‘Pompeii’ Review: I Die Free

Posted in Screening Room by - March 26, 2015

This is my last review for this month. So far in our trek through our Disaster Movie Marathon we’ve watched a boat load of stinkers. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve begun to expect every movie I watch to be a horrible sack of turd. That’s what I expected going in to my viewing of the 2014 film Pompeii starring Kit Harrington as a man other than John Snow, alongside Emily Browning as a woman other than Babydoll from Sucker Punch. Unfortunately I was not proven wrong in my knee jerk reaction.

The film revolves around a young Celtic boy, played Harrington, surviving the murder of his whole family at the hands of Roman soldiers. He is then captured as a slave and sold into the life of a gladiator in Pompeii a few short days prior to the eruption of mount Vesuvius. The movie immediately begins the star-crossed lover routine between Kit and Emily, pulled apart not only by their status, but also by Keifer Sutherland’s attempts to wed Browning. The film desperately tries to cling to the feel of “Spartacus” and Gladiator, using the same theme of visual effects and the same drab brown color scheme to try and reach the audience that kept the Roman-themed television show in such high demand. The piece also manages to avoid the cliché of the know-it-all jackass scientist if only because the Romans had no concept of geothermal activity. Unfortunately that’s the only thing it’s setting affords the film, since the inclusion of the volcanic eruption shortens the time that the writers were afforded to tell a coherent story, and many of the most promising characters and secondary storylines end up feeling unfinished and rushed. As with all disaster movies, eventually it boils down to the main characters fleeing from an uncontrollable natural disaster which negates any half hearted attempt to create character-based conflict.

The acting in this movie is surprisingly good. I had high hopes for both Kit and Emily since they are quite good in their most notable roles. Keifer Sutherland plays an interesting though not entirely believable Roman senator. Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris play Emily Browning’s parents in surprisingly small rolls for actors of such experience. The most impressive portrayal comes from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who fills the roll of Atticus, senior gladiator and skilled combatant. The special effects are of a surprisingly high quality, since I expected this movie to be a soft pitch over the plate, relying on Kit Harrington’s popularity from “Game of Thrones” to sell tickets. The soundtrack is nothing special to the untrained ear. Unfortunately the writing is not superb, sending the plot through easily predictable checkpoints for anyone familiar with the factual digs of ancient Pompeii. Interviews about the film have admitted that the characters were based off of casts made from the remains of the dead, and this decision to follow the actual evidence so closely for character creation has made the film all the more bland. Its finale is one that I predicted after watching the trailer, let alone the first hour and a half of the film itself.

This film comes so close to being entertaining that it’s almost more frustrating than the other pieces of turd that we’ve watched this month. Begrudgingly, the film is an acceptable way to kill some time. It is by no means something I would suggest if asked to come up with ideas for a movie night, but should it show up on Netflix and you’ve already watched all of your favorite TV show, it’s not the worst choice. 

Final Say: Skip It

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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn't watching movies he's playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.
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