Monday, June 2, 2014

Review 271: "Pompeii"

No warning. No escape.
No one cares.

Set Fire to the Rain

      Pompeii was released back on February 21, 2014 in the US. The film is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) and was written by Janet Scott Batchler & Lee Batchler (Batman Forever) and Michael Robert Johnson (Sherlock Holmes). The film follows slave Milo (Kit Harington), who's brought to Pompeii to complete in gladiator matches against Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). While there, he falls in love with nobleman's daughter Cassia (Emily Browning), whose parents (Jared Harris and Carrie-Anne Moss) are dealing with a corrupt Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and his right-hand Proculus (Sasha Roiz). All of that is set aside however, when Mount Vesuvius erupts and Pompeii is sent into apocalyptic chaos.

It's not that confusing guys.
Anderson vs The Volcano

      Pompeii is extremely aware that it has a big problem. Neither Anderson nor the films writers could come up with a way to make the climatic volcano eruption be the whole movie, but they also didn't know what to do with the film until they get to the eruption. You really get the sense that Paul W.S. Anderson had seen a bunch of sword and sandals movies and went from there. It all here. Cheesy rushed romance, cheesy rushed friendship, gladiator battles and even some glanced at political intrigue. But Anderson isn't really interested in any of that. He only cares about the actually eruption and is simply biding his time until the can fill the last 20 minutes with disaster porn. I seriously wonder why he didn't just go for broke and make the whole thing about the volcano erupting. Maybe using multiple narratives, time jumps, something. The eruptions scenes are solid, the best bits of the movie. The effects are surprisingly nice and the film is able to come up with enough cool setpieces to make out of the raining lava-debris the keep the whole thing interesting.

Bloody Mess

      There's clearly nowhere near as much interest as in the first hour of the movie. Nobody seems to care. The actors are fine, for the most part. Akinnuoye-Agbaje is awesome, like he normally is. Sutherland is cheesy but fun in a role he';s playing as complete camp. Browning fairs the best, making actually believe she was in love with Harington, no easy task when he has the acting talents of toothpick. With arms the size of trees. And I don't get that either. He's good on Game of Thrones. And yet here he really does suck. A complete non-entity, he's the main character and I can't remember anything he actually did. It doesn't help at all that the film feels like Mortal Kombat with the blood turned off. The gladiator matches are well-staged, but when the only weapons people use in the film are swords, maces and arrows it's hard not to notice the mysterious lack of blood when Milo lops a dude's arm off.

See. She noticed it too.
The Verdict

      And really the whole movie has that feel of they just didn't care. Like all this was a quick way for Anderson to get money out of teenagers while he waits to film Resident Evil: Awakening or whatever generic subtitle it has this time. The actors are fine, if you don't count Kit "Puppy Dogs Eyes of Confusion" Harington. And when the film does get around to the eruption, it does liven up a little. But, for the most part, Pompeii is nothing more than a watchable, but generic and dull timewaster. Pompeii gets 3 stars out of 6.

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