Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pompeii Review

In the year 79 AD, the city of Pompeii was destroyed by extremely dangerous volcano of Mount Vesuvius, causing one of the more destructive and memorable natural disasters in history. 1,935 years later, the entertainment industry has decided to commemorate that destruction. Not only has this movie Pompeii been made, but coincidentally the band Bastille has put out the song Pompeii that currently holds a spot in the Billboard Hot 100's top 10 songs. I'm not sure why this sudden fetish over Pompeii has happened, but I'll take it. It's an interesting piece of history to remember. The song Pompeii I thoroughly enjoy. I think it actually would've fit well in the movie, but alas the two are separate. The movie, however, was rather forgettable. It actually did have the potential to be a great movie, but sadly it turned out very sloppy and poorly done.

Director Paul WS Anderson, mostly known for his work on the Resident Evil franchise, has a pretty consistent track record of making awful movies, so his name alone on this should be a red flag. And this is no different. Of course you know the premise of this movie, so I can't really spoil anything. A volcano explodes and destroys Pompeii. If that's all you are coming for, then you might be entertained. Personally, though, the key to making a good disaster movie that I will enjoy comes with the story and the characters. If you have a fantastically-written story to go along with well-written characters played by great actors, then you have yourself one heck of a movie that will pull at all of your audience's emotional strings. That's where this movie failed. When I'm watching a disaster movie, it's a pretty bad sign when I'm actually rooting for the main characters to die. That's when you know you did something wrong.

Knowing who was making the movie, I didn't go in with high expectations. However, when the movie started, I found myself pleasantly surprised. The movie had great visual effects and a great score. Those two combined with a great opening scene actually made me believe that I was going to enjoy this movie. Then we started diving into the story. The story was a combination of Gladiator and Titanic. And no, not in a good way. It couldn't decide what movie it wanted to be. If the movie would've stuck with the Gladiator style, it could've been really awesome. If the movie would've stuck with the Titanic style, well... it would've been less good, but still interesting. Instead it jumped back and forth between the two and thus got more messy the further along it went, and it never recovered. The romance was extremely underdeveloped. Yes, it was Titanic-esque in the sense that a woman in a high social standing falls in love with a man in a lower social standing, but it was rushed and forced. Emily Browning and Kit Harington didn't do a bad job, they just had nothing to work with as far as the script and the writing. The Gladiator part didn't work because it was too cheesy. And by that I mean that our lead character was this sort of super-soldier, horse-whisperer slave. Multiple times in the movie he had 10-20 people rushing at him and without fail, he always prevailed with barely even a scratch.

Most people I read will agree with me that the first hour of the movie was pretty sloppy. However, many will also say that the last 40 minutes with the Volcano explosion was pretty good. Did I think that? Absolutely not. In fact, it got worse for me. Here I am watching them sloppy jump back and forth between Titanic and Gladiator, and suddenly with no warning and not enough character development, we see the volcano explode. Oh. We're ending the movie, I guess. Was the actual explosion scene done well? Sure. Like I mentioned, visually the movie was really impressive. But the second the volcano exploded was the second the already poorly written script took an even further turn south. Spread the cheese, give up on any sort of emotional climax, and have all the characters make stupid decisions as the whole city is dying. Like not running away when they should. It was so frustrating that I was actually cheering for the volcano to kill them all already so that I could go home.

In the end, Pompeii did have potential to be a really good movie. It was visually impressive, with a good score, and a historically tragic ending that could've made for a powerful and moving movie if they just had good characters and a good story to go with it. But they didn't. Now before I end, I do have to make one positive note. Easily the best part of the movie was Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Who? Yeah, I call him Mr. Eko, because of course he is the actor who played the great Mr. Eko in the TV series Lost. He did great. But that was the only positive in the movie. My grade for Pompeii is a very poor 6/10.

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