Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Pompeii is much better than I expected. Based on the trailer, I was expecting Gladiator + Volcano, with a ludicrously unlikely love story and bad science. I wasn't wrong, except that the end result is somehow not terrible.

Which is not to say there are not terrible parts of the film. The main character is called "the Celt" and referred to as the last of his kind. There were plenty of Celts in 79 AD, thank you very much. The armor is awful. I don't know as much about Roman civilian garb, but I presume it was bad as well. The geology is indeed as bad as it looks in the trailer.

And yet, the movie is entertaining and sometimes even moving. Much of this can be attributed to the performances of the lead actors, but the writing isn't nearly as bad as one would expect from the people that brought us Batman Forever. Perhaps that is due to the influence of the third writer, who worked on the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie.

Game of Thrones fans will recognize Jon Snow (Kit Harington) as the lead character, Milo. His performance here is not a great departure from Snow, but that is not a bad thing. He is the right combination of young and experienced to be as believable as that character can be. And he's really impressively cut.

Emily Browning is decent as the love interest, Cassia. She actually has some agency, which is better than expected for a Roman-girl-love-interest.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost, among other credits) is impressive as the only other gladiator worth mentioning, Atticus. He is the foil that Milo needs for the gladiator plot. Kiefer Sutherland is his usual creepy self as senator Corvus. I was happy to see Sasha Roiz as his sidekick Proculus - he was fantastic in the deeply flawed Caprica.

Pompeii has three different plots - Milo as slave/gladiator, which is about survival and revenge; Milo/Cassia, which is a star-cross'd lovers story; and the impending eruption of Vesuvius, which is pure disaster porn. The first two of these weave unexpectedly well with each other, while the third rumbles along in the background until the dramatic finish.

The action sequences are quite well done. The main characters very much have main character syndrome, but that's the kind of movie this is.

This is not a movie that bears much critical thinking, but if you're willing to overlook its inaccuracies and unlikelihoods, it should entertain.

Performance: 3.5/5
Plot: 3/5
Production: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5
Bechdel: Pass
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. The Lego Movie
3. Lust For Love
4. Pompeii
5. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
6. I, Frankenstein
7. Monuments Men
8. Knights of Badassdom
9. RoboCop
10. Winter's Tale
11. The Legend of Hercules

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