294 of 324 people found the following review helpful
Nine Things About the Movie “Pompeii”
1. The only thing that most people know about Pompeii is that it was an Italian city destroyed by a volcano and buried in ash a long time ago. So this movie makes up the rest of the story.
2. The plot of the movie is as generic as you can get. You can almost hear the filmmakers say, “Well, the event happened in gladiator times. And it’s about a bunch of people who can’t escape where they are and they all get killed. So let’s make ‘Gladiator’ meets ‘Titanic’. And even though it’s in Italy, let’s make everybody talk with a vague sort-of-British accent.”
3. And that’s exactly what they did. It’s your basic poor-boy/rich girl story. It’s about a boy named Milo that is captured in war, becomes a slave, and then is sent to Pompeii to fight as a gladiator. While there, he meets Cassia, the daughter of the city ruler. They fall in love. Her dad is upset. The usual.
4. Meanwhile, the volcano starts acting up. For some reason, it only happens at night, like the volcano was some serial killer, and people start disappearing.
5. Besides the love story, there is a half-baked political subplot.. Since we all know how the movie ends, the story is not only silly, it’s pointless. There’s no reason to care much about the characters.
6. The last half-hour of the film is all about the destruction of the city. It’s pretty cool to watch, and the 3D effects are well done.
7. The director did take a lot of time to make the city itself historically accurate, basing it on studies of the actual ruins. Historians give the movie points for this.
8. Scientists who study volcanoes say that the depiction of the volcano is also historically accurate, except for when it rains fireballs.
9. This is a simple, old-fashioned disaster movie that offers nothing special in terms of story, but is fun to watch.
113 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2014
Pompeii is the new disaster film from Paul W.S Anderson about, you guessed it, Pompeii! Following the story of Milo (Kit Harrington), a Celt who was put into slavery after his village was attacked and his parents killed, Milo becomes a gladiator, fighting numerous foes within area walls. But it's in Pompeii where Milo's destiny will come to light, falling in love with Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii's ruler Severus (Jared Harris), and befriending a rival gladiator, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). But when Mount Vesuvius begins to tremble and plumes of smoke and ash fall upon the great city, Milo, Atticus and Cassia must escape the city before they are buried by the mountain.
Pompeii isn't a bad movie; it really isn't. The only reason why i gave it four stars (I would give it 3.5 stars if there were an option) is because of all the poor reviews. Anderson's directing here is actually his best to date, better than his Resident Evil films, The Three Musketeers reboot and Event Horizon. His script, on the other hand, was disappointing. It's not that it was poorly written, it's just that there isn't anything new whatsoever. The visual effects were great, but not award-winning. The acting was a mixed bag. Kit Harrington was surprisingly static in the heroic lead role, being uninteresting and the stereotypical hero, but his acting helped keep the character from being completely lifeless. Emily Browning was good as Cassia, but nothing note-worthy. Kiefer Sutherland was actually great as the secondary protagonist, Senator Corvus, the man who killed Milo's mother. He was truly corrupt in his role, and a character you wanted to die horribly (which is good). But it was Adewale Akinnuoye who stole the show as Atticus. An emotionally complex and heroic character that is built around courage and strength, and the sad thing is, he gave an Oscar and Golden Globe worthy performance for a film that deserves neither. I really don't know why he wasn't the lead role, because the film would have been better if he was. The cinematography was good, echoing the greatness of this lost city, and the musical score was fantastic; a mix of Hans Zimmer's King Arthur and Marc Streitenfeld's Robin Hood.
Pompeii is a seriously underrated blockbuster that deserves better ratings, but is not classic-worthy material. I'll purchase it when it comes out, though, because it's still a good movie. Also, another thing that makes the film stand out is that it is factually accurate in terms of the volcanic eruption; yep, even the tsunami.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2014
If you're looking for a great movie, or one with brilliant acting, or even a surprise or two, this isn't the right one for you. Utterly and absolutely predictable - not just the volcano, but everything. The volcano blows up, the city is destroyed, lots of people die. Should that be under a spoiler warning?
