Friday, February 28, 2014

Pompeii (2014)

Pompeii opens with a quote from Pliny the Younger as he witnessed the destruction at Pompeii. This the only thing about Pompeii I found genuinely interesting, but it's more because I'm a fan of Russian River Brewing. Beer aficionados all know and enjoy Pliny the Younger, and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who actually died attempting to rescue people from Pompeii. A strong beer like Pliny the Elder or Younger is likely the only way you can get through or enjoy Pompeii, the latest masterpiece from director Paul W.S. Anderson.

The plot of Pompeii is basically a retread of Titanic, only Mount Vesuvius has replaced the titular ship, and then some half-assed gladiator and Roman junk thrown in. It's so packed borrowed ideas that I thought maybe Shia the Beef wrote it. Three people are credited with the "screenplay", where I imagine the writing session involved taking turns pulling movie cliches out of a hat.

It's not just the plot that's uninteresting, the characters are so forgettable and bland that some are barely ever mentioned by name. I had an easier time remembering them by names of other characters the actors played. Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is a slave/gladiator, whose most distinguishing feature is his abs, but that's not all there is to him. He's also a horse whisperer, which basically means holding a horse down while breaking its neck. This is how he meets Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who isn't at all shocked or turned off by watching a man kill a wounded horse with his bare hands. They fall in love instantly, even though Jon Snow is just a poor slave. However, Baby Doll is expected to marry Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who Jon Snow wants revenge on for killing his parents when he was a kid. Meanwhile, Jon clashes with another gladiator, Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), but they become best friends later.

I find it interesting the poster says "No Warning", when it seemed that they had plenty of warnings. In case you might forget that there's an active volcano in play, nearly every scene of the film features a shot of Mount Vesuvius or a loud rumble, sometimes interrupting dialog. It's nearly an hour into the film before Vesuvius erupts, so you have to squirm through the boring, tedious mess. You'll find yourself saying, "Can we just get on with it?" You care and feel nothing for these characters as they march towards their inevitable deaths. It's all rather pointless.

The effects, which you would figure to be the strong point, are also disappointing. Their quality is inconsistent, looking absolutely terrible at times. There's nothing about the destruction you haven't seen before in other disaster related flicks. There's even a scene of someone trying to outrun a shock wave on a chariot, similar to Keanu Reeves trying to outrun an explosion on a motorbike in Chain Reaction. The effect looks just as bad now as it did back in 1996. Only 3D was available to me, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear it didn't do anything for the visuals.

It's a waste of a decent cast having to play such wooden characters. I can't blame any of them, as it's not like they had much to work with. Like Carrie-Anne Moss is in the film, but it seemed the only point was to give her a less dignified death than Trinity had in the Matrix series. I'm surprised Anderson didn't just cast his wife, Milla Jovovich, instead. This is beneath Jared Harris as well. He's like Bill Nighy in that he's a good actor that always gets stuck in these lame action/fantasy films. Kiefer Sutherland seemed to be the only guy giving a real effort, but he has to be thrilled they are bringing 24 back so he doesn't have to take lame roles for a while.

I should have known the second I saw this was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson that I shouldn't have expected much. This is what I get for avoiding IMDB and Rottentomatoes before I see a film. I've often said that Anderson is basically Uwe Boll with a budget. Are his films profitable? Is he really easy to work with? I'm just amazed he keeps getting attached to films, and even more at the casts that star in them.

Even the soundtrack sounded borrowed, with parts having a familiar, Hans Zimmer feel. Some sounded lifted right from Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises. During the credits I noticed that one of the credited songs was from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which made me wonder if originality was any kind of goal or objective here. Yes, I did stay until the end of the credits, but that's because I wanted to make sure there wasn't some post-credit sequel stinger. You know we'd all be excited for Pompeii 2: Electric Boogaloo or Pompeii 2: Vesuvius' Revenge.

Combining the worst aspects of Titanic, any disaster movie, and the Spartacus series, Pompeii puts the "disaster" back in "disaster flick". Featuring a contrived story, mediocre special effects and forgettable characters, Pompeii can't even be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure. I can only advise renting this for a dollar, and then skipping ahead 60 minutes. Won't miss anything if you do this.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. lol, not a Paul WS Anderson fan, huh? I actually do enjoy his work quite a bit, and this movie was no exception. It's not his greatest, but it is what it is, which was enjoyable enough I felt. Still, if you're not a fan, then yeah, I can definitely understand the hate. :P

    1. I really let the hate flow through me on this one, didn't I? :) I've never been able to get into Anderson's stuff. He's in that small group of directors that I tend to cringe when I see their name attached to a film. Oh well... :P