Film Review: Pompeii

Someone had beans...

Someone had beans…

Everyone knows the story of Pompeii, however no one has quite seen it delivered with quite as many special effects and quite as much of a disregard for a giant volcano. As science goes flying out the window, this CGI fest will feel like Hollywood by Numbers.

Release Date: 2014

Running Time: 105 mins

The Premise

Slave-turned-gladiator Milo (not the drink) has a lovely time having his life ruined by Kiefer Sutherland. Just when he gets the upper hand – boom.

The Disasters Faced

Mount Vesuvius, lava, Earthquakes, horses, Kiefer Sutherland’s age changing make-up, entire armies of people whom will line up and attack one at a time, dodgy politics, Kiefer Sutherland’s libido, a tsunami and a lovely pyroclastic cloud!

The Execution

There’s some lovely moments in Pompeii which starts in the opening credits where we weave around bodies that have been encased in ash for eternity. These and some of the horse moments (and there are a few) made me think that there would be a genuine spirit behind the film. Sadly however from there on in, the film goes for the sledgehammer approach nine times out of ten and devolves itself as the story progresses. From there the cast are reduced to some very interesting plot beats where it speeds up moves forward in five minutes and then stops for a while then whizzes forward again – usually between gladiator fights. Each Pompeii film seems to go down the Gladiator route – its irresistible. Yet the fact we spend more time running around killing each other in an arena and less about the volcano which is what we’ve arrived for, the less of a delivery the film gives. Thankfully, this film does some interesting things with the arena and the politics around it and so by the time we hit the final third where the volcano kicks off, I’d had my fill of battles and would probably say more are killed on-screen in those than in the volcano itself.

Morning...

Morning…

The Effects

Firstly, hats off to the set design. There’s some amazing work that is all around the actors and often outshines them. Apparently a lot of work went into the historical accuracy of buildings although I’ve no clue how accurate it is – it does look phenomenal. The CGI of the destruction is also very well done and looks great. I’m very much in two minds as to how you can see bits of destruction going on around you but little of the big picture. I came for huge destruction and wanted a thrill ride and some of the shots miss that – others however really do hit it on the head.

Why It’s Worth Watching

The effects in the final half hour or so where the eruption takes centre stage has some great scenes of panic, a tsunami and a pyroclastic cloud. Up until then you have some great turns from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the gruff gladiator that is both a friend and an enemy and Kiefer Sutherland as someone who just wants to get laid and then screw over Pompeii. Sutherland, set up as the baddie, looks like his face has been CGI’d but I don’t know why. Also worth watching is Kit Harington, whose lead role allows him to be topless a lot and try desperately to mimic Orlando Bloom but fail quite dramatically. Emily Browning as love interest Cassia has such startling eyes that it’s off-putting. Young Milo that opens the movie has such long hair I thought Milo was a girl and the story was separate until later on!

Drinking Game

“Is that… Orlando Bloom?” / One man against twenty stands more chance of beating twenty men fighting one.

Best Death

Lava bombed to death!!! YAY!

Favourite Character

Jessica Lucas is about the only nice person in the entire film whom smiles and doesn’t look utterly stuck up. Now having seen her in Cloverfield too – I’m sure she’s just playing herself and not acting at all. However, being a nice character in a disaster film pretty much spells untimely death… oh dear.

Weirdest Moment

Love blossomed over the killing of a horse.

Nice arena... I'll take it!

Nice arena… I’ll take it!

Random Trivia

In real life ash-covered bodies embraced were actually found (known as “The Lovers of Pompeii” and also a large man’s body was found in Pompeii’s arena. So at least some deaths in the film are historically accurate! Go figure!

Goofy Quote

“I die a free man!”

Conclusion

In going relatively by the numbers, I was neither enthralled nor disgusted by the film. It delivers on effects, it under-delivers story and pacing and vaguely hits in likeability. However there’s a general numbness I felt to the film. I wanted to like it more and sadly did not and left the cinema rating it firmly in the school of average. We need a top notch volcano related movie – I still think we’ve not got one yet.

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