Pompeii – Film Review
A Paul W. S. Anderson movie without Milla Jovovich just doesn’t feel right, does it?
At least we can be thankful that everyone dies in this one. For good.
It’s not like that’s a spoiler. It’s Pompeii.
TL;DR Blowy-uppy and fast-paced enough, Pompeii is more than a half-decent disaster movie. The romance is shallow, the characters are paper-thin, and the ending is inevitable. But you don’t come to a Paul W. S. Anderson movie looking for any of that crap. 3 out of 5 stars.
It was orright.
The plot follows the shallowest epic romance to ever grace the cinematic world, set during the lead-up to Pompeii’s destruction. Kit Harington is a slave gladiator with a grudge against Kiefer Sutherland, the Roman senator who murdered his family when he was a child. Kit ends up in Pompeii and meets Emily Browning, a petulant noble girl who evidently has a thing for short men who her family would disapprove of. The extent of their romance has something to do with how Kit is a horse whisperer. Blah blah blah, Kiefer wants to marry Emily, so does evil Senator things to get that to happen. Then Mount Vesuvius is like “I’m over it,” and erupts on these brats. Cue loads of tolerable CGI, and several mad dashes around the place. Kit and Emily end up defeating Kiefer, then dying together while kissing. Which is impressive. Minor characters include: rival gladiator Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who is denied his fight for freedom; Emily’s parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris); Jessica Lucas, for some reason, as Emily’s maid (slave?); and Captain Renard from Grimm as Kiefer’s right hand baddie.
So I suppose Pompeii is a step up from Grimm?
Pompeii’s only real problem after you consider what this movie is and who directed it, is the absolutely pathetic romance between Kit and Emily. While I appreciate that the movie kind of rushes through it to get to the action, the fact that these characters become so deeply infatuated with each other after meeting, like, twice, is absurd.
All he did was mercy kill your horse, bitch. Ease up.
Why I hate this movie:
Maybe she was distracted by the abs. And those abs should be a positive note for Pompeii. But some idiot decided that hey, the opening scene of Kit was enough ab time. Better chuck a shirt over that shit for the rest of the movie. What the fuck?
The fact that the violence is mostly sanitised in the pursuit of a lower rating doesn’t help. I didn’t come to a Pompeii-based gladiator movie with this as a poster so I could be denied gratuitous torso shots and any satisfying blood spray.
The ending of the movie, while expected, is disappointing. Kit and Emily try to outrun the eruption on horseback. Realising it won’t go fast enough with both of them, Kit offers to sacrifice himself so Emily can keep going. Emily declines, instead sending the horse off on its own, while she and Kit die together. Firstly, ungrateful. Secondly, run for your lives, you dumbasses. Sheesh.
Not to limit himself to a pointless sacrifice to end the movie, Kit is responsible for the most ridiculous moment of the movie earlier on. He and Emily go running off on horseback (Kit’s thing is horses, okay) to be romantic of whatever. When they return, Kiefer and crew come down on Kit pretty hard for abducting a noblewoman. Emily tries to say it was her idea, which would surely earn her a slap on the wrist and save Kit’s life. But Kit instead martyrs himself to protect her, what, reputation? And due to this, Emily has to agree to co-operate with Kiefer to, like she originally wanted to, save Kit’s life.
Emily is obligatorily opposed to gladiatorial combat as a form of entertainment. Because God forbid she have opinions that would clash with viewers, but be more realistic to her setting. Did she study The Help for inspiration?
Jessica Lucas doesn’t get to do fucking anything, and is abruptly killed when Emily’s house falls into the ocean. What a waste of Jessica Lucas.
Adawale’s subplot is too cliched. He’s one fight away from winning his freedom (one day away from retirement, anyone?). So of course he gets screwed over by Kiefer and Captain Renard by being forced to battle in a rigged team match (he needs to win a one-on-one for his freedom). Adawale also has a bunch of dolls in his cell that represent his family. Just like Djimon Hounsou from Gladiator. Slick.
Oh, and Adawale outruns a tsunami.
But it’s not all bad:
Kit’s abs, for their 1.2 seconds of screentime, are nice.
The cast is pretty fantastic. Kit Harington is one of the few Game of Thrones alumni who I don’t arbitrarily hate anymore, and it’s kind of cool to see him reunite with his Silent Hill: Revelation co-star, Carrie-Anne Moss; Jared Harris is a Paul W. S. Anderson veteran from the early Resident Evil days; I’m trying to forgive Emily Browning for Sucker Punch, so I’m glad to see her in something that isn’t total rubbish; Adawale is good as the bruiser with a heart; I’m happy that Jessica Lucas is still getting work; Kiefer is his fabulously evil self; and Sasha Roiz seems to have evil henchman in the bag.
The CGI, especially considering Pompeii isn’t the highest budgeted film in the universe, is high quality. And who doesn’t enjoy disaster movies? Even 2012, the shameless piece of crap that it was, was a good time.
Kit and Adawale embarrass Kiefer by overcoming the rigged gladiator match he sets up for them. Emily further fucks him over when she butts ahead of Kiefer to give the crowd the thumbs-up to let them live. Yeah, Kiefer takes violent retribution, but with the city falling into the earth moments later, I’ll say it was worth it.
Kit and Emily defeat Kiefer in the crumbling streets of Pompeii. But instead of killing him, they restrain him and force him to endure death-by-pyroclastic-flow. Delightful.
Adawale and Captain Renard end up killing each other in a duel (Adawale is distracting him so Emily and Kit can leg it). A fitting death for both.
Kiefer and Captain Renard get caught in a traffic jam when they’re trying to flee to the harbour. So they just start murdering civilians to get through. I can’t hate them for their pragmatism.
The head slave trader tries to skip town early when he starts to see signs of the impending eruption. His escape ship gets blown up by a rock missile before it can leave. I lol’d.
Oh, and Carrie-Anne gets pinned by rubble after the colosseum collapses, but that doesn’t stop her from urging Jared to murder Kiefer while he is dazed from the collapse. Kiefer promptly comes to and slays Jared instead, but you gotta give the girl points for wanting to stab a man when he’s down.
It’s not quite as good as the Doctor Who Pompeii episode, but for a relatively low budgeted disaster film with a runtime of under 2 hours, I’d rate it. If your time is really that precious (mine, as any reader of this site would have noticed, isn’t), just skip to the start of the eruption. But you will miss out on Kit’s abs. 3 out of 5 stars.