Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pompeii Explodes – With A Huge “Pfft!”

Even The Terrifying Might Of Mount Vesuvius Struggled To Make This Movie Matter


ARTH VADER (AV): So, in 79 A.D., the Roman city of Pompeii and it’s surrounding cities and towns were mostly destroyed and/or buried by more 15 ft of volcanic ash. The hauntingly beautiful remains of those caught in the fury of this devastating natural disaster are preserved forever in stone as a testament to the unrelenting power of this event. The nearly 12,000 inhabitants succumbed to terrifying might of nature in one of history’s most famous catastrophes. In similar fashion, the recent release of Pompeii is an equal catastrophic event of it’s own. Disappointing since the trailer implied a much better filmgoing experience. What did you think, old friend? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Despite a slight geographical change, the film depicts the most well known fact about Pompeii: It got wiped out by a volcano. I think the rest of the filler, sans any hard corroborating evidence, was entertaining. 


AV: A compelling cast to be sure, I enjoyed the role players, the cinematography and camerawork of Pompeii. As for the acting itself, well, hmm. The leading role portrayed by the devilishly handsome and talented Kit “Hi, I’m John Snow” Harrington, felt overly brooding and forced. The love interest, played by Emily “I’ve been Sucker-Punched again” Browning did little more than bat her eye lashes and portrayed her best Juliet impression to bad boy Harrington’s Romeo. But all is not lost, Ponty! I did enjoy two characterizations in Pompeii. First is Adeewale “Just call me Kurse” Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays the prophetic and powerful Atticus, and Sacha “welcome to Warehouse 13” Roiz plays the badass Roman warrior, Proculus. These are a few of the names the round out a particularly impressive cast that deliver a particularly unimpressive screenplay of Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil series and the Death Race 2000 films). Casting thoughts, Pontificator? 

TP: Well paced and easy to watch, the film employed some pretty good acting talent and delivered an entertaining film Vader. Kit Harington (best known from Game of Thrones) showed that he has the chops for a lead (in this type of film anyway) and seems to have taken his first steps toward “action star.” Carrie-Anne Moss was more subdued in the role of mother and wife, not something I’m used to seeing her do, but she did it well enough. Her onscreen husband, Jared Harris was excellent and delivered, convincingly, concerned and loving father put into a very precarious situation. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje didn’t have much to do but convince us that he was badass in the arena…which was easy for him to do but he also added some depth to his character, Atticus. I had mixed feelings about Kiefer Sutherland here as I’m not used to seeing him in the role of the bad guy, and he did is so well. It’s a testament to his ability to invoke disdain in me for his character portrayal. 

AV: This movie is the reigning 2014 grand-champion of disaster porn! The standards of disaster effects here are as good as I have seen (too bad it doesn’t really move the needle by way of the story quality). It’s true that great visual effects can enhance the movie-going experience but oh man, with that said, this movie looks great! The cityscape, the explosion of the volcano and my favorite, the rising up to crush the city and shore line, even as volcanic debris pummels escaping ships quite exciting stuff, wouldn’t you agree P-Man? 

TP: Indeed I do oh Dark One. There was no new ground broken here, but the old ground of great 3D effects were done very well. It’s hard to mess up explosions and giant fire balls, and this film not only didn’t mess it up, they threw it all right at you. The wardrobe also stood out here for me as the armors seemed very grand and detailed…visually stunning actually. Another part of the film that stood out was the fight scenes. I was surprised at how well they were done and have to give props to the actors, stunt men and choreographer for the “whoa” factor of the action. 


AV: The sad truth here is that Pompeii fizzled where it could have roared. Using the historically famous eruption as a backdrop for a much more complex story about the vanity of ancient Rome could have gone somewhere great. Instead, this movie took the weak action route and added a revenge/prodigal son twist. NOT a great idea. The screenplay (and in no small part the editing left the viewer uncaring and disconnected concerning the fate of the main character and I personally was left feeling indifferent about the fate of the people of Pompeii and I had little left than a semi-emotional shoulder-shrug once the final credits rolled. While there are interesting character and dialogue-driven moments between Atticus and Kit, as well as the solid performance of the tense relationship between Browning and Kiefer “Bored until the new 24” Sutherland, the movie just misses the mark on engagement. The film lacks the ability to build any interest on the behalf of the audience, and that, like Mount Vesuvius, doomed the city–and film–of Pompeii. 

TP: Every indication of this film was that it was a love story centered around the story of the destruction of Pompeii, and while it was that…it was also more than that. When I discuss this film with people, they are surprised to hear me refer to it as a gladiator film. The marketing of this movie hurt it I think as more people would have gone to see it if they knew it was a gladiatorial based, with a bit of love and destruction mixed in for good measure. This wouldn't be the first time Hollywood has dropped the ball with marketing, nor will it be the last. It’s just a shame that so many never gave this film a chance because they had no interest in seeing a love story…not realizing that it had some excellent action in it.


AV: Just… no. 

TP: Nope…I don’t see a sequel on the horizon. With the destruction of the city, and death of everyone… absolutely everyone, a sequel just doesn’t seem likely.

ARTH VADER rates Pompeii: What makes this film watchable is the inconsequential arena battles, the opening northern European village savaged by Roman troops and the sense of redemption in a poorly spun hero’s journey. While there is simply no way I would recommend our readers go see this movie in the theater, it could make for a good rental. With that, Pompeii covers 5 busted blocks in a sea of volcanic ash that will bury this movie in an overwhelming pile of molten forgettability.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Pompeii: Even though I’m a sucker for Roman / Gladiator movies, this film was actually better than I expected it to be. The look of it was superb and the action sequences, especially the fights, were absolutely stunning. Although the script was simplistic, the cast pulled it off well enough to melt six (6) busted blocks upon eruption. 

Pompeii: 5.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

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