The fairly contrived plot opens in Britannia, where Milo, a Britannic boy of about 8-10 years, has the misfortune to be in the way of Rome's response to a British uprising - chronologically, likely the one led by Boudica/Boudicca/Boadicea, queen of the Iceni. That one happened in about AD 60-61, 18 or 19 years before Vesuvius erupted, which would make an 8-year old boy about 26-27 when Pompeii was destroyed. It's a bit of a stretch, but plausible. What is less plausible is that the officer commanding the Romans is Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), looking exactly as he does 20 years later - and Milo RECOGNIZES HIM. (In reality it should be the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, whose outnumbered force defeated the rebels in the Battle of Watling Street.)
Fast forward to 79 AD: Milo, now a slave, is a gladiator, fighting in a rain-drenched Londinium - and like Russell Crowe's Maximus in "Gladiator," he's invincible. He dispatches foes with dispatch, and style - even when he enters the arena unarmed. So the lanista, master of the gladiators, decides to take him east and make a fortune. Wouldn't you go to Rome - where the late Emperor has spent the last nine years building the world's greatest arena, set to open next year? Not this guy. He heads for Pompeii, a pleasant town of wineries and olive farmers, several day's journey further if you're walking.
On the way there they meet Cassia, whose wagon hits a pothole, resulting in a flat horse. Cassia is impressed with Milo's horse whispering skills, just before he kills it, and we all know she's decided a dirty slave is exactly the right man for the daughter of the richest man in Pompeii. You can practically see the little cupids fluttering about.
Naturally, evil Senator Corvus shows up with his own designs on Cassia, leading to the inevitable confrontation in the city as the gods rain down fire and destruction all around them. And since no Roman movie is complete without a chariot scene, there's the unlikeliest of chases as Corvus, with Cassia handcuffed to his chariot, leads Milo (on a horse) on a merry chase as the ground - against all laws of geology - collapses around them. (That vies with the war galleys chasing panicked mobs through the streets for the prize as least credible scene.)
The acting is competent, at least, not embarrassing. The fight choreography was actually pretty good. The volcano effects were very impressive, geologically plausible - and historically wrong, if you compare the happenings in contemporary accounts. That is, it might have happened that way, but it didn't.
They totally ignored the existence of Herculaneum, Misenum, Stabiae, Oplontis, and the rest of the region. They ignored the HUGE Pompeiian industries in wine and olive oil. They added a very impressive (and fictional) lighthouse and breakwater in the harbor - again, it's visually spectacular. (Realistically, there should have been cargo ships to transport wine and olive oil, and a fleet of smaller fishing boats, since seafood would have been a staple. We don't really get to see much of that.)
I would have liked to see Gaius Plinius (Pliny the Elder) at least make an appearance, since he dispatched naval ships from the base at Misenum to evacuate refugees, and died in the rescue attempt. That heroic sidebar, with the death of one of the first scientists and author of the first encyclopedia, would have raised the total count of actual historical characters to one - a story worth telling.
The cast - hmmm. Kit Harrington, as the gladiator/slave/horse whisperer Milo (aka, "The Celt"), is passable, but to my eye looks far too small to be dangerous to the big muscle-rippling gladiator types. (Oh, well - Bruce Lee was a little guy, too.) Emily Browning is generically beautiful as Cassia, and carries her role well, despite its improbabilities. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as African champion gladiator Atticus (much easier to say!) plays himself, which is impressive enough, and Jared Harris, as Cassia's doting father Severus, takes a stab at playing Derek Jacobi. Kiefer Sutherland, as the contemptible Senator Corvus ("crow" in Latin) chews up the scenery in fine style while his army inexplicably struts around in Imperial purple. Aurelia, Cassia's mother and Severus' wife, is competently portrayed by Carrie-Ann Moss, whom everyone knows is really Trinity.
(I want to mention here that the new Emperor in Rome, Titus, gets a bad rap in this movie. The dialogue makes it sound as though Titus was corrupt and a pawn of the worst elements. Historians who lived in his lifetime were unanimous in praise of Titus, and one day, when he realized he hadn't done a good deed for anyone, he sadly remarked, "I have lost a day." Titus was a good emperor, don't believe the lies!)
