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Pompeii: Snow Versus the Volcano

by admin February 21, 2014 6:00 am
Pompeii: Snow Versus the Volcano

I'm not entirely sure what the hell the makers of Pompeii were thinking when they decided to turn a bona fide natural disaster picture (not to mention the first real big screen treatment of famous ancient Roman tragedy-turned-tourist attraction) into a regurgitated, by-the-numbers, and ultimately very boring gladiator tale, but it certainly seems like something of a wasted opportunity.

If you're expecting a full-fledged disaster movie with the thousands of doomed residents of Pompeii running from their lives from fire and ash and falling debris from the erupted Mount Vesuvius, you'll get some of that. But it will all simply play as the background (in the last 30 minutes, no less) to an insipid love story and a political "drama." The events of Pompeii read something like, quite literally, hell on Earth, so it probably doesn't bode well when you're audience is stifling back laughter than gasping in horror.

The story follows Milo (Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, a blank slate as ever), a young Celtic man who watched his parents get slaughtered at the hands of the ruthless Roman senator Corvus (a hilariously miscast, but delightfully campy Kiefer Sutherland). Milo eventually becomes a slave and gladiator who must spar against foes-turned-friends like Atticus (Lost's MISTAAAH ECHO himself, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and fight for the entertainment of the hilariously villainous villains. This all takes up a long, dreadfully boring chunk of the movie.

Eventually Milo and Atticus, among others, are sent off to battle for blood and, ultimately, freedom in Pompeii. Along the way, Milo catches the eye of a wealthy beauty named Cassia (human Kewpie doll Emily Browning) and instantly woos her with his muscles and horse-whisperering skills. (Horse whispering is to Pompeii as pie-making is to Labor Day.) Cassia is the daughter of Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), who have invited the evil Corvus to their town to see if he will invest in Pompeii. But, wouldn't you know it! Corvus had his sights set on Cassia and rolled into Pompeii with some other things in mind. But Cassia fell in love all of seven minutes ago with Milo! Isn't this all much more thrilling than some enormous, volcano killing everything in its path? Incorrect, it is not!

The biggest problem with Pompeii isn't the unbearably stupid dialogue (which -- despite having a list of writers that includes Julian Fellowes -- boasts lines like "You bitch!" and "Juno's tits!" and, stop me if you've heard this one before, "Why so serious?") or even the utter lack of chemistry between anyone in any capacity, it's that it's a money shot movie with very little payoff. Things don't start to get really fun until Mount Vesuvius blows, and even then it ping-pongs between inane disaster romp (a cascade of ocean water is stopped suddenly by a pretty high wall) and crowd-pleasing warrior's tale. Sadly, thanks to the latter, there's far more forgettable sword fights than actual volcano destruction sequences.

The cheese in Pompeii should have been flowing as steadily as the lava from Mount Vesuvius but for whatever reason director Paul W.S. Anderson (who has been at the helm of other all style, no substance big-budget capers as Death Race, Mortal Kombat, and several entries in the Resident Evil series) only sprinkled it on and tried to make the poor man's Gladiator that also had a cataclysmic natural disaster going on. Sutherland seems to be the only one in on the joke, as the other actors take every absurd moment of it all too seriously.

Pompeii does have some impressive 3D visual effects on its side and a silly, if not surprisingly satisfying ending, but it's not enough to trump the ludicrous plot, the collective wasted efforts of a mismatched ensemble, and the overwhelming sense that there's an exciting movie underneath the surface of all this crap.

Get showtimes and tickets for this movie from Fandango.

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