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Friday, February 21, 2014

Pompeii: It's a Disaster

Posted by on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Pompeii: Kill them--kill them all!
  • Pompeii: Kill them—kill them all!

If you need a villain for your terrible movie, you might as well hire Kiefer Sutherland. In the opening scenes of Pompeii, we see Sutherland's Senator Corvus lead his troops in the wholesale slaughter of a whole village. Sutherland has always seemed like a creepy fellow on screen, and if you need a shorthand for an unlikable bad guy, he does the trick just fine. Corvus growls cheesy villain-y things like "kill them—kill them all," and he doesn't look embarrassing in his skirt and sandals. Of course, one boy survives the opening massacre scene and is taken into slavery. We then see that boy all grown up (Kit Harington, whose abs make an impressive first appearance.) Known as The Celt, he's an appropriately angsty gladiator who kills men four at a time. He's shipped to Pompeii, where he will fight in gladiatorial combat for the amusement of one...Senator Corvus. (Dun-dun-DUNNNNN!)

When you see "Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson" at the opening of a movie, you know you're not in for high art. Weirdly, Pompeii feels like it started out as a passion project—as though Anderson thought it would be his Titanic—but it features the same boring cliched characters and shitty computer graphics as every other Anderson film. The man just can't rise above generic. For its first 45 minutes or so, Pompeii is flat-out terrible. It's boring, everything feels cribbed from another, superior sword-and-sandal movie, and the romance between The Celt and Emily Browning's high-born Cassia never gets off the ground.

After the first couple miles of trudging through melodramatic boredom, Pompeii becomes a perfectly acceptable b-movie for a while, with a large gladiator battle followed immediately by the volcanic eruption that will destroy the village of Pompeii. (A movie like this would ideally feature Mount Vesuvius as a kind of additional character, but all Pompeii manages to do is to intersperse the dull early scenes with occasional shots of Vesuvius sulking off to the side of the city, looking like an angry, veiny protuberance. It doesn't inspire awe, it just...grumbles a lot.) The b-movie part has some decent acting in the form of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who hams it up as The Celt's fellow gladiator, and Carrie-Anne Moss, who feels wasted as Cassie's mother. But once the shit really hits the fan and Vesuvius threatens to bury the city in ash, the computer graphics hover around the level of mid-list video game. What should have been epic in scope instead looks ridiculous, flat, and, worst of all, fake.

Look: Here in Seattle, on a pleasant summer day, we all stop to appreciate a beautiful view of a volcano that might one day suffocate us all in a thick blanket of ash. We are a city that is primed to be alternately horrified by and drawn to an excellent volcano disaster movie. I was ready to give Pompeii all kinds of passes, if it managed to poke at that repressed simian fear of death-by-volcano. But this is a movie that squanders every last bit of the good will that its audiences throw at it. What a waste.


Comments (15) RSS

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passionate_jus 1
Well at least it's not another Batman/ SpiderMan/ Wolfman Whatever Movie.

Seriously are there no writers left in Hollywood? Why does every movie now have to be sequels of other movies all based on comic books?

Seriously Hollywood needs to die already. Some other country needs to take over the world's mass media because we sure suck at it.
Posted by passionate_jus on February 21, 2014 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 2
Is it worth my wife seeing it for Jon Snow's oiled torso?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 21, 2014 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 3
Hey! Slog lost my comment. Here it goes again:

I was confused when the storyline in your description didn't match the Robert Harris book. Of course, it wasn't based on the book. Looking into it, Roman Polanski started making the most expensive European movie ever based on the book, but it was cancelled because of a labor strike. It's too bad we ended up with this instead.

The book's quite entertaining and would have made a great movie.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on February 21, 2014 at 8:41 AM · Report this

Krakatoa, East of Java is the standard to which all volcano disaster moves must rise.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 21, 2014 at 8:43 AM · Report this
delirian 5
Does Seattle even have a crappy TV movie of Rainer erupting and killing everyone? If not, then perhaps Paul W. S. Anderson should fix that. I can imagine a scene where the Space Needle is tipped at a 45 degree angle over the Sound while ravenous orcas circle below. Then a jolt causes the people who were clinging on to start falling. Nom, nom, nom! Bloodbath!
Posted by delirian on February 21, 2014 at 9:08 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
A volcano kills everyone?!?

Hey! How about a spoiler alert?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 21, 2014 at 9:09 AM · Report this
@2 inquiring, uh, minds want to know.
Posted by wxPDX on February 21, 2014 at 9:14 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 8
So, a blend of Spartacus & Gladiator, and Kiefer fails to rise to the levels of Joaquin, Olivier & Ustinov?
Sadly, the availability of affordable CGI allows people to make large scale crappy movies that would have previously never made it beyond a story pitch.
Posted by Sir Vic on February 21, 2014 at 9:24 AM · Report this
The problem with Seattle is that we picked a relatively safe place to build it. In a realistic Mt. Rainier movie, about the most exciting things you'd get to see are a lahar wiping out Orting and a few inches of ash falling on Ellensburg and Yakima. The closest we'll get to a Seattle vs the volcano movie is Dante's Peak.
Posted by Sean P. on February 21, 2014 at 9:31 AM · Report this
fletc3her 10
@5 Not quite the same, but I believe the Space Needle cracked and fell over in 10.5, the earthquake movie.

Who would guess the director of the Resident Evil movies wouldn't be able to make better than a middling movie.
Posted by fletc3her on February 21, 2014 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Seattle was obliterated by a kaiiju in Pacific Rim. So there's that threat.
Posted by wxPDX on February 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Fnarf 12
Everything that was ever needed to be said in a sword-and-sandals movie, which is not a hell of a lot, was said by Steve Reeves fifty years ago.
Posted by Fnarf on February 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 13
Darn. I was really looking forward to Kit Harington's abs, but this movie sounds like a mess. I'll just have to watch his abs on video later. *sigh*
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 21, 2014 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 14
I'm a sucker for ancient Rome CGI. A real sucker.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 21, 2014 at 1:44 PM · Report this
Knat 15
But this is a movie that squanders every last bit of the good will that its audiences throw at it.

Is there a movie by Paul W.S. Anderson that this description can't be applied to?

If watching Kit Harrington's abs is the only draw, save yourself $20 and watch the haircut scene in Game of Thrones. It's in the first episode, fer chrissakes. (You even get topless Robb and Greyjoy thrown in too.)
Posted by Knat on February 21, 2014 at 3:43 PM · Report this

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