I'm sure they read all the historical accounts and modern analyses before writing the screenplay. At least, I hope they did, out of a sense of duty, but it doesn't matter much, because if they did, they cut the pictures out of the books and then threw the texts away. I understand that history finishes a distant third in Hollywood after drama and a cheesy love story, but you can tell a great story within the framework of history (e.g., Starz' "Spartacus" series).
The mountain is the sleeping giant in this story, and when it wakes it provides its own spotlight. It's been a little adjusted to look more menacing. In reality, the lower slopes at least were probably covered with olive orchards and vineyards, taking advantage of the slopes and the rich soil, as Pompeii was the #1 wine supplier to Rome. Pliny attributed fires they saw on the mountainside at night (the eruption actually lasted two days) to villages on the mountain, burning. They didn't bother with any of that here; this mountain is uninhabited and fearsome. Do you remember "The Last Days of Pompeii" miniseries from 1984? There the mountain was a smooth, beautiful cone, almost like Mt. Fuji, but green. Not this Vesuvius - this one is gnarly, with twists and ripples at its base, and an open crater already at the top. A tortured piece of geology, Italy's own Mt. Doom.
The producers clearly spent a LOT of money on special effects, and I have to say it never looks fake. Even the tsunami that carries the warships into the town looks almost believable - but although Pliny's letter of the disaster mentions the water in the Bay of Naples receding ("...the sea seemed to roll back upon itself..."), archaeologists have found no evidence of tsunami wave action in the city, much less war galleys dropped on the town.
One of the most visually striking effects is found in the high aerial views during the eruption - looking down, you see it all happening, and then one or more fireballs will flash across the screen, leaving an expanding smoke trail. With the movement of the (virtual) "camera" point of view juxtaposed against those smoke trails, you might for a moment believe your screen has been transformed into 3D. The geologists tell us the fireballs are hokey, but the effect, visually, is brilliant.
I'm a serious enthusiast for the Roman world. I've got 'em all, from "Ben Hur" and "Cleopatra" to "Rome" and "Gladiator". This movie has one real saving grace - its beautiful visualization of Pompeii before the volcano destroyed it. Beautifully reconstructed, beautifully photographed - really, it's gorgeous. (Including the arena, which looks a lot like the surviving pictures!). I really enjoyed watching the first half, and seeing that window back in time.
For that, and that alone, I'll buy it. (EDIT: I bought it.)
BTW - for the story they SHOULD have made, read the book, "Pompeii", by Robert Harris. A far better story, by a writer who knows how to use history without abusing it, with a surprising yet believable ending. There was talk that it might be produced as a movie. Sadly, this one probably killed its chance.
Further recommended reading: "A Day of Fire," by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, et al. This novel by six authors, each with one character and one story, recreates the world and the event brilliantly. Tell them I sent you.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2014
Imagine "Titanic" and "Gladiator" hooked up after a drunken tequila love-fest to spawn a deformed, mutant movie-child.
You may wonder how these two could possibly combine into a single entity -- but still try. Imagine a movie that has the sappy Romeo-and-Juliet, rich beauty falls for lowly commoner construct of Titanic; the angry, undefeatable, indefatigable slave-hero of Gladiator (complete with an African sidekick who saves the hero while pining for his family); the totally boring, one-dimensional meanie from either movie, entire scenes lifted from both movies, entire scenes lifted from the horse whisperer (whoops, that's TV). Now, mind you, this devil child possesses none of the interesting characteristics of its parents, none of their redeeming bits. No. Instead this wretched creature is crippled by inept writing, useless direction, pathetic acting (by actors out of their element in a kindergarten Christmas play), and of course, absolutely zero historical merit.
Can you imagine this pathetic thing? Well stop trying. The reality is that Pompeii is far worse than anything one could possibly imagine. There is nothing of any merit. Ed Wood's movies are better. Ed Wood at least tried. (Well, there's one redeeming part - the actual volcano is pretty cool. Maybe because it snuffs out all the whiny actors. Whoever did the CGI, you get the single star. Everything else was a complete waste of precious time.)
Or to put another way, I rented this movie for free with a Redbox coupon and I still got ripped off. If you must see it, best see it drunk out of your mind.