game. There also isn’t much in the way of character development, and there is a very distinct line between heroes and villains (no anti-heroes here). And just to make sure you’re on a certain character’s side, there is a Titanic-esque save-a-child scene. I won’t spend too much time talking about the acting and character development though, because that’s probably not why you’d go to see this anyway.
So why would you go to see this? The action, probably, and there’s a good amount of it here (before and after the volcano starts erupting). There are some well-choreographed sword fights (Jon Snow’s abilities didn’t diminish much on the way from Westoros to ancient Rome), but there isn’t much in the way of blood (it’s PG-13). It’s still better than it has to be and it’s clear that Anderson didn’t just get lazy when filming the fight scenes. There also aren’t too many quick cuts, which has become the norm for Hollywood action scenes (a la Getaway). By the way, if you aren’t watching Banshee on Cinemax and you enjoy some long uncut fight scenes, start watching it ASAP (Banshee plug in no way sponsored by Cinemax…yet).
Let’s get back to the director, Paul W.S. Anderson. I’m not too familiar with his work, but just by taking a quick glance at his Rotten Tomatoes page, I can see it’s not too great. According to critics on the site, his best film is Death Race. Let that sink in for a minute. However, with Pompeii, it does seem like he’s finally gotten a handle on how to film a cohesive, yet enjoyable film. He doesn’t linger on anything or anyone for too long, and seems to know how long an audience expecting an action film can wait before getting tired of dialogue. But I must point out that some characters decided to monologue at the worst possible time. I mean, share your feelings at a time when you’re not surrounded by fire and death and ash.
Despite it’s flaws, “Pompeii” is still an enjoyable way to spend your post-Valentines day weekend. Settle down with your significant other (or an ungodly large Diet Coke), pop your feet on the chair in front of you, stuff a big handful of popcorn into your mouth, and just turn your brain off for 95 or so minutes. Oh and just a disclaimer: to the dismay of music fans across the country, the song Pompeii by Bastille is NOT featured in this movie *pauses while population groans.*