Pompeii (2014): A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.
I just had to use IMDB's description here. Couldn't help it, because it is rather funny and shows the primary fault of this movie, which I'll get to in a bit. Ok so first off, if you don't care about ancient Rome or about gladiators, just stop reading. You will find no enjoyment in this movie. The love story is basically awful, mostly because guess what? Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) is STILL terrible. She basically single-handily torpedoes any chance of a convincing love story occurring. So, go see Kevin Hart's About Last Night if you want a good love story in the theaters right now. Don't waste your time here. Ok? Ok. Bye!
Still here? Oh hey. Let's actually talk about the incredibly mixed bag that is Pompeii. Here's the main problem with this movie: it's directed by the overly-serious Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, AVP) if he could've turned this into a classic Roland Emmerich dumb-but-fun disaster film, it probably would've been a lot of, well, fun! Instead, we get way too much poorly-written character development, and an un-buyable love story. On top of the awesome and well-choreographed gladiator fights (the best part of the movie, by the way) and, you know, the part where Vesuvius erupts. It takes so long for the movie to get to this. If Pompeii had erupted in the first 20 minutes of this 98 minute film, it probably would've been a bit more enjoyable! Just....forget the character development, guys. It has a great ending, if you can stick with the movie until then. But it is short! And for the most part once it gets going I never felt bored. So that was nice! You want a stark contrast to show how good this movie was while simultaneously it was so laughably bad? No? Too bad. So a lot of people die in this movie. Obviously, cause, you know, Mt. Vesuvius. But one of the main bad guys dies in a way that was so awesome I actually cheered in the movie theater. It was amazing! Right there with the death of the Witch King in Lord of the Rings for a totally badass death scene. But, at the same time, this movie has some of the worst deaths I've ever seen. Ready? Picture this: slow-motion-falling-off-a-cliff death scene. Of a good guy. I mean, who thinks that's a good idea? WHO THINKS THAT'S A GOOD IDEA???? I was rolling with laughter. There's no way around it. There was a lot of incompetency on this staff. They were just like, "Ah f*ck it. We'll give it a shot!" And later, "Oh, it doesn't work? F*ck it. We'll do it anyway." Bet that's exactly how it went.
The acting had some pretty stark contrasts as well. Kiefer Sutherland (24) was hilariously incompetent. He was hogging the screen like nothing else by over-exaggerating EVERYTHING. It was pretty bad. And Emily Browning was TERRIBLE. She has like one facial expression. That's it! They should've had her maid, played by Jessica Lucas (from Cloverfield and actually a vastly underrated actress) and Browning switch roles. If they had, maybe MAYBE it would've made the love story a little convincing. Even though yes I know Lucas would never be royalty in ancient Rome, but who cares! It's a big stupid action movie anyway. It wasn't all bad though. Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from The Matrix trilogy....wait, what?) were good as Browning's parents. Actually, they had one of the cooler moments of the movie. Now, ready for this name? Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was the best part of this acting posse. Much like his role of Mr. Eko in Lost, he quickly became my favorite character. And it was only after the movie when I IMDB'd him that I remembered that he was from Lost. This guy is a great actor, and I really want to see him in more movies. Please? However, and I've been saving him for last intentionally, the person everyone wants to see who may sort of like this movie is Kit Harington. Jon Snow is the lead here, but....he doesn't really add anything. He wasn't bad by any means, but he wasn't memorable either. He switched between mostly the same two expressions much like he does in Game of Thrones, and while it was cool seeing him lead a full-length movie, I can't say that now I see him making it big outside of GOT. He was not memorable. In short, if you love Jon Snow, you should watch this. But if you are just a casual Snow fan such as myself, it's not worth your time to see just him. He gets a solid 5.5/10 in the acting department.
Did I cover everything? Basically. The volcanic eruption is cool. Definitely more realistic than Dante's Peak but I think that is to be expected. Something about the whole 17-year time difference. Wait, 17 years? Damn I'm old. The destruction is told pretty vividly, but you are clearly expected to care about these characters. And outside of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, I didn't care about anyone. So is it worth your time? Yes. If you like this sort of thing. But it's definitely not worth $10. The main problem is exactly what the IMDB description implies: it tries way too hard to be serious. Just be a big stupid action movie! That's fine guys. Nothing wrong with that. Ask Roland Emmerich to direct this next time.
The Critique: An evenly mixed bag of good and bad. Ok acting, but poor direction and a poor script makes this very forgettable.
The Recommendation: If you love Kit Harington, Rome, Pompeii, or gladiators, go see it. If not, avoid like the bloody plague.
Where to See It: Redbox or Netflix. Pop open a few beers, bring a few friends over, and have some fun.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